Preserving Scottish Gaelic heritage and culture through the Royal National Mòd

Culture and history are two of the key motivators for visits to Scotland and the Highlands and Islands, and they play an important part of the visitor experience. Scotland is rich in history and archaeology — from World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, listed buildings to historic battlefields, cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends.

However, there is a fear that Scotland is risking the irrecoverable loss of its heritage by abandoning the use of its native language — Scottish Gaelic. Only 57,375 people which is the equivalent of 1.1% of the Scottish population aged over three years old, are reported as able to speak Gaelic.

Luckily, the Gaelic community is actively trying to preserve its culture and traditions, and the Royal National Mòd is one of them.

The Royal National Mòd is the main music festival of Scottish Gaelic literature, songs, arts and culture and is one of the more notable peripatetic cultural festivals in Scotland. It is the most important of several other Mòds that are held annually. This year it was held in Dunoon and was organised by An Comunn Gàidhealach (The Highland Association).

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The Royal National Mòd 2018 programme

The festival ran from October 12 to 20 and included many competitions and awards for people as young as seven years old. Whether you are fluent in Gaelic or still learning the language, everyone was welcomed to take part.

Ricky Hannaway, an Assistant Floor Manager and Runner Co-ordinator working on the Mòd, spoke about what impact festivals like this one has on the Gaelic community.

“There are only about 60 thousand Gaelic speakers,” Ricky explained. “So, to have a situation where you can put more emphasis on the culture, where people learn old songs, where people learn old arrangements of things when they learn instruments to go do musical events, it’s really good.

“Our culture is an oral tradition where we pass everything on, all the information, through word of mouth, spoken stories and songs. So now that we’ve got a place and a platform to do that it’s really good.”

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Dunoon presents… The Royal National Mòd 2018

During the Mòd festival, people celebrate old traditions of the Gaelic culture. But some believe this isn’t the best approach to keep the language alive, Ricky said.

“Some people don’t have an opinion of the Mòd of something that’s good, they think it’s a bit detrimental to the culture, thinking we’re always looking backwards. But I think it’s something that can preserve what we’ve got but has a forwarding outlook as well.”

Not only does Ricky work in the festival, but he also competes in it.

“It’s an absolute experience to be a part of the Mòd,” he said. “For years I sang in the Mod and I never knew anything about the media side of things. Now doing the media side of things, it’s great and it’s adventitious because I know the people involved in putting the Mòd together.”

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