Barra songstress Catriona MacNeil landed the prestigious Gold Medal at the Royal National Mòd as she completed a remarkable return to music.
A regualr Mòd competitor as a child Catriona, who now lives in Glasgow and also sings with the Glasgow Islay Gaelic Choir, drifted away from competing until last year when she dipped a toe back into the event at the Inverness Mod.
And this year she landed the big one with the Gold Medal prize, justifying her decision to rehone her vocal talents.
“I feel absolutley overhwelmed but fantastic at the same time,” she smiled.
“I just don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I didn’t expect to do so well as this is only my second year trying so I didn’t expect such high marks. But then I have done a lot of work over the last couple of months and lots of people have been helping me out for which I’m very grateful to them.”
Reflecting on the final which saw her take the Gold Medal with a significant cushion over second place Catriona said: “My own choice song, Duan Fraoch, was actually recommended to me by one of my friends. I thought it was a beautiful song with lots of emotion, it painted a lovely picture and it was a story which a lot Gaels can relate to as well.
“It can be difficult to choose your own song as you have to look at the prescribed song and maybe try and get a contrast with that. Also the way the Mod rules are you have to send in your own song several months in advance so it can be a rushed process to find a song you like.
“Having sung I was pleased with my performance and then I was just glad it was over and from there whatever was going to happen was going to happen. It is quite nervewracking and all the competitors did well. Backstage we were all hanging around with one another and being supportive which was nice.”
Catriona’s dad, Donnie MacNeil, boasts an impressive musical pedigree of his own with the popular Vatersay Boys, but she reckons her solo singing talents come from another family member.
She added: “Nobody in my immediate family sings too much although my grandfather on my dad’s side is supposed to have been a singer in his day so maybe that’s where I got it from. I was always involved with choirs and local Mod’s as a child so I’ve always enjoyed it although, prior to last year, hadn’t done it for a long time.”