ONE of the most prestigious events at the Royal National Mod yesterday came in for some stinging criticism from an unexpected source - a former winner of one of the competitions.
During a formal debate on the future of the Mod, Margaret Stewart-Harding said the Gold Medal, which launched her own professional singing career, no longer had cultural relevance.
"I hear songs that do not reflect the heritage of the language," she said. "The competition should really reflect the language and the poetry behind the songs, but we do not have that now because people are learning the songs in the wrong way."
Mrs Harding, who comes from Lewis and won the competition in 1993, received some support from Arthur Cormack, a renowned Gaelic singer from Skye who himself won the same Gold Medal in 1983. Mr Cormack is also the director of the successful Gaelic festival movement, Feisean nan Gaidheal.
"I agree to an extent," he said. "But the Mod Gold Medal is still appealing and while it's still appealing I think we should keep it. It's interesting to note that in recent years we have seen much more interest, and a greater number of entries, in the Traditional medals and I think that shows you where people feel the importance lies. But as long as the Gold Medal continues to attract attention, then I think we should keep it."
For most of its history the Mod's premier solo singing competition has been regarded as the Gold Medal, but critics, like Mrs Harding, now complain that the "operatic" style is alien to the roots of Gaelic oral tradition.
The Traditional Medal, or "Trad" as it is sometimes known, was only introduced in 1971, but has grown in popularity over the years - a fact which is reflected in this year' entries with a total of 21 competitors in the male and female section.
Mark Wringe, a lecturer at the Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Skye, felt the entire Gold Medal competition should be entirely abolished as it has long since lost its relevance and value. "I am very embarrassed to hear the Gold Medal style of singing," he said.
"It is an affront to our culture and I am so embarrassed to listen to this style of singing. We have become stuck in the fashion of when the Mod started."
Debate chairman Allan Campbell, one of the leading personalities involved in Gaelic development over the last 25 years, said that while there had been considerable discussions as to the detailed format of the Mod, the debate had provided the festival with a stamp of approval.
"I think it is encouraging that no-one, in this room at least, has called for the abolition of the Mod," he said while closing yesterday's debate.
"I think that is a reflection of people's opinion."
Meanwhile, a fatal car crash near Fort William threatened to cast a dark cloud over yesterday's proceedings, as police were forced to shut one of the main arteries into the town for up to four hours.
Many competitors and visitors were stuck in the mile-long tailback, resulting in the delay of some of the competitions.
The incident happened at around 8am at an accident blackspot known as Three-mile Water. There was at least one fatality.
Mod promotions manager Murdo Morrison said: "We did out best to extend the competitions, but at the end of the day it wasn't something we had prepared for.
"Our thoughts are with the people involved and their families. When something like this happens it puts the Mod and all the festivities into perspective."
Today will see the start of the main adult competitions at the Mod, with the hosting of the rural choirs and the main solo-singing events, including the Gold Medal and the Traditional.
There will also be a guest appearance from Prince Edward, who will attend some of the day's competitions.
MOD RESULTS – WEDNESDAY
A270 Kennedy-Fraser Cup 1. Alexandra NicDhomhnaill Jones, London. 2. Chelsea McLean, Campbeltown. 3. Mairi-Louise Napier, Grantown on Spey.
A271 Mull or Iona Song (Sarah Weir Trophy) 1. Eilidh J Davies, Invergarry. 2. Lorna NicCarmaig, Isle of Skye. 3. Janet MacSween, Dunkeld.
A251 Learners (men) (Katie Stewart Memorial Trophy) 1. Somerled Smith, Cumbernauld. 2. Donald R MacIver, Poolewe. 3. Iain Gordon, Nairn. 4.equal Stuart Jackson, Argyll. Allan Bremner, Oldmeldrum.
A253 Sea Song (men) (Bank of Scotland Cup) 1. Allan Bremner, Oldmeldrum.
2. Iain Gordon, Nairn. 3. Somerled Smith, Cumbernauld. 4. Donald R MacIver, Poolewe.
A221 Fluent (men) (Caledonian MacBrayne Trophy) 1. Steven MacIomhair, Naast. 2. Lyle Kennedy, Stirlingshire. 3. James Graham, Lochinver. 4. John Boa, Edinburgh.
A250 Learners (women) (Margot Campbell Trophy) 1. Dolina Munro, Port Glasgow. 2. Linn Phipps, Isle of Lewis. 3. Anne Marie Campbell, Fort William. 4. Jennifer Spiers, Isle of Lewis.
A252 Working Song (Catherine M.B. Dunlop Quaich) 1. Jennifer Spiers, Isle of Lewis. 2. Anne Marie Campbell, Fort William.
3. Rena Gertz, Edinburgh. 4. Linn Phipps, Isle of Lewis.
A220 Fluent (women) (Mary C. MacNiven Memorial Salver) 1. Sineag MacIntyre, South Uist. 2. Jean MacKay, Inverness. 3. Alexandra NicDhomhnaill Jones, London. 4. Ceitidh Smith, Kyle of Lochalsh.
