Royal National Mòd

The Royal National Mòd (Scottish Gaelic: Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail) is the most important of several major Mòds that are held annually, mostly in Scotland. It is the main festival of Scottish Gaelic literature, song, arts and culture and one of the more notable peripatetic cultural festivals in Scotland. It is often referred to simply as the Mòd.

The Mòd is run by An Comunn Gàidhealach (The Gaelic Association) and includes competitions and awards.

The Royal National Mòd
An Comunn Gaidhealach - - 885559
GenrePoetry, folk music, traditional music, choral music, spoken word, drama
Years active1892 – present


The Mòd was founded by An Comunn Gàidhealach. St Columba's Church, Glasgow also greatly influenced the Mòd's inception when, in 1891, its choir was invited to give a Gaelic Concert in Oban, presided over by Lord Archibald Campbell.[1] The concert was attended by much of the nobility, including Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife. After the Concert the Choir were entertained to supper at the Alexandra Hotel, and a description of the entertainment is given in one of William Black's novels.[1] This concert was the prelude to the Gaelic Mòd, the first being held at Oban the following year, when St. Columba Choir were successful in the Choir competition.[1]

The Mòd has been held most years in October since 1892. The only years in which the National Mòd was not held were the war years of 1914-1919 and 1939-1946. The "Royal" was not originally part of the name. It is still the practice of the St Columba's Church to send a Concert Party to start off the fund-raising when the Mòd visits Oban. As well as winning the premier Choir competition for the first three years, the church has also had many Mòd Gold Medallists over the years.

The Mòd itself has been greatly influenced by the National Eisteddfod of Wales, although it tends to be somewhat more restrained in its ceremonial aspects.


The Mòd largely takes the form of formal competitions. Choral events and traditional music including Gaelic song, fiddle, bagpipe, clarsach and folk groups dominate. Spoken word events include children's and adults' poetry reading, storytelling and Bible reading, and categories such as Ancient Folk Tale or Humorous Monologue. Children can also present an original drama, and there are competitions in written literature. The Mòd also runs an annual shinty competition, the Mòd Cup, between the two shinty teams closest to where the Mòd is taking place.

The winners of each day's competitions are invited to perform in the winners' cèilidhs held every evening.

The Mòd is a celebration of [Scottish] Gaelic language and culture,[2] which raises its profile and contributes towards the aim of securing its future.[3]

Improvements in the provision of Gaelic-medium education across Scotland have meant that by 2007 the junior fluent speakers' section had increased to such an extent that the organisers were forced to extend some of the competitions beyond one day.[4]

There has been some criticism of the prominence of the "Gold Medal" event of operatic-style singing, which some Gaelic musicians feel marginalises traditional singing styles.[5]

Culturally, the Mòd is comparable to the Welsh Eisteddfod and the Irish Oireachtas na Gaeilge.

The Mòd Fringe

Gathan air an Iomall 1
Na Gathan performing at the Mòd Fringe in Falkirk

The Mòd draws a large crowd, which leads local venues to put on various events in addition to the official Mòd events. These events are collectively referred to as the Mòd Fringe.[6]

To participants, the Mòd is also an opportunity to meet with old friends and make new ones. The Mod is popularly known as the "Whisky Olympics",[3] considered "either a vicious slur or fair comment".[7]

Media coverage

BBC Scotland has traditionally broadcast Mòd highlights on BBC One, BBC Two and Radio nan Gàidheal.[3] Since its introduction in 2008, BBC Alba has provided coverage in Gaelic. Presenters have included traditional musician, Gaelic speaker and broadcaster, Mary Ann Kennedy and Gaelic broadcaster Cathy Crombie.[3]

Past and future festivals

The Mòd is held each October, and has been held in the following locations throughout Scotland, both Highland and Lowland.

These are the host locations to date:[8]

The nearest following Mòds are to be held:[8]

  • 2019 - Glasgow[9]
  • 2020 - Inverness
  • 2021 - Perth
  • 2022 - Paisley[10]

The southernmost host location is Ayr, the easternmost Aberdeen and the northernmost is Thurso. As can be seen from the list, certain locations are more favoured. Areas with large amounts of hall space and accommodation are favoured.

