BEHOLD Alba, the peculiar country. One of Scotland’s peculiarities is the way that people get their drathais in a twist about language.

And when we say language we mean Gaelic. Only last week, announcements that Gaelic would appear on road signs in Edinburgh and efforts made to revive the language in Tayside gave rise to frothing of the mouth and gnashing of the teeth therein from the usual suspects.

Odd thing: a desire to kill a language. Fair enough, it has declined on its own, as it were, submerged in a larger culture that for a while outlawed it. But it isn’t dead yet, and the urge to kick it when it is down is a strange aspect of the Scottish character, one with which we are familiar in its wider context of national self-loathing.

Peculiar country, as I say, or at least peculiar people. Few of these, thankfully, will be making their way to Lochaber for the Mòd this week. The world-famous annual festival celebrates Gaelic language and culture through a range of competitions in music, song, dancing, drama, sport and literature.

Never having been a particularly competitive person, I must say the activities on the fringe interest me more. These include an introduction to Uilleam Againne, who I’m sure you recognise as Our William (loosely translated), the famous DC Thomson cartoon character with the spiky hair and tin furnishings.

There’s also an invitation to find about the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia and how to edit it, with the associated aim of providing better coverage of Lochaber using the National Library of Scotland’s digital collections.

Before all this gets under way, business kicks off in the traditional manner with a torchlight procession led by Lochaber Pipe band through Fort William High Street followed by an opening ceremony at the Nevis Centre with music from Glasgow-based folk group Na h-Òganaich, plus Robert Robertson and Ross Wilson.

There are ceilidhs everywhere you look, if that’s your cup of whisky, and a fair whack of shinty, including talks about its history and a crunch match between Scotland and the hurlers of Ireland.

In all of this, non-Gaels are welcome to attend. An Comunn Gàidhealach (The Highland Association) is keen on this, as it gives the chance to forge new friendships, encourage new learners of Gaelic and showcase the culture to wider Scottish society.

Elements of that wider society will concoct fears of being “forced” to learn Gaelic and raise concerns about taxpayers’ money, the former a risible myth and the latter at least a legitimate concern, if one often raised by dodgy political sources.

All that meanness apart, Gaelic – whether left to dwindle on its own or supported by wider society – will survive in some way, shape or form and, as long as it does, will be celebrated as both a culture and a language containing beauty, history and connections to a great part of the land.

Lochaber has the privilege of being host this year and is the place to be for a dance, a dram, a thwack at a wee leather ball or just a bit of còmhradh (conversation) in any language.

Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail/the Royal National Mod runs from this Friday until Saturday, October 21 at various venues in and around Fort William.