Two Gaelic singers have been awarded the prestigious An Comunn Gàidhealach Gold Medal at this year’s Royal National Mod.
On the busiest of nine days of events and festivities, the Gold Medal competition took place in the Empire Theatre at Eden Court in Inverness.
The competition has two parts, the qualifiers and the finals.
In the qualifying rounds, held on Wednesday morning, singers had to perform one prescribed song and one song of their choice.
They were then scored out of 100 for their Gaelic and music.
In the finals on Wednesday evening, rows of people gathered to watch the finalists sing again, performing two more songs.
After dominating the competition in the qualifying rounds of the competition on Wednesday morning, it was unsurprising that Mairi Aisling Callan and John Joe MacNeil took home the gold.
‘We’re all here to embrace the culture’
Miss Callan will be going home from the Mod with multiple prizes from the Gold Medal competition alone.
She was commended for her Gaelic and musicality, gaining the highest score of the two categories combined.
The singer defined her morning at the qualifiers, where she won four of those trophies, as “overwhelming.”
She is not a newcomer to the Mod by any means, having performed at them since she was five years old.
Now 20 and competing for the first time as an adult, she has come back from a five-year break with a bang.
Miss Callan said a return to the Mod feels like second nature: “It feels so natural, I’ve known it since I was wee.”
Though she excelled in the competition, she said she doesn’t think of it that side of things when in amongst her Mod “family.”
She explained: “It’s just been nice to talk to people again, the Mod is like a community, like a family, I don’t see it as competitive.
“We’re all here to speak Gaelic, we’re all here to embrace the culture.”
After the Mod, she will return to university in Edinburgh where she is currently studying music.
‘Warm community of language, music, song and being together’
Mr MacNeil, from Barra, beat two other male singers to the top spot in the Gold Medal finals.
A lot of work has gone in to preparing for the festival, which is Scotland’s largest celebration of Gaelic culture.
The hard work certainly paid off for Mr MacNeil, who also took home multiple prizes throughout the day.
He said: “I’m really really delighted, I’ve been working on my songs for a long time so it’s lovely to be able to be back singing on a stage.”
The 37-year-old said coming out of lockdown and in to the Mod has been strange, but he is happy with how it has turned out.
He said: “It’s bit nerve racking, a bit daunting to be honest because this is the first time since Covid and since lockdown but I’m really pleased.
“It’s strange but it’s so lovely to all be together.”
Mr MacNeil was among many who spoke of the family-feel of the Mod community, which has been especially important to embrace this year.
He said: “I know that not everyone is here this year and that’s totally understandable, but it’s so lovely to be back at a Mod in that warm community of language, music, song and being together.
“I think that’s really important after the two years we’ve had.”
Like Miss Callan, Mr MacNeil has competed in the Mod before.
He explained: “This was my second year in the Gold Medal final, I competed in 2017 and I won the Traditional Medal, this was my second year trying for the Gold medal.”
Mr MacNeil achieved his goal, and the Gold Medal will be going home with him tonight.