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1923 - 2023
Perthshire and Angus Provincial Mòd (Aberfeldy Mòd) Centenary 9/10 June 2023
There was delight all round in Aberfeldy at the weekend, as the Perthshire & Angus Provincial Mòd celebrated its 100th year in style over three days. Friday saw the junior competitions back in person for the first time post-Covid, with some of the vocal and poetry competitions almost bursting at the seams. Adjudicators worked very hard to determine the best, and there were some outstanding winners; singers Thomas Lafferty and Breagha Morton had the highest marks of the day with their solo songs, along with Eddie Gow who won the P1-3 GME poetry competition. Meanwhile Eddie’s big sister Libby took the trophies for both storytelling and poetry. There was stiff competition in the P1-3 and P4-7 learners poetry competitions, but Martha Buchanan and Emma McManamon came out on top, delighting the adjudicators with their performances. Audiences in the main hall were entertained by the choral singing and drama competitions, won respectively by Goodlyburn P1-3 GME choir and Whitehills P1-7 class drama group. Free activities had been arranged for the participants, with the climbing wall proving extremely popular as usual. The craft activities group created the most beautiful centenary mosaic by the end of the day, which was given to the Mòd committee as a keepsake.
Saturday’s events featured junior piping, fiddle and senior vocal music. Although fewer in number this year, the fiddlers and pipers acquitted themselves well in their competitions and took home a selection of trophies. Sophie Robertson and Lucy Jamieson were winners in the fiddle section and winning pipers included Chloe Scougall, Iestyn Hughes, Hamish Stephens, Archie McNab and Jamie Willbourn. In the senior vocal music sections Julie-Anne MacFadyen made it a hat trick with three solo wins, as well as winning the duet with partner Ruth Lunny. Anne Bennett and Janet MacSween scooped up the remaining solo trophies of the day, with both Gaelic and Music adjudicators commenting on the incredibly high standard throughout the competitions.
The Mòd was honoured to have the new President of An Comunn Gaidhealach, Maggie Cunningham, chair the choral competitions in the afternoon, with six Gaelic choirs from across Scotland competing for the main prizes. A new choral trophy, the Meg Kennedy Salver for highest marks in music in the Puirt competition, was presented to winners Lothian Gaelic Choir by Meg’s two older daughters Val and Lindy. Meg’s youngest daughter, Sandie, and President of the Aberfeldy Gaelic choir John Duff, spoke fondly of Meg’s enduring love of Gaelic. Meg was a long-standing member of the Gaelic choir and the Mòd committee and was a keen supporter of Gaelic events in the community.
Provost Xander McDade was delighted to return to the Mòd again this year to present the remainder of the choral prizes. He congratulated the committee (past and present) on the Mòd’s continued success over the hundred years and commented eloquently on its importance in preserving and promoting the unique heritage and culture of the area. Provost McDade was accompanied by visiting delegates from Perth’s twinned city Bydgoszcz in Poland, who thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon in Aberfeldy.
Winners of the coveted Westcroft Trophy, Lothian Gaelic Choir, also scooped up the Cuach Chlachmhor for highest marks in Gaelic and the Janet MacIntyre Memorial Cup for the highest marks in Music, a full six points clear of the runners-up.
Following the close of competitions, choirs and spectators made their way down to the Aberfeldy town square, where they sang together in a massed choirs event to entertain locals and visitors. A sumptuous centenary dinner, catered by the Tay Café, was followed by a ceilidh in the town hall, spectacularly decorated for the occasion. The ceilidh was hosted by Alan Brown, with local band Midlife Crisis and many audience members contributing to the event.
The centenary events concluded on Sunday with a Gaelic Songs of Praise service in Weem Church, led by Rev Neil Glover, and a special showing at the Birks Cinema of the short film ‘The Shepherds of Berneray’. Next year’s Mòd will be held on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June.
Helen T MacMillan 1907 - 2007
Helen T (as she was known) was born on the Isle of Mull and went on to become a teacher of English and Geography in Glasgow.
Helen T won the Gold Medal at the National Mòd (Dingwall) in 1931 and was in great demand over the years as a singer, broadcasting regularly on BBC Radio Scotland. The novelist Neil Gunn is said to have described her as 'beautiful, with the voice of an angel'. She returned to the National Mòd in Dingwall in 1991on her diamond anniversary to present the Gold Medal to Wilma Kennedy. During her time in Glasgow, Helen T was a long-standing member of Glasgow Gaelic Choir and in the 1940s became the first conductor of the Glasgow Islay Choir. She arrived in Aberfeldy in 1970 and soon began to teach Gaelic too. She became the Gaelic tutor of Aberfeldy & District Gaelic Choir, and with her attention to detail and attitude of taking no prisoners when it came to Good Gaelic pronunciation, she guided the choir to many a success over the years. Helen T was renowned for being firm but fair, and those who got to know her beyond that schoolteacher exterior found a warm and witty lady who was a loyal and generous friend. She returned to Glasgow in her early nineties to care for her sister who was in ill-health, and died in 2007, just a few months short of her hundredth birthday. The Aberfeldy Mòd has a trophy, 'Cuach Clachmhòr' in memory of Helen T, for the highest marks in Gaelic in senior choral singing.
