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Dingwall and Black Isle Gaelic choir leader 'could light up a room'

By Scott Maclennan

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Clare Campell, Kirsteen Maclennan, Ruth Macdonald, Malina Liddle, Morven MacDonald and Steven Maciver, Black Isle Gaelic Choir. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Clare Campell, Kirsteen Maclennan, Ruth Macdonald, Malina Liddle, Morven MacDonald and Steven Maciver, Black Isle Gaelic Choir. Picture: James Mackenzie.

A friend of Highland Gaelic stalwart Kirsteen MacLennan has paid tribute after her passing at the end of last week.

Ruth Macdonald remembers childhood friend Kirsteen MacLennan, who worked with Dingwall Gaelic Choir and established the Black Isle Gaelic Choir, for her “enormous generosity of spirit” and how her death from cancer aged just 49 will affect so many people because “to know her was to love her”:

Kirsteen was loved by so many people – above all her family: her husband Jamie, sons Finlay and Hector, twin brother John and her incredible mother Janet – so in saying this I know I am very much not alone in missing her.

She was all about family, friends, making memories and her music.

She was so much to so many people but for me, it was her big heart, generosity of spirit and her strength of character that really stood out.

I honestly can’t imagine being without her because she was always there for me, as she was for countless others too.

Choir practice was always fun, she was a brilliant conductor, but in the run up to the Mòd she could be pretty strict.

She was a consummate professional and a real perfectionist who wanted to get the best out of everybody.

She would often refer to her late dad, Hamish, at choir practice, using tips from him to improve our technique, so he was never far from our minds and still very much in our hearts.

She did the arrangement for our “own choice” at this year’s Mòd, saying that it was her gift to us – again showing her generosity, her giving back to her choir family.

Extraordinary outpouring of grief for Kirsteen MacLennan

When we found out that she wasn’t going to make it to the Mòd the Black Isle Gaelic Choir went up to sing for her at her bedroom window.

As hard as it must have been for her, she sat there mouthing the words and at the end she even had some points of critique for us to work on for the Mòd.

The whole choir was very emotional, and it was incredibly difficult for everyone.

But Kirsteen, in true Kirsteen fashion, encouraged us to do our best and be strong throughout our performances.

That Saturday was a year to the day since my mam’s funeral and Kirsteen was the perfect example of finding that inner strength as she sang so beautifully at the funeral.

It wasn’t easy for her, but she did it because mam, her ‘Auntie San’, asked her to, just like we, her choir family, will sing on Saturday for her and at the Mòd.

We will do our utmost to make her proud and honour her memory.

Kirsteen loved making memories and despite her diagnosis last year, she remained positive throughout and wanted to make the most out of every day.

Kirsteen MacLennan conducting.
Kirsteen MacLennan conducting.

She was determined to go to Belladrum this year and I am pleased to say we did. We went with our friend Debs and had a fabulous time, sitting there in the sunshine, a wee drink in hand, enjoying the music and atmosphere. It all just seemed perfect. Little did we know that Kirsteen had received more bad news from the doctors that very day, but she wouldn’t let the cancer get in the way of our plans for our day out, only telling us what the doctor had said afterwards.

It is worth mentioning that she was also the best hostess ever. She loved inviting her friends and family over to her home and you always got the warmest of welcomes.

Kirsteen made everyone feel special, she would light up a room – she just brought so much light, love, joy and of course music into our lives. She will be sorely missed by so many but never forgotten. Until we meet again my beautiful, forever friend...

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