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WATCH: Shona’s beautiful singing makes her first woman to win Bothy Ballads

A north-east singer has become the first woman to win a prestigious competition which celebrates the region’s Doric heritage

About 600 people packed into Elgin Town Hall to watch and listen as Shona Donaldson won the 34th annual Bothy Ballads contest.

The 30-year-old beat off competition from five other people, including last year’s winner Hector Riddell.

Last night, the mother-of-two said she had achieved a life-long dream.

Mrs Donaldson said: “It has been an ambition of mine since I started singing at 14. It’s the highlight of my career.

“If you’re into bothy ballads, this is the championship of champions and I’m delighted to have won. It hasn’t really sunk in, to be honest.”

Mrs Donaldson, the wife of celebrated fiddler Paul, secured the coveted Macallan Porridge Bowl and Spurtle with her rendition of The Scranky Black Fermer.

Her song choice was one close to her heart, as the ballad’s origins lie in Kennethmont which is close to where she was brought up, in Huntly.

And Mrs Donaldson, who lives in Tarland, said the “real” nature of the ballads is what has always appealed to her.

She added: “The thing that gets me with the traditional songs is that they’re about real events and real people.

“And, because of that, when you are singing them, it doesn’t feel like something that’s hundreds of years old, it feels like it’s happening around you.

“Keeping songs like that alive is a massive part of my life.”

This was the third time Mrs Donaldson had entered the contest and her win is the latest chapter in what has already been a successful year for her, after recently appearing at the BBC’s Celtic Connections festival.

And she says the success of Celtic Connections and the Bothy Ballads event demonstrates that traditional music is alive and well.

She said: “It’s oral tradition that allowed these songs to be passed down and I think it’s very important to keep that going on.

“We’re very lucky we have such a strong tradition in the north-east – there are a lot of young singers coming through who are learning from these older guys.”

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