Urras Cuimhneachaidh Dhòmhnaill Stiùbhairt - The Donald Stewart Memorial Trust

This year’s Donald Stewart Memorial Trust awards have gone to Sir E Scott School and Castlebay Community School with Hamish Scott, a 5th year pupil in Sir E Scott winning the Award for Significant Contribution to Gaelic Development and Kirsty MacInnes, a 6th year pupil in Castlebay Community School winning the Award for Outstanding Achievement.

In selecting Hamish as winner of the Award for Significant Contribution to Gaelic Development, the Trustees, who select the winners of both awards, were delighted to learn of a number of prestigious events Hamish had participated in.  Amongst them were the Royal National Mod, Deasbad Gàidhlig Nàiseanta nan Àrd-sgoiltean (where the Sir E Scott team won through to the Final, which was held in The Scottish Parliament Debating Chamber) and Dileab.  He had also been invited to the RAF Centenary event at the Glasgow Concert Hall where he was asked to perform one of his own pieces of poetry, “Misneachd na Pioba”.  Trustees were in agreement that all these events were important in raising the profile and image of the Gaelic language at local, national and indeed international levels and they commended Hamish for taking part in them. 

In terms of leadership, Trustees were again extremely happy to learn of Hamish’s leadership qualities and skills in supporting younger members of the school, and in particular, his role in the school’s piping group.  They were also impressed that, over many years he had shown much initiative and leadership qualities when asked to perform at various events both within and out with the school setting, for example participating in events held at the local war memorial to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Iolaire disaster, the annual Remembrance Day service, local weddings etc.

The Trustees were in agreement that Hamish has been an excellent ambassador for Gaelic, both within the school and also in the wider community and was well worthy of this year’s Donald Stewart Memorial Trust Award for Significant Contribution to Gaelic Development.

Aileen Macsween, Headteacher at Sir E Scott School said, “As a school community, we are extremely proud and delighted that Hamish Scott, S5 was chosen as the winner of this year’s Donald Stewart Memorial Trust Award for Significant Contribution to Gaelic Development.  Hamish is a worthy winner of this award, having shown a strong interest in the Gaelic language, culture and heritage from an early age in primary right up to the present. Hamish is an excellent ambassador for Gaelic and has led by example in all the various activities and achievements he has successfully undertaken over the years and which he will undoubtedly continue to do in the years to come. Hamish is a credit to himself, his family, his school and the local community.”

After considering nominations received for this year’s Award for Outstanding Achievement, Trustees were unanimous that the Award be made to Kirsty MacInnes.

Trustees were highly impressed with Kirsty’s commitment to her studies, her outstanding achievements at local Mods over many years, and in particular, her voluntary work in the community. 

Among the specific achievements which impressed the Trustees were her dedication to her academic achievements and her dedication to achieving fluency in Gaelic.  They were also delighted to learn of the many qualifications she has gained over the years including awards in PE, Culinary Skills, Woodwork and Gaelic.

The Trustees were thrilled to learn of Kirsty’s participation in local Mods and family ceilidhs over many years.  They stressed that Mods and family ceilidhs were a huge part of community life and stressed the importance of young people participating or that these events just would not take place.  The Trustees also expressed their congratulations to Kirsty on her track record at local Mods, where she has been successful in a number of competitions year on year.   

But, above all else, what really impressed the Trustees was her voluntary work in the wider community.  Kirsty has been working at Cobhair Bharraigh, a local day centre for the elderly, and in the community shop, Buth Bharraigh and has also been involved in many other volunteering and fund-raising activities both within the school and in the wider community over the years.  Fantastic achievement.

The Trustees are aware, and all the more impressed, that all of Kirsty’s achievements have been attained against a backdrop of personal health challenges.

Trustees were unanimous that, with her drive, commitment, motivation, inspiration and selflessness Kirsty has been a wonderful example to her peers and younger students, and that the effect on them cannot be overstated. The Trustees were unanimous in their decision to award the Donald Stewart Memorial Trust Award for Outstanding Achievement to Kirsty.

Suzanne Forman, Headteacher at Castlebay Community School said, “We were delighted to receive the news that Kirsty had won the Donald Stewart Memorial Trust Award for ‘outstanding achievement’. Having known Kirsty from her Primary school days in Eoligarry School, I have been astounded by her determination over the years to succeed. She has overcome many difficulties to become the lovely young lady that she is, achieving a wide range of qualifications on that journey.  Kirsty is a credit to her family, both Castlebay and Eoligarry Schools, and to our wider island community. Well done Kirsty!”

Because of the restrictions currently in place, the presentations of the two awards were made in separate “Virtual Presentations” by Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education and Children’s Services at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The Donald Stewart Memorial Trust was established many years ago, in memory of the former, much loved and much respected Member of Parliament for the Western Isles, for the encouragement of education in the Western Isles.  Since the formation of the Trust in the ‘90s, it has been making annual awards, for “Outstanding Achievement” to pupils in the 5th/6th year classes from across the four 6-year secondary schools in the Western Isles. 

In 2019, the Trust established a new award for, “Significant Contribution to Gaelic Development” in recognition of the late Mr Stewart’s support of the Gaelic language and to link this to current developments in Gaelic, especially amongst young people, throughout the islands.   Although not a fluent Gaelic-speaker, Mr Stewart was a great supporter of the language and did indeed propose a Private Members Bill in 1981, the Gaelic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which would have, among other things, authorised the use of Gaelic in legal proceedings and the provision of official forms in Gaelic and further provisions relating to broadcasting.  Sadly, the Bill did not receive support from the Government of the day and was not passed but Mr Stewart continued to be a fervent supporter of Gaelic. 

Both awards are open to pupils in the 5th/6th year classes from across the four 6-year secondary schools in the Western Isles, i.e. The Nicolson Institute, Sir E Scott School, Sgoil Lionacleit and Sgoil Bhàgh a’ Chaisteil with pupils being nominated by the schools.

Margaret Martin, Chair of the Donald Memorial Trust said, “We were highly impressed with the overall quality of this year’s submissions in the two competitions.  On behalf of the Trust I congratulate Hamish and Kirsty on winning their respective awards and wish them both well in all they do in the future.  It is evident that we have a wealth of talented young people in the Western Isles.  I wish to thank the schools for their continuing support for the Donald Stewart Memorial competition, without whom, the competition would not exist.”