Tarland quine is the champ of champions

Raising a dram: Winner of the Champion of Champions Bothy Ballads Shona Donaldson
Raising a dram: Winner of the Champion of Champions Bothy Ballads Shona Donaldson

A Tarland woman became the first female winner of the Bothy Ballads Champion of Champions competition in Elgin last weekend.

The Champion of Champions competition brings together area winners of Bothy Ballads competitions to find the best, and in its 34-year history, Shona Donaldson of Tarland, who is married to Tarland fiddle player Paul Anderson, became the first woman to win the crown.

The Queen of the Bothy Ballads: Shona Donaldson singing and winning (by Brian Smith)

The Queen of the Bothy Ballads: Shona Donaldson singing and winning (by Brian Smith)

At a packed Elgin Town Hall on Saturday, she beat friendly rivals from the various area competitions, including Allan Taylor from Alford, and fellow Deesider Hector Riddell from Finzean - who was the Champion of Champions in 2014 and 2015.

Speaking after her victory, Shona said: “It’s amazing to win - it’s been an ambition of mine since I started singing around the age of 14.

“Everybody else that was in the final are all fantastic singers, it was just down to the judges and how they felt on the night.”

She added: “Although it’s a competition, everybody that competes are all really good friends. You go into it wanting to do your best, and winning is just icing on the cake - the most important thing is singing the bothy ballads.”

Husband and wife team Tom and Maggie Spiers were first time judges at this year’s competition, but have had an interest in traditional songs and music since the 60s. Tom said: “Shona gave the best performance. She picked a very good song and sang it very well, and it got a terrific audience response.”

On the competition generally, which was organised by Elgin Rotary Club, he added: “The competitors weren’t too concerned with who actually won it. They were just a group of friends putting on an entertainment.

“A lot of the audience was made up of local people, so not necessarily with the most serious interest in traditional songs. Having the entertainments mixed with the comperes telling jokes worked very well to appeal to a broader audience - the Elgin Rotary Club have found a very entertaining formula.”

Shona will return to the event next year to defend the title.