Some notable areas of Scotland that have never been visited by the Mòd include Arran, Islay (which has a significant Gaelic-speaking population), Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Angus, most of North East Scotland, Loch Lomond-side etc.

The Mòd has never been to the Scottish Borders or the Northern Isles, but there is little connection between these areas and the Gaelic language.

Unlike the National Eisteddfod, the National Mòd has never been held in England.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Encouragement to the Gaelic Mod" in The Highlander's Friend Chapter 9, Highland Cathedral, St Columba's Church of Scotland
  2. ^ "Mod generated £3.5m for Inverness". BBC News. BBC. 3 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d MacLeod, Murdo; Stewart, Fiona (12 October 2002). "Mod 2002 - and 20,000 Gaels blow in for festival of music". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  4. ^ "Mod's fluent youth speaks volumes for Gaelic education". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. 16 October 2007. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  5. ^ "Gold Medal controversy casts a shadow over Mod performances". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  6. ^ House, Ellie (10 October 2014). "Mod expected to generate £3 million for Inverness economy, say organisers". Inverness Courier. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  7. ^ Ross, Peter (18 October 2008). "Whisky Olympics continue to thrive in a Mod-ern world". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  8. ^ a b List of Mod's places for each year on Sabhal Mòr Ostaig website
  9. ^ "Mòd 2019 an Glaschu" (in Scottish Gaelic). BBC News (Gaelic). 16 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  10. ^ "An Comunn Gàidhealach - Royal National Mod : Mod News". Retrieved 27 March 2018.

External links

Ainsley Hamill

Ainsley Hamill is a Scottish singer and songwriter from the village of Cardross, who performs traditional songs in English, Scots, and Gaelic. She studied music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where she obtained a First Class Honours Degree in Scottish Music, with Gaelic Song as her principal study. She was tutored by Kenna Campbell and Màiri MacInnes. Ainsley won the Silver Pendant at The Royal National Mòd held in Paisley in October 2013. She has competed in a number of Mòd competitions and made it to the final of the An Comunn Gàidhealach Gold Medal competition in 2014, and 2015. Ainsley was also named as a BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year Finalist in 2014/15, and nominated for Gaelic Singer of the Year at the 2015 MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards.

An Comunn Gàidhealach

An Comunn Gàidhealach (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [əŋ ˈkʰomən̪ˠ ˈkɛː.əl̪ˠəx] (listen); literally "The Gaelic Association"), commonly known as An Comunn, is a Scottish organisation that supports and promotes the Scottish Gaelic language and Scottish Gaelic culture and history at local, national and international levels. The society is closely associated with the Royal National Mòd.

An Lanntair

An Lanntair (Scottish Gaelic: [əˈl̪ˠãũn̪ˠt̪ɛɾʲ]) is an arts centre in the town of Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The centre is home to a cinema, and art gallery. Previously located in the Town Hall, in September 2005 An Lanntair moved to its current new building overlooking the harbour. This building features a 50-seater restaurant, art gallery, shop, and auditorium seating over two hundred. The auditorium houses the first cinema in Stornoway since 1995.

An Lanntair is the principal venue for arts and entertainment events in Stornoway and regularly hosts performances by musicians as well as plays, talks, and films. It is a key venue for the annual Hebridean Celtic Festival, and has hosted events for the Royal National Mòd in 2005 and 2011.

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Christine Primrose (born 17 February 1950) is a Gaelic singer and music teacher. She was born in Carloway, Lewis, but she currently lives on the Isle of Skye.In interviews Primrose has stated that she has been singing since she was a small child, which is very typical in her family. She won a gold medal in sean-nós at the Royal National Mòd in 1974 and an award at the 1978 Pan Celtic Festival, and, as was not common at the time, she took a degree in traditional Gaelic music, and she has been performing all around the world, especially in North America, Australia, New Zealand and in Europe. For example, she was at the Smithsonian Folklife Music Festival in Washington, D.C. with Alison Kinnaird. Besides this, she was a member of Mac-Talla, and she has presented television and radio programmes.

