Young performers from Lewis are relishing in their achievements as they showcase their talents on the first day of in-person competitions at The Royal National Mod.
15-year-old Naomi Graham from Stornoway competed against three fellow competitors in the girls 13-15 solo singing contest before being crowned the overall winner.
Taking centre stage in front of a packed room of spectators at Eden Court, the fourth year student from the Nicolson Institute reduced her proud mum to tears before walking away with the coveted James C McPhee Memorial Medal.
The young performer also secured trophies for obtaining top marks for both her music and Gaelic, with a total score of 184.
‘I’m very pleased’
The 15-year-old, who is also a member of her school choir, admits she was nervous heading into the competition but was delighted by the outcome.
“I’m very pleased and very happy with it,” she said.
““I’ve taken part in The Mòd for as long as I can remember. I started when I was in Primary 1 so I’ve been doing it since I was tiny.
“I have been rehearsing for about two months but I think because of Covid it had added challenges.
“In terms of not really knowing how it was going to look compared to most years, that was a bit more daunting.”
She added: “I’m not a Gaelic speaker so I haven’t really been learning Gaelic that long. I learnt it in my younger years, but I haven’t really learnt it as much this year.
“I would encourage others to not let that be something that stops you.”
Her mum Julie McLeman, 37, said she was beyond proud of her daughter, especially considering the hard work she had put in.
She said: “We are absolutely delighted and so proud. She has worked really hard.
“She’s put so much work into it, it’s so lovely to see.”
Traditional solo singing
Fellow sixth year student Kirsty Nicolson also secured first place in the traditional solo singing competition for 16-18 year-olds, winning the Provost of Falkirk Medal.
Speaking from the banks of the River Ness, the 17-year-old from Point said she was delighted to be able to perform once again.
She said: “It’s a proud moment and it’s nice to get back performing and see faces you only seen at competition.
“The preparation was pretty tough going up until the last minute, I was singing in the toilets before going on.
“I sing at home and get taught by a lady from town, Annie Macleod, she’s a gold medalist. I’d like to keep it going. I’ve been competing in Fluent’s until now because there’s not been a Learner’s so it’s what we’ve been waiting for.”
Her mum, Christine, spoke of her daughter’s love and dedication for traditional singing.
“We are absolutely over the moon,” she said.
“We are just really proud of her and all her hard work has paid off.”
Mrs Nicolson added: “She works hard for this. She loves traditional singing and goes over and over a song until she gets it.”
The Royal National Mod competition commences
The girls’ achievements mark the culmination of the first day of live competitions being held as part of this year’s Mod.
Organisers took on a hybrid approach to the annual Gaelic festival, holding a series of in-person and online competitions and concerts.
James Graham, chief executive officer of An Comunn Gàidhealach, said: “Young Gaelic speakers hold an incredibly significant role in the future of our community, and today shines a light on their abilities and achievements, with a range of events to support, encourage and champion them.
“We have already had an action-packed few days so far and there are a whole host of wonderful events yet to come this week that we look forward to welcoming audiences to.”