Gaelic Ambassador of the Year Award winner Janet MacDonald with Allan Campbell (President of An Comunn Gàidhealach) and John Swinney (Deputy First Minister).

Last night (Friday October 13) saw the return of Scotland’s biggest Gaelic cultural festival Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail to Lochaber for the first time in ten years.

This year’s event is expected to bring a record number of participants, representing areas that haven’t been witnessed at the Mòd in generations.

The eight-day festival opened in a dazzling display last night, with the renowned torchlight procession making its way down Fort William’s High Street, led by Deputy First Minister John Swinney and President of An Comunn Gàidhealach Allan Campbell.

The opening ceremony saw Kate Forbes MSP officially open the Mòd. The ceremony saw an engaging inaugural speech from An Comunn Gàidhealach’s new president, and an evening of live music, including a performance from Gaelic folk group Na h-Òganaich, and former Gold Medallists Robert Robertson and Ross Wilson.

Allan Campbell’s presidential address emphasised the value of Gaelic culture in Scotland, and its importance to our country’s heritage.

He encouraged all of Scotland to take pride in this culture, and spoke of the impact that the recent expansion of Gaelic education has had, resulting in a record number of participants taking part this year.

The Mòd has a legacy which lasts far beyond its week-long programme of competitions and events, he said, inspiring Gaels of all ages throughout the country, and he urged that the Royal National Mòd be recognised as one of Scotland’s national cultural treasures.

Earlier in the day, the Gaelic Ambassador of the Year Award was presented to Janet MacDonald of Tobermory. The award, presented by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, was in honour of her dedication to Gaelic language and culture.

Janet has worked for the Gaelic cause all her life – dedicating her life to teaching. Since retiring from full time teaching, she works for Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, tutoring students of An Cùrsa Inntrigidh, and other college courses.

Janet won the Gold Medal in Inverness in 1984, but before that she competed in many local and national Mods, and was a member of the “Sound of Mull” group, which was very well known in the 1970s and 80s.

She still sings with the Mull Choir and Atomic Piseag. Janet is also heavily involved with the running of the Mull local mod, Fèis Mhuile, the Mull & Iona Gaelic Partnership, and any other initiatives which support the language.

The Mòd will see over 200 competitions and events in highland dancing, sport, literature, drama, Gaelic music and song, with Gaelic speakers of all levels competing.

As well as the competitions, this year’s Fringe showcases the best of Gaelic arts and sport with events for all ages, including the international Colmcille Shinty final between Scotland and Ireland, Mòd football, ceilidhs, drama and several musical performances.

During the children’s Mòd on Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th, young Gaels will have the chance to enjoy their own ceilidh, and hear Oor Wullie in Gaelic.

John Morrison, Chief Executive of An Comunn Gàidhealach, said: “Janet MacDonald has dedicated her life to the Gaelic cause and we are delighted to see her awarded the prestigious Gaelic Ambassador of the year award by the Scottish Government.

“Her contribution to the Gaelic cause through education, performance and in helping the organisation of local and national Mòds has made her a real influence for Scottish Gaels of all ages – her impact has been profound. It’s been a fantastic first day and we look forward to the rest of the 2017 Royal National Mòd in Lochaber’.

Janet MacDonald said: “I’m very grateful to receive this award today. When I was asked to accept the prize, I was gobsmacked. It’s fantastic to be in such great company, and to be recognised for something which is a true passion of mine is amazing.”

Previous winners of the Gaelic Ambassador of the Year Award are:

2016 Alex O’Henley

2015 Professor Boyd Robertson

2014 Kirsteen MacDonald

2013 John Norman Macleod

2012 Ruairidh Maclean

2011 Donald Martin

2010 Allan Campbell

2009 Anne Lorne Gillies

2008 Julie Fowlis