WHEN cult Gaelic rock group Runrig signed off at their final concerts at Stirling some weeks ago their popularity with fans of all ages was abundantly evident. Forty years earlier these young Gaelic speakers launched their band and captured the lasting interest of many in their language and the challenging history of their people.

The group instilled new confidence and self-esteem among young Gaels and in communities in other countries. Runrig’s appearance coincided with renewed interest in Gaelic language revival and their music complemented and supported education and other cultural initiatives that have grown since.

Gaelic music’s international success reflects natural talent and continuing cultural confidence from the Runrig phenomenon of the 1970s. All involved in the promotion and revitalisation of Gaelic are acutely aware that the future of the language and culture depend on the interest and enthusiasm young people take in it.

Successive generations of Gaelic speakers, educated through English and encouraged to focus on it as their career language, led to the decline of traditional inter-generational transference of Gaelic. For the past 45 years the introduction and steady growth of a successful Gaelic Medium (GM) primary education curriculum has slowed the speaker number decline, and as secondary GM subject provision grows there is cause for optimism for language revival.

Any healthy language and culture requires a vibrant community in which to thrive and the strong Gaelic tradition of song and music was a significant factor in the survival of the language, despite the negative forces that suppressed it. The National Mod has been promoting Gaelic language and culture since 1892 and, since then, it has given particular focus and encouragement to young people. This year’s Mod in Dunoon, beginning this week, will continue that tradition and, marking this Year of Young People, Mod owner An Comunn Gaidhealach has established a youth committee that has been encouraged to submit new ideas for the Royal National Mod. It has a representative on the Mod management committee.

Youth committee members have also been engaged in a variety of complementary projects, including an initiative to give young people in the Dunoon area an opportunity to develop their music and Gaelic skills to participate in the Mod.

The impact of Gaelic drama workshops in several local primary schools will be witnessed at the Mod, as well as a series of promotional videos for the Royal National Mod produced by the young committee. Other young people will be given an opportunity to document their Mod experience either through recording a video to be posted at a later date, or through features such as “Facebook Live” or “Instagram Stories”. An Comunn’s youth committee will also work with The Camanachd Association to organise a cup game between two local junior shinty teams that will take place before the annual senior Mod Cup game.

These youth initiatives are particularly poignant for An Comunn’s staff and Board Members this year as we remember the late John Macleod, President of An Comunn Gaidhealach between 2007 and 17, who died earlier this year. He was a champion of young people and he campaigned determinedly for enhanced opportunities and support for those with an interest in Gaelic arts and music.

An Comunn will announce plans at the Dunoon Mod for an annual commemoration of his significant contribution to the organisation and to Gaelic.