WITH the death on March 25 of the veteran mod gold medallist Miss Mary C MacNiven in her 92nd year, another chapter in the history of the national mod and Gaelic singing comes to a close.

Mary Connel MacNiven was born in Portnahaven on Islay in 1905 into a musical family who all shared an interest in Gaelic singing. She left the island at an early age and, once established in Glasgow, began a singing career that was to span close on 60 years. She was a frequent broadcaster with the BBC Gaelic choristers throughout the 1930s, sang with the St Columba Gaelic church choir, and was a valued member of the Glasgow Musical Association for almost 20 years.

She won the gold medal at the national mod in Oban in 1934 - the men's medal going to fellow-islander Gilbert Mac-Phail. To mark her success at Oban, Mr John Bannerman - father of John M Bannerman, later to be Lord Bannerman of Kildonan, composed the Gaelic song Mairi Bhan in her honour. It was later translated into English by Sir Hugh Roberton of the Orpheus Choir, retitled The Lewis Bridal Song and among Mary's prized possessions was the original copy of the translation autographed by the choral maestro.

Having achieved Gaeldom's premiere singing award Mary embarked on a solo career and was undoubtedly one of the great stars in Gaelic entertainment during the heydays of the mod gold medallists. She performed at ceilidhs in village halls and in the more splendid setting of concert halls throughout the country. She was a gracious and imposing figure on the stage and her elegant bearing and soaring mezzo-soprano voice brought pleasure to all who heard her.

She was a member of the Glasgow Islay Association for over 70 years, served on its directorate, was a former president and presided at the group's annual Highland Gathering in 1976. In recognition of her long and distinguished service she was made an honorary patron of the Association and it was in this capacity that she made her last public appearance when she graced the platform party at the 135th Islay Gathering in the Glasgow City Halls on March 7 of this year.

Mary C - as she was affectionately known to all - married John Campbell, a sea captain from Glendale in Skye. They had two of a family - a son, Iain, a biochemist in London, and daughter Christine, who is a Glasgow primary schoolteacher.

On John's retirement he and Mary went to live at Portnahaven but sadly he died shortly after taking up residence in the island port. Mary continued to live in her native village and was a hospitable hostess to the many expatriate Ileachs who made their way to her ever-open door in King Street.

Mary C MacNiven will be sadly missed by her family, friends and all who came into contact with her. They can be sure, however, that her name will be forever largely writ in the annals of Gaelic song and music.

Beannachd leibh, a' Mhairi choir; chan fhaic sinne bhur leithid a-rithist.*

n An Appreciation by Hugh Smith, President, The Glasgow Islay Association.

*Goodbye, dear Mary; we shall not see your like again.