Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

First Annual Sister Margaret MacDonell Prize in Gaelic Poetry awarded

May 14th, 2019
The inaugural recipients of the Sister Margaret MacDonell Prize in Gaelic Poetry were first prize Brìan MacLeòid (pictured in the middle), second prize Goiridh Dòmhnullach (pictured at left), and third prize Deborah Moffatt (not pictured). StFX Celtic Studies Department Chair Dr. Michael Linkletter (right) presents the prize.

The Department of Celtic Studies at St. Francis Xavier University, in partnership with the Clan Donald Lands Trust, is pleased to announce an annual Gaelic poetry competition named in honour of Sister Margaret MacDonell, CND, former chair of the StFX Celtic Studies Department and lifelong champion of the Gaelic language.

The inaugural recipients of the Duais Bàrdachd ann an Ainm na Peathar Mairead NicDhòmhnaill Sister Margaret MacDonell Prize in Gaelic Poetry were Brìan MacLeòid (first prize), Goiridh Dòmhnullach (second prize), and Deborah Moffatt (third prize). They were announced as the recipients during an award ceremony held May 10th, 2019 during Gaelic Month in Nova Scotia.

StFX Celtic Studies Department Chair Dr. Michael Linkletter says the Gaelic poetry prize came about after he was contacted by the Clan Donald Lands Trust from Scotland last year. 

“They sponsor a number of prizes in the Highland Arts (piping, dancing, Gaelic poetry, etc.) around the world, and wanted to sponsor a poetry prize in North America and thought the Celtic Studies Department at StFX should be the place to host it,” he says. 

“They like to name their prizes after prominent members of Clan Donald, so I suggested Sister Margaret MacDonell. She is a native Gaelic speaker from Judique, Cape Breton, is professor emerita in Celtic Studies at StFX, and has a PhD in Celtic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. She is well known for her publications on Gaelic poetry in North America, including her highly regarded book The Emigrant Experience: Songs of Highland Emigrants in North America.”

Dr. Linkletter says the Clan Donald Lands Trust donated the prize money—$500 for first place, $250 for second, and $100 for third—as well as a hand-crafted targe, a type of round, leather-wrapped Highland shield, as a trophy for the top prize. They also donated money to help host the awarding event. 

He says they received over 20 submissions from poets in Canada, the USA, and Scotland with the majority coming from Nova Scotia. A selection panel adjudicated the poetry anonymously.  

In first place was “Chunna mi ’n deò ri teàrnadh ’sa ghleann” (I saw the spirit descend through the glen), by Brìan MacLeòid of Baddeck, CB and Antigonish. Mr. MacLeòid just graduated with an MA in Celtic Studies at StFX and was accepted into the PhD program at the University of Edinburgh starting in September with two scholarships to fully support his studies there. He also published a collection of his own Gaelic poems in 2008 entitled, An t-Òran Sìth-bhuan

In second place: “Cumha do Dhùghlas Dòmhnullach” (Lament for Douglas MacDonald), by Goiridh Dòmhnullach of Bràigh na h-Aineadh, CB, an alumnus of StFX who currently works for the NS Office of Gaelic Affairs and teaches Gaelic teaching methodology for students in the BEd program in Gaelic at StFX. He is a well-known as a local singer and composer of Gaelic songs.

Deborah Moffatt 

In third place: “An Drochaid” (The Bridge), by Deborah Moffatt, originally from Norwich, Vermont, now of Fife, Scotland. Ms. Moffatt is a poet in both English and Gaelic, and twice won the MacDonald of Sleat Prize in Gaelic Poetry in Scotland, a prize also sponsored by the Clan Donald Lands Trust.

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