Poet Niall O'Gallagher
Poet Niall O'Gallagher

Capturing Glasgow’s Gaelic spirit on canvas

Alexander Moffat is set to capture Gaelic culture and what it means to contemporary Glasgow at this year’s Mod.

The distinguished Scottish painter has been appointed artist-in-residence to the Royal National Mòd 2019, and commissioned by Glasgow Life in partnership with the Hunterian Museum and the University of Glasgow to create an original artwork marking the Mòd’s return to Clydeside for the first time in almost three decades.

He previously celebrated 20th-century Scottish poetry with his famous painting of Hugh MacDiarmid et al in an imaginary Edinburgh howff. He has also paid tribute to the Scottish folk revival with his fantastical depiction of Hamish Henderson carousing with musicians including Gael Dolina MacLennan and piper and Gaelic tradition-bearer Alan MacDonald.

The Mòd – Scotland’s premier festival of Gaelic music, arts and sport – was last held in Glasgow in 1990, during its year as European City of Culture. Some 29 years on, Gaelic – which has been spoken in the city for centuries – is flourishing.

In fact, Glasgow is home to the largest number of Gaelic speakers outwith the Highlands and Islands and a growing number of citizens are speaking it, learning it and participating in Gaelic cultural events. In July this year, the revival was accentuated with Niall O’Gallagher’s appointment as the first ever Bàrd Baile Ghlaschu (Glasgow’s City Gaelic Poet Laureate).

It is this important moment in the city’s Gaelic history that will be immortalised by Sandy Moffat OBE RSA, as the Mòd makes its return visit to Glasgow today (Friday).

During the nine-day festival, the artist will immerse himself in the atmosphere, observe events and research the city’s Gaelic past and present. Those impressions will feed into an original artwork, which will be unveiled in Glasgow in January 2020.

Glasgow’s Gaelic poet laureate Niall O’Gallagher

The Gaelic Poet Laureate and the Artist-in-residency bookend Glasgow Life’s contribution to Gaelic in the city during the Mòd with a programme of free screenings, talks, workshops and language tasters all taking place at the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow).

The Mòd 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 and during the week, a host of fringe activity will also take place.

Thanks to the new residency, Alexander Moffat’s illustrious body of work will now be complemented by a brand new painting, which is destined, like his famous depictions of poets and folk musicians, Poets’ Pub and Scotland’s Voices, to be enjoyed by art lovers and Gaelic cultural enthusiasts for generations to come.

Sandy said: ‘I’m really excited about this opportunity to observe and make work during the Mòd. It’s a unique opportunity to get close up to this great Gaelic festival.’

Councillor David McDonald, depute leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow Life said: ‘It will be fascinating to see Sandy Moffat’s take on this event. The late, great Gaelic bard Sorley MacLean featured prominently in his famous painting, Poets’ Pub, while the contemporary piper and Gaelic scholar Allan Macdonald is celebrated in Scotland’s Voices – and I’m looking forward to finding out how Gaelic culture in Glasgow, and the 2019 Mòd, will be depicted in his forthcoming new work.’