TOMORROW, Gaelic rockers Runrig will play their last-ever gig in front of 25,000 adoring fans in Stirling. It’s a far cry from their first faltering steps as a three-piece Scottish dance band – comprising Rory and Calum Macdonald, along with accordionist Blair Douglas - in 1973.

I joined them in late 1975, when they were still playing a mixture of Scottish dance music and Sixties pop songs at Highland village hall dances and the odd wedding. However, Rory and Calum were already writing songs, both in Gaelic and English. I had come to them from playing with a traditional Gaelic folk group, and I was keen to encourage them to concentrate on their Gaelic songs.

The first time Runrig played to a sit-down audience was in Uig village hall on Skye. We’d been booked to play the dance following a concert, which featured Gaelic folk group the Lochies. We told them that we’d been practising some Gaelic songs and asked if we could open the second half. Even in those days, the band had far more amplification than a village hall ceilidh was used to, and as we blasted out the first chords of “Air an Traigh” the front row of pensioners almost leapt out of their seats in shock. The previous evening we’d been playing a dance in Kyle of Lochalsh and had slept the night in the car, waiting for the first ferry to Skye in the morning.

The lads became convinced that Gaelic was indeed the way forward – there were no bands playing modern Gaelic music in the 1970s – and we set about making a demo tape to hawk round the various record companies. The tape had seven tracks: Donnie sang three songs, I sang three, and Rory sang one. After one or two rejections, we were offered a deal by a Glasgow record company. “Play Gaelic”, a seminal album in the history of the Gaelic language, was the result.

However, by the time the recording was made in the studio with Donnie, Calum, Rory and accordionist the late Robert Macdonald, we had parted ways, and I had left to concentrate on my journalistic career.

READ MORE: Fans take high road for last Runrig gigs

The band has had its detractors over the years (not least of them the former music critic of The Herald). However, criticism of their musical style misses the point altogether. Thanks to Runrig younger generations of Scots have discovered a lasting pride in their own culture and native language.

Many years later, in the early 1990s, I was standing on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle with the Gaelic poet Aonghas MacNeacail, listening to the poet Sorley MacLean on stage as warm-up to Runrig. “Sorley and Runrig are the two most important things to happen to the Gaelic language in the 20th century,” Aonghas said.

I can only agree with him. I won’t be alone in shedding a tear at the end of the concert on Saturday night.

Campbell Gunn is a former special adviser to two first ministers