Currently, she is one of the most renowned singers in the Gaelic world and she still appears in concerts from time to time. Besides this, she has been working at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig since 1982, the year that the school began to offer full-time courses. At first she was a secretary, and since 1993 she has taught in the course Gaelic and Traditional Music (BA) and in short courses.

Duncan Johnston (songwriter)

Duncan Johnston (1881–1947), also Duncan Johnstone or Donnachadh MacIain in Gaidhlig, was a songwriter from Islay, Scotland, UK. He is best known for his 1938 book Cronan nan Tonn (The Croon of the Sea). The Royal National Mòd has an annual prize, the Duncan Johnston Trophy, named after him. Johnston, along with Charles MacNiven (1874–1944), Duncan MacNiven (1880–1955), and William Livingston (1808–1870), is one of the Islay Bards.


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In 1961, during the height of the Cold War, Dunoon became a garrison town to the United States Navy. In 1992, they closed their Holy Loch base, and Dunoon suffered an economic downturn. Since the base's closure, the town and surrounding area are again turning to tourism, marketing to outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers as well as promoting festivals and competitions. The largest annual event held in the town is the Cowal Highland Gathering. The Royal National Mòd has been held in the town eight times, most recently in 2018.

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A mòd is a festival of Scottish Gaelic song, arts and culture. Historically, the Gaelic word mòd (Scottish Gaelic: [mɔːt̪]), which came from Old Norse mót, refers to any kind of assembly. There are both local mòds, and an annual national mòd, the Royal National Mòd. Mòds are run under the auspices of An Comunn Gàidhealach. The term comes from a Gaelic word for a parliament or congress in common use during the Lordship of the Isles.

A Mòd largely takes the form of formal competitions. Choral events (in Gaelic, both solo and choirs), and traditional music including fiddle, bagpipe and folk groups dominate. Spoken word events include children and adult's poetry reading, storytelling and Bible reading, and categories such as Ancient Folk Tale or Humorous Monologue. Children can also present an original drama, and there are competitions in written literature. Unlike the National Mòd, local mòds usually only last a day or two. They attract a much smaller crowd and the only notable social event is the winners' ceilidh. As there are fewer competitions than in the National Mòd, this ceilidh is often more like a traditional ceilidh with dancing and guest singers between the winners' performances.

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Glasgow-based Gaelic folk group Na h-Òganaich (Scottish Gaelic for 'the young ones' though often translated as 'young blood' ) formed early in 1971, following a concert in Dunoon where Mod Gold Medallist singer Margaret MacLeod first met guitarist Noel Eadie. Margaret casually mentioned that her brother Donnie was learning guitar, so a decision was made to form a trio to enter the Folk Group competition at the Royal National Mòd.

A friend from the Isle of Lewis, Donnie MacLean, was working with the BBC and introduced them to recordings of the little-known Melbost Bard, Murdo Macfarlane. Recognising the originality and catchiness of Murdo's songs, the trio took two of them to the Royal National Mòd in Stirling in October 1971, where they won the Folk group competition and created an immediate stir with their professional performance and novel songs.

The following year they performed another of Murdo's songs (Mi le m' Uillinn) and won the New Song competition at the Pan-Celtic Festival in Killarney, Ireland, introducing themselves on to the international stage. This led to engagements throughout the Gaelic-speaking world: in England, Canada, Wales and Brittany.

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In 1976 Na h-Òganaich were invited to participate in an extended tour of the USA. At that time Noel was working as a college lecturer and unable to take part, so Margaret and Donnie proceeded to tour, and later perform back in the UK, as a duo with backing musicians.

The original group has reformed on several occasions since then on a one-off basis, notably at Fèis nan Còisir in Stornoway and at Celtic Connections in Glasgow (2007). Margaret has continued to sing professionally with accordionist Billy Anderson, while Donnie in the 1980s became a popular TV performer and presenter with the children's Gaelic TV programme Dotaman on BBC Scotland. Noel has been living and working in education on the Isle of Lewis since 1978.

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