Choir’s ceilidh for a friend is a sell-out success for charity

Ian MacLeod and his wife Christine, who sings with Cumbernauld Gaelic Choir
Ian MacLeod and his wife Christine, who sings with Cumbernauld Gaelic Choir

Cumbernauld Gaelic Choir has held many ceilidh dances –but this is the first time that tickets have been snapped up weeks before the event.

Normally held as a fundraiser for the choir, this year every penny will go to a cause close to members’ hearts.

A long-time supporter of the choir, Ian MacLeod – known to many as Sgadan – has a rare degenerative brain disease, PSP (progressive supernuclear palsy) and the dance is a chance for the choir to show their support for Ian and his family.

The ceilidh is being held to raise funds for the charity that raises awareness of the condition and offers support to those living with it.

Ian began taking sudden falls without any warning, then his voice gradually disappeared, leaving him unable to speak. He and his wife Christine had to fight for two years to find out exactly what was wrong with him and the news they eventually received was not good.

PSP causes nerve endings in the brain to degenerate, leading to problems with balance, movement, vision, speech and the ability to swallow.

Christine is a singer with the choir and Ian, who was well known for his lively sense of humour, attends many events with her.

The couple, who originally come from Lewis, are also well known on the wider Gaelic scene; Ian was once the manager of Glasgow’s Park Bar, a famous meeting place for people from the Highlands, and he and Christine appeared in many episodes of Speaking Our Language, the STV series devoted to teaching the Gaelic language to beginners.

So when the choir was given funding by North Lanarkshire Council recently, members knew just what to do with it.

On February 4, in the village hall, Charlie Kirkpatrick and his band will play for dancing and the choir will perform a few songs.

Rhona McMillan, Cumbernauld Gaelic Choir’s conductor, said: “Christine and Ian are stalwarts of the choir and we really wanted to show them our support and raise as much money for the charity as we can.

“We are very grateful for the support of North Lanarkshire Council. We have received funding which is covering all our expenses. It means every penny raised will go to the charity.”

The choir was stunned when as soon as tickets for the ceilidh in the village hall were available, they were snapped up.

“Ian and Christine are very well known and the ticket sales have really shown how popular they are!” said Rhona.

Because of the interest in the ceilidh, the choir set up a Just Giving page so people unable to attend could still make a donation. So far more than £750 has been donated.

Cumbernauld Gaelic Choir, which will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2018, was formed by Highlanders as a sociable way to meet up with other Gaelic speakers.

The choir has changed over the years and while Christine is now one of the few native speakers, the choir still encourages many people to learn Gaelic.

Rhona said: “It is not necessary to speak Gaelic – many of us don’t – but the choir is a very good starting point for people who want to learn. Others join the choir and then become interested in the language, some of whom have become fluent.”

For those who don’t speak the language, Mary Ann Brown, a native of the isle of Harris, patiently coaches members on pronunciation.

The choir competes every year in the annual Gaelic festival, The Royal National Mod, which will be in Fort William this October.

Other local mods are held throughout the year and the choir also performs in care homes.

Rhona added: “We are always very pleased to sing for residents in care homes.

“We add Scottish songs to our Gaelic repertoire and they go down very well. We have some great soloists, so there is a bit of variety.”

The choir meets every Monday at 7.30pm in Cornerstone House, 1 Esk Walk, Cumbernauld. New members are always made very welcome.

Call Rhona on 01236 729229 to find out more.

To donate to the choir’s fundraising for PSPA visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Iansceilidhforpsp.