Click on the link to listen to Helen T talking about life in Aberfeldy in an interview with Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan in 1985: Helen T
Click on the link to listen to Helen T singing 'Caol Muile' in 1959: https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/45855?l=en
More tracks by Helen T can be found at Tobar an Dualchais on this link: More tracks by Helen T
Petrine M. Stewart 1986 - 1991
The Perthshire and Angus Provincial Mòd is very fortunate to have three trophies in memory of the Stewart family of Rannoch and Aberfeldy. We would like to thank Petrine’s granddaughter, Lynda, daughter of Sheila and Struan, for kindly sending us some Stewart family photographs, and also to the Breadalbane ‘Comment’ magazine for allowing us to reproduce the article below about the Stewart family, first published in 2010.
Petrine, Thomas and Iain Stewart
The article speaks of Iain M R Stewart (Memorial Cup for solo singing, mixed voices) and his parents Petrine Stewart (Memorial Trophy for solo singing, children under 13 years) and Thomas M Stewart (Memorial Trophy for solo singing, male voices). As you will see, Petrine was a National Mod Gold Medallist in 1937. Her son Sgt Iain Stewart was killed in in WWII in Holland on 5th September 1942 aged just 20.
‘A copy of the December 2009 issue of the ‘Comment’ was sent to Sandy McLaren in Hawick, a descendent of Sgt Stewart’s uncle. He in turn provided a contact with Sgt Stewart’s 87-year old aunt Sheila, who currently lives in Dundee. Originally from Pitlochry, Sheila (whose father was janitor at Breadalbane Academy) married Sgt Iain Stewart’s brother, Struan, in 1949. From her it was learned that Iain had attended Breadalbane Academy and went to St Andrew’s University (she cannot remember what he was studying there). He and two other Aberfeldy men, B A Mathieson and McGregor who were also at St Andrew’s, all joined up together. Mathieson’s plane was lost over the jungle and never found, and McGregor was also killed. Iain had a small dog called Whisky which – against all regulations – he apparently took with him on some missions. But in 1942 he knew he was about to be moved to another airfield and so he left the dog with his parents on his last visit home, to be collected ‘next time he was on leave’. After his fateful last mission the dog lived with his parents and was much treasured by them.
Iain’s plane was hit and the crew began to bail out in rotation. Seemingly, the order in which this was conducted was changed with each flight. Iain had managed actually to bail out, but the plane exploded, and it is thought that he was still close enough to the plane to be killed by the blast. Iain’s mother, Petrine, was startled awake from her sleep at that moment, convinced that something had befallen her son. Iain’s body was discovered at the front door of a household in the town and the occupants buried him. Later he was reinterred in an official grave.
Petrine Robertson, a Gaelic speaker and singer of reknown, was born in Kinloch Rannoch and in 1937 was Gold Medal winner at the National Mod. She had married Thomas Stewart, who was a plumber in Aberfeldy. Tom’s father had seen memorable service during WW1 when he was driver for T E Lawrence ‘of Arabia’ in Palestine. In one episode of derring do, it is reported that he drove a truck under the second floor window of an hotel in Jerusalem, enabling Lawrence to leap onto its roof to escape capture. Petrine and Tom named their house in Aberfeldy’s Alma Avenue ‘Rouveen’, after the cemetery where Iain is now buried.
Immediately after the war Sheila and Struan Stewart visited Iain’s grave in Holland with his parents. Sheila and her husband subsequently travelled over on several occasions. Sheila believes there are photographs and documents about Iain which she will get her son to look out when he next visits her.’
Click on the link to listen to Petrine talk about her life in Rannoch and Aberfeldy in an interview with Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan in 1985: Petrine talk
Richard Deveria, author
Richard A.A. Deveria is an author based in Aberfeldy, Perthshire. He publishes in both Gaelic and English. Gaelic language titles include: Sealgairean nam Mucan-mara (Memories of the whalers); Ceilp: mar a thug an fheamainn cruadal is tomhais de shoirbheas dha muinntir na Gaidhealtachd (How the seaweed brought hardship and a measure of prosperity to the people of the Highlands) and A’ Chailc: Sgeul Gniomhachais Gàidhlig (The story of a Gaelic industry). Richard has also had several articles published in journals.