A234 Fluent (men and women) (“Oban Times” Gold Medal) 1. Kerry Finlay, Alness. 2. Darren MacLean, Isle of Skye. 3. Lyle Kennedy, Stirlingshire.
A233 Puirt-a-Beul (Fluent) (Duncan Johnston Memorial Trophy) 1. Raymond Bremner, Thrumster. 2. Amanda Millen, Roy Bridge.
3. Alexandra NicDhomhnaill Jones, London.
A248 Traditional (learners) (George Clavey Memorial Quaich) 1. Nicola Pearson, Carnoustie. 2. Donald R MacIver, Poolewe. 3. Somerled Smith, Cumbernauld.
A272 Former Prizewinners, Local Mods (Lochewe Branch Cup) 1. Emma AC Deans, Comar nan Allt. 2. Janet MacSween, Dunkeld. 3. F Ann MacLean, North Connel
A274 Skye or Sutherland Song (John D. Gillies Memorial Trophy) 1. Rachael MJ Deans, Comar nan Allt. 2. Jean MacKay, Inverness. 3. John Howieson, Isle of Skye.
A273 Precenting a Psalm (Dr Alistair Barden Memorial Salver) 1. Donald A Matheson, Isle of Lewis. 2. Ailean Domhnallach, Inverness.
A275 (Neil MacLean and Jenny M.B. Currie Trophy) 1. Emma AC Davies & Rachael MJ Deans, Comar nan Allt. 2. Nicola Pearson & Wilma Kennedy, Carnoustie. 3. Riona JI Whyte, Isle of Mull & Raymond Bremner, Thrumster
CLARSACH Solos (Junior) B320 With Gaelic Songs (Glendale Quaich) 1. Mischa MacPherson, Sgoil MhicNeacail. 2. Calum MacLeod, City of Edinburgh Music School. 3. Eilidh Munro, Glasgow Islay Junior Gaelic Choir
B321 Beginners (Helmsdale Trophy) 1. Daisy May Nash, Bun-sgoil Bhreascleit. 2. Lisa-Marie Parkinson, Oban. 3. Kirsty Gaughan, Bun-sgoil Crois na Cse.
B322 Elementary (Florence Wilson Trophy) 1. Rowan KM Paterson, Ard-sgoil an Obain. 2. Zoe MacKay, Elgol Primary. 3. Katherine Jackson, Oban.
B323 Intermediate (K. Barry Milner Trophy) 1. Steaphanaidh Chaimbeul, Sgoil Shleite. 2. Isla Short, Biggar Primary School. 3. Katherine Stanley-Whyte, Lomond School.
B324 Advanced (Duncan Chisholm Trophy) 1. Mairi Chaimbeul, Sgoil Shleite. 2. Karen Pollard, Lockerbie Academy. 3. Elinor Nicholson, Biggar.
B332 Former Winners of B324 (Sir Philip Christison Trophy) 1. Ciorstaidh Pheutan, Ard-sgoil Phort Righ. 2. Calum MacLeod, City of Edinburgh Music School. 3. Chloe Young, City of Edinburgh Music School.
Solos (Open) B328 Accompanying of a Singer (Jean C. Campbell Memorial Trophy) 1. Calum MacLeod, City of Edinburgh Music School. 2. Elinor Nicholson, Biggar. 3. Chloe Young, City of Edinburgh Music School.
B329 Original Composition (Margaret Balfour Trophy) 1. Chloe Young, City of Edinburgh Music School. 2. Eilidh Munro, Glasgow Islay Junior Gaelic Choir. 3. Rebecca Hill, Connel.
Duets B330 Under 13 (Lord Birsay Trophy) 1. Iona R MacLeod & Una Gallagher, Sgoil Ghaidhlig Ghlaschu. 2. Fraser Munro & Blair Hendy, Bun-sgoil Innis an Uillt.
B330A 13-19 (Comunn na Clarsaich Cup) 1. Chloe Young & Calum MacLeod, City of Edinburgh Music School. 2. Helen Smith & Karen Pollard, Kirkcudbright Acamemy. 3. Elinor Evans & Catriona O’Sullivan, Boroughmuir High School.
B336 Voice and Clarsach Duo (Comunn na Clarsaich Edinburgh Branch Trophy) 1. Catherine Tinney & Stephany Tinney, Ardsgoil Phort Righ. 2. Mairi Chaimbeul & Steaphanaidh Chaimbeul, Sgoil Shleite. 3. Eilidh Munro & Heather Kindness, Glasgow Islay Junior Gaelic Choir.
B333 Senior (Drumelzier Quaich) 1. Janette Bain & Meg Carroll, Clackmannanshire.
Ensembles B331 Open (Pilgrim Harps Trophy) 1. Na caileagan pinc.