Scotland's Bardic Crown Changes Hands - Pan Celtic Unity on Display

After a tenure that spanned 4 years concurrent with the strengthening revival of Celtic culture and the Gaelic tongue in his native Nova Scotia, Lewis MacKinnon has stepped down as the distinguished Bardic Crown of Scotland’s Royal National Mòd .  In October 2011, he was honoured as the first non-Scot Gaelic poet laureate.

The Royal National Mòd  is held under the aegis of An Comunn Gàidhealach (The Highland Association) which was founded in 1891. Renowned for celebrating Gaelic linguistic and cultural heritage, the Mod is recognized as Scotland’s premier Gaelic festival. The Mod  provides opportunities for people of all ages to perform across a range of competitive disciplines including Gaelic music and song, highland dancing, instrumental, drama, sport and literature.

In 2011 on accepting the Crown, the President of An Comunn Gàidhealach said this of MacKinnon at that year’s Festival held in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland: “ We’re delighted to bestow this prestigious honour on Lewis MacKinnon. While the distance between this year’s Mod in the ‘heartland of Gaelic’ and his home in Nova Scotia is considerable, it is really just a short step in linguistic terms across the wide ocean that separates us and we hope that our event will continue to reinforce these close links.”

Mr. MacKinnon is Director of Gaelic Affairs, a Division of the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, Government of Nova Scotia. In his work with Gaelic Affairs he is involved in many initiatives at the community and institutional level in order to support further understanding and education pertaining to the Gaels in Nova Scotia via their unique language and culture. He served as President of the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia from 1999 – 2004. Since 1994, he has been a member of the Jug In Hand Band; performing throughout Atlantic Canada; having recorded on three full length CDs. In 2006, Lewis released his first solo CD titled A’ Seo which is Gaelic for “Here.”  In 2008, MacKinnon published a collection of Gaelic poems with English translation, titled “Famhair: agus Dàin Ghàidhlig eile” (“Giant: And Other Gaelic Poems”). In 2010, he completed his first all-English solo recording, titled “Making More Of It”. In 2010, his Gaelic poem titled Par Pare Refero was shortlisted at the Strokestown Poetry Festival, Ireland.  

As reported in The Scotsman, MacKinnon’s successor is Flòraidh MacPhail who becomes the 55th Bàrd of An Comunn. Mrs. MacPhail from Tiree is the mother of Angus MacPhail, one of the founding members of the top Gaelic band Skipinnish.  As well as having written a book in Gaelic, Mrs MacPhail has written many song lyrics, including the words for the song Aisling Cuimhn’ (Dream Memory) on Skipinnish’s new album Western Ocean.

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