Kenna Campbell's Gaelic rendition of the 23rd Psalm at John Smith's

funeral articulated an astonishing depth of feeling

IT was perhaps the most moving moment in a day that had monopolised

poignancy. As the Gaelic words of the 23rd Psalm drifted heavenward from

soloist Kenna Campbell's lips -- Seadh ged tha mi siubhal tro ghleann

sgail a' bhais (Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of

death) -- a nation was there for John Smith, united by grief and TV.

Dams that had held back tears behind many solemn faces finally burst

as her glorious voice rose into the rafters.

''I've been astonished at the reaction,'' Mrs Campbell said yesterday.

''I thought I had played a minor part in the service which was in

essence a state funeral. The singing of a psalm seemed to be appropriate

but I was quite unprepared for the reaction that followed.''

She had come to John Smith's Parish Church of Cluny in Edinburgh last

Friday via a circuitous route. ''The connection was the Rev. Jack

MacArthur of St Columba's Church in St Vincent Street who discussed it

with Donald Dewar who was at university with John Smith. Out of these

deliberations came a request for me to do this. I had sung for Jack for

a service at his church which went out on STV.

''Someone from John Smith's office then phoned to ask if I would sing

it. Donald Dewar then rang me and after that John Smith's sister Mary

discussed it with me. The family thought he would have appreciated the

23rd Psalm sung in Gaelic.''

Mrs Campbell added: ''I was afraid that I might be afraid. In the

event I wasn't, but I was deeply honoured to be asked. Although I am not

of John Smith's political colour I admired him greatly as a person, as

did most of the country.

''I was just conscious about what a responsibility it carried -- just

being part of an event on that scale. It was an emotional day, yet

everyone kept an amazing composure. The Smith family were quite amazing.

Their dignity was so impressive.''

Coming from Mrs Campbell it is indeed a high compliment because she is

a woman who carries herself with equal dignity. When asked to do an

interview she said it didn't seem right. ''It seems disrespectful to

make capital out of John Smith's funeral.''

She eventually relented when we agreed there was no capital to be

made, only a trade in the currency of her life which came into national

circulation on Friday.

Kenna Campbell then, is 57, and lives in a flat in Pollokshields with

her husband Alasdair who writes a weekly column for the Oban Times. They

have two daughters, Mary Ann, 26, a news editor with the BBC, and Wilma,

25, an actress.

It would be trite, we agreed, to say she learned to sing on her

father's knee in the tiny village of Greepe in Skye where she lived

until she was 18.

She said: ''I can't think of a time I wasn't singing. My father at 91

still presents the psalm in church. There hasn't been a time when music

wasn't around. In both families, my mother's and my father's, people

sang. It was like breathing. I remember my brother's astonishment at

finding someone who couldn't sing. All the family have good voices.

''I became involved in school choirs and competing in Mods. I won the

Gold Medal at Dundee in 1959. It's the premiere solo award and the

pinnacle of achievement.

''I learned the usual mainstream kinds of singing. But I always had a

liking for sacred music. I find it satisfying to sing because I have a

low voice. To me it has a depth that is absent in the others. Songs are

like a drug to me. Nothing gives me quite the same buzz as coming across

something I haven't learned before which has a perfect balance between

melody and content.''

During the day, in her other life, she is head teacher at Newhills in

Easterhouse where she teaches children with special needs. ''It is a

very rewarding job because all children can learn, given the right

approach and consistent handling.''

But it is hard to keep off singing, which she describes as her grand

passion. It is a passion she has fostered in her children. Both her

daughters have won gold medals at the Mod. ''I'm not sure if there is

another family with such a record. My husband doesn't sing but he

whistles in many keys.''

Eventually the conversation turns full circle to John Smith and the

prose version of the 23rd Psalm she sang last Friday.

''It's not exactly as it appears in the Old Testament. I set it to

music about 10 years ago and adapted the words slightly to make it all

fit together. I composed the setting for it for a book and that was what

I sang on Friday.

''It was a very great honour to be asked. John Smith inspired trust in

people. I think his death is a profound national loss. He's left a great

void that won't be filled in a hurry.

''Nothing I have been asked to do before has impressed me so much --

the solemnity of the day, the enormity of the loss.

''I'm still amazed at my small contribution and the reaction that has

come from the wider community. Our phone has never stopped ringing and

people I've never met before have been coming up to talk to me in the


''I'm pleased to have been part of producing something that was a

fitting farewell to John Smith. People say it was so appropriate and for

that I'm glad.''