Ainsley Hamill at Scots Trad Music Awards in spirit

YOU may see it as Sod’s Law or simply as an occupational hazard of being so in demand, but Ainsley Hamill won’t be able to attend the Scots Trad Music Awards ceremony at Dundee’s Caird Hall next weekend, despite being nominated for the Gaelic Singer of the Year award.

Ainsley Hamill is nominated for the Gaelic Singer of the Year Award. Photograph: Trevor Martin

Hamill has a long-standing commitment to appear with her powerful band, Barluath, at the recently opened Tower Digital Arts Centre in Helensburgh.

It’s a handy gig in that it’s just a few miles down the road from Cardross, where she grew up and still lives, but it remains irksome. “I’ve never been to the Trad awards, although Barluath were nominated for Up and Coming Artist last year. We drew straws then as to which of us would attend and I lost, and now I’ve been nominated but can’t go because of this gig.”

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The breezy 24-year-old is delighted, however, to have been nominated. By far the youngest nominee in her category, she’s up against such seasoned talents as Alyth McCormack, Fiona MacKenzie and Griogair Labhruidh – “but everyone’s so different; we’ve all got our own style and are doing different things. It shows how diverse the scene is.

“It would be wonderful to win it,” she adds, “but at the end of the day, it’s an honour just to be shortlisted.”

Hamill was introduced to Gaelic singing at Hermitage High School in Helensburgh, where she sang in a Gaelic choir and became hooked on the culture, going on to graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Two years ago she won a Silver Pendant at the Royal National Mòd, and she’s currently furthering her Gaelic studies through a distance-learning course with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, while keeping busy touring with Barluath.

There’s a lovely coincidence in that, just as Hamill, at 24, finds herself on the Trad Awards shortlist and is contemplating a third album with Barluath, one of her most influential teachers has just released his first album – at the age of 81. Mu Dheireadh Thall – At Long Last – has just been released on the Macmeanmna label by Calum Ross who, like Hamill, is a Mòd medalist, having won the coveted Gold Medal back in 1968 and the Gold Medal for Traditional Singing in 1980, adding them to the Nova Scotia Medal and Oban Times Gold Medal, making him one of a handful of singers to have scooped all four.

Hamill is enthusiastic about her old teacher’s recording debut. “Calum’s a wonderful person. He was my first proper Gaelic language teacher at the Royal Conservatoire. People have been willing him to do this CD for years.”

Whether the Trad Awards will have to devise a category for “Best Octogenarian Performer” remains to be seen.

• The MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards ceremony is at the Caird Hall, Dundee, on 5 November. Guest performers will include Duncan Chisholm, the Peatbog Faeries, Cathy Ann MacPhee and the 2015 Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician, Claire Hastings. For full nominations, see https://projects.handsupfortrad.scot/scotstradmusicawards