This year’s Scottish Fleadh was a huge success as hundreds of musicians descended on Woodfarm High School for the annual Scottish Championships in traditional Irish music, song, dance and storytelling.
Held on April 29, the Fleadh ran on a strict timetable from 10am until evening, featuring some absolutely stunning performances, and for those lucky enough to qualify, it marked the first stage on the road to All-Ireland success in August where the All-Ireland Fleadh will travel to Drogheda for the first time.
As with any Fleadh, some competitions are ‘busier’ than others—with only two mouth organ performances during the day. However the U12 fiddle competition was particularly well-contested with 27 young fiddlers battling it out to be Scottish Champion for 2018.
The eventual winner—April Macaulay, aged just 8—proved that age is only a number.
The event invited competitors to compete in various age groups on solo instruments and group competitions as well as singing and dancing. Some of the lesser known competitions include whistling, lilting, newly composed tunes and songs, and storytelling with the Irish language version of that competition ‘Scealiocht’ having two competitors this year for the first time.
One of the highlights of the Fleadh this year was in the Senior Grúpaí Cheoil competition where four impressive groups competed for the three places on offer in the next round. The eventual winners were St James the Great CCÉ (pictured), with Blath Na nÓg from Irish Minstrels CCÉ coming in second.
Making a return to competition were the Senior Johnny Doherty CCÉ group who qualified third after an excellent performance.
Should the groups manage to make it through to the next round, they will be joined by the St Roch’s group from the Irish Minstrels CCÉ who are already qualified as last year’s Senior All-Ireland Champions.
Scotland is defined as a ‘region’ of Comhaltas who have three others in mainland Britain—Northern Region which covers from Newcastle down to Liverpool and Midlands, which covers Birmingham,
Coventry, Cambridge and even Newport, Wales.
London and Southern Region is the last on the list which covers the London area and as far down as Hastings. Each year the Fleadh rotates amongst the four CCÉ branches here in Scotland as to who is hosting the Fleadh, and this year the mantle was passed to St James the Great CCÉ, based in Pollok.
The branch assembled a committee which brought in a mixture of new blood and Fleadh veterans and the event was well managed by sisters Clare-Jane McErlean and Angela Moreland, who both went above and beyond to ensure the Fleadh’s success.
Doing their best Simon Cowell impersonations, the Fleadh adjudicators were picked from across Ireland and it was pleasing to hear one of them comment: “Few county Fleadh’s in Ireland would have the numbers or the standard of competitor which we have seen in Glasgow today and to see so many young competitors of such a high standard bodes well for the future.”
For those who were successful enough to place in the top three of each competition and qualify for the All-Britain Fleadh, they will make the short trip to Stirling University on June 23-24 for the event hosted by Glasgow branch Irish Minstrels CCÉ and if they are lucky enough to emerge as qualifiers from that particular competition in first or second place, they earn the right to compete at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Drogheda against the finest musicians from across the globe.
“We are looking forward to welcoming our qualifiers and visitors from Scotland to the Fleadh in Drogheda from August 12-19,” All-Ireland Fleadh Cathaoirleach (Chairperson) Lolo Robinson said.
“We are hosting a special overseas reception and concert on Saturday August 18 and there will be a céad míle fáilte for all.”
So on to the next round and the city of Stirling, which hasn’t always been known for its welcome of visitors from south of Hadrian’s Wall, serving as the backdrop for some new battles against the English!
Things have settled down a little though since, and Stirling will be the most welcoming to everyone and even at this stage excitement is building for a fantastic event.
From now on as far as the qualifiers are concerned, all roads lead to Stirling. For those who fell just short this year, there will always be future opportunities to make it through, and seeing as the All-Britain is ‘only up the road,’ I’m sure thousands will make the short trip to the heart of Scotland.