THE Big Yin took prime place at one of the biggest celebrations of Scottish culture in the world yesterday when he led the annual Tartan Day parade in New York.

Sir Billy Connolly performed the role of Grand Marshall as around 33,000 spectators watched the parade along Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue.

The Scottish comedian, who has Parkinson’s Disease, agreed to take part despite announcing last year that he was giving up touring.

“I’m thrilled to be this year’s Grand Marshal of the New York City Tartan Day Parade,” said the 76-year-old.

The National:

“The crowds were brilliant and hearing the skirl of the pipes echoing along Sixth Avenue made me dance a wee jig in my heart,” he added. “What a day.”

Earlier this year Connolly apologised to fans for “depressing” them by stating in a TV documentary that his life was “slipping away”.

His wife, Pamela Stephenson, later posted a video on her Twitter account showing him playing a banjo and saying: “