My October 2015 article for the Loch a Tuath News.
Have you ever searched for your name on Google? As part of an exercise about online safety I was once asked to type in my own name and analyze what I found. Thankfully, being a child of dial-up Internet and the age of “get off the computer, I need to use the phone!”, there is very little record of my childhood misdemeanors on the World Wide Web. One particular mention did surprise me though. It came from The Herald website and was a listing of all the Royal National Mòd winners from 2000. There I was: Donna Mairi MacIver, Còisir Òg a’ Bhac, third place in poetry recitation. It’s not a bad way to be remembered by future generations.
I was reminded of this because it’s that time of year again, as concrete an event in our calendar as Christmas and the summer holidays. This years Mod, which is being held in Oban, is almost upon us. Soon the victors will be enroute home supping Laphroaig from their silverware and the unsuccessful will be alongside, insisting that it’s the taking part that counts.
After years of early morning bus journeys, coordinating kilts and forgotten song words I can’t help but agree. When it comes to the Great Gathering of Gaels, simply taking part really is all that counts. Finding out you’d learned the wrong poem the night before your competition. Taking a wrong turn in the bus and getting lost en-route to Dunoon. Deciding to compete at the last minute and having to do so in jeans (NB: that last one may have just been me!). These are the things that build character. There is no doubt that there are Còisir Òg a’ Bhac veterans all over the world who can navigate hairy situations better than most. And it’s all because of their early training on the front line of national competitions.
None of these challenging experiences could have been successfully navigated without the experienced hands of the beloved “Mod Mothers”. Looking back, my only reasoning for the capacity of Mod Mothers to organise 30 excitable children is that they had hidden super powers. It’s no mean feat making sure everyone got through the day without getting ketchup on their blouses. More important than their military-style ironing skills though, were there words of encouragement when things didn’t quite go to plan. “Och, gheibh thu an ath thrup e” (You’ll get it next time) or “”S math sin – chan eil feum agad a dhol dhan a’ chonsairt a-nis!” (Great – you don’t have to go to the concert now!) were as frequent a refrain to us as Soraidh Leibh ‘s Oidhche Mhath Leibh. If taking part is what counts, they’re the ones that made us believe that was true.
I, for one, am so happy to see how successful local and national Mods continue to be. As well as encouraging an interest in Gaelic arts and culture, they foster creativity and inspire confidence. Young people (and grown ups!) are given a stage to exhibit their talents and are deservedly awarded for all their dedication. It’s not always easy – they can’t give out trophies and gold badges to everyone. However, after approximately thirteen years of taking part in Mod competitions, I know now that I learnt more from not being placed than I ever did from winning. Competing is a small insight into what life is like – hard work can be rewarded as easily as it can be overlooked. Bad luck may get you on the day as can someone else’s personal preference. Simply taking part teaches that, though you can’t always be on top, you can have wonderful time trying to get there.
Good luck to all those competing this year. And to those of you who weren’t successful – gheibh thu an ath thrup e!