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NYC Tartan Week Hosts Its First Ever Mòd


New York City Tartan Week is in full swing for its 25th year. Celebrating all things Scottish. Yes, familiar traditions are back like the parade and highland dance workshops. But this year a Mòd will be hosted in New York for the first time. What’s a Mòd you ask? Reporter Elizabeth Erb finds out.


In Midtown Manhattan at the Tailor Pub, dark wood lines the walls of the bar. Dozens of beer is on tap. And along with the clinking of glasses, there’s a bunch of people getting ready for a very exciting competition. Like Fergus Thompson.


Signing solo in front of a competitive audience is not something I’m particularly used to.

ERB: He’s here today for the Mòd which is a Gaelic song competition.

THOMPSON: So I'm singing a song called Seòladh Dhachaigh which translates as sailing home.

ERB: Joy Dunlop flew in from Scotland to host the event. She’s won the Royal National Mod in Scotland in 2010.

[Ambi of Dunlop singing]

Here she is then.

But for Dunlop, it’s about more than just a singing competition.

JOY DUNLOP: So the word Mòd is really just a gathering of people, but it’s come in Scotland now to mean a festival. Although we compete, it’s really about developing the language and culture. It’s lovely to be here and be able to talk about everything Mòd in New York.


And it’s also about saving the Gaelic language. Only a little more than 50,000 speakers are left in the world. For context, that’s the same number as just 1% of Scotland’s population. Liam Cassidy is one of the judges today and hopes Gaelic survives. He wants to see the singers connect with the language.


What I look for. Each adjudicator is different. But what you look for is feeling. Do they convey the song, get the feeling of the song across to people that’s also really important besides the technicalities.


The US has the largest Scottish diaspora. And a lot are here in New York. People like Wendy Geida from Brooklyn is a quarter Scottish. Wendy’s came to a class ahead of the Mòd to learn Gaelic .

[Gaelic lesson ambi]

She doesn’t plan to compete, but she wants to understand more about the music at the Mòd.


Is e m’ ainm, Wendy. Yes, unfortunately there’s no Wendy in Gaelic, I wish I had a Gaelic name.


What’s the hardest thing to say?


There’s a word, “yechi” [laughs] It’s spelled like d-h-a-j And can’t even remember what it means at the moment but it always makes me laugh.


The Mòd isn’t just for people of Scottish descent. Linda Harris is here from Jersey City. She loves Scottish television and culture despite not having any Gaelic ancestry.


My name is Scottish, but I’m not Scottish at all. I love Outlander, I love Scotland. So I’m actually in the parade.

[Bagpipe ambi]


The singing will continue throughout the afternoon. And the first New York Mòd champion will be announced this evening. Tartan Week festivities are happening the rest of the week. Including the annual New York City Tartan Week Parade this Saturday at 2pm.


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