Hundreds of people, young and old, joined a torchlight procession through Stornoway tonight (Friday) as the Royal National Mod returned to the town.
Crowds began to gather in the Narrows from about 6.15pm and once the torches were lit, they followed the torchbearers and the Lewis Pipe Band away from the Town Hall and up Francis Street to Matheson Road en route to Ionad Spòrs Lèodhas where the evening's welcoming concert was to take place. Considerable traffic queues developed on Sandwick Road and Matheson Road as the parade passed by.
Earlier the formal start of the nine-day event was held in Stornoway Town Hall.
Maggie Cunningham, Chair of MG Alba, opened the ceremony. Ms Cunningham is at the forefront of a campaign to persuade the BBC to extend the hours of Gaelic broadcasting.
Maggie said: "We need to harness the support of everyone in Scotland and the wider world who cares about the survival of Gaelic.
“We need every Gaelic speaker, every politician and everyone who cares about culture and heritage. We are talking about the survival of a precious jewel and an important part of the diversity of this country. We need to convince everyone that continuing support is vital for its survival and health.”
The President of An Comunn Gàidhealach, John Macleod commended developments in Gaelic-medium education for the rise in Gaelic speakers amid the younger generations. Mr Macleod also praised the Western Isles for its ability to maintain the Gaelic language in daily use and called for the Isles to be recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Of the Gaelic Ambassador award, John Morrison, Chief Executive of An Comunn Gàidhealach, said: “We're delighted that Alex O'Henley has been awarded the prestigious Gaelic Ambassador of the year by the Scottish Government.
“His contribution to the Gaelic language through his work with the Scottish Parliament, UEFA and the BBC for so many years has made him a true role model and influence to Scottish Gaels of all ages.
“His continuing work in football ensures that thousands of people every week hear Gaelic, and shows Alex's passion for maintaining the language in Scotland. It's been a fantastic first day and we look forward to the rest of the 2016 Royal National Mòd in the Western Isles.
Alex said: “I consider this a great honour and one that I did not expect. It is always a pleasure to receive an award from your colleagues in the workplace, but it means so much more when an award of this kind comes from viewers and listeners who enjoy and value the work that you do.
“That means a lot to me, especially after a year that has been very challenging, and I would like to thank An Comunn Gàidhealach and the Scottish Government for considering me worthy of this award.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland's Director of Events, said: “It is fantastic to be able to welcome back The Royal National Mòd for another year of support through EventScotland's International Funding Programme. The Isle of Lewis is as stunning a setting as any for the event, and I am sure it will provide a terrific backdrop to proceedings.
“Now in its 125th year, this incredibly important annual celebration of Gaelic culture is just as popular as ever and we wish each of the performers across a wide variety of competitions taking place over the next week all the very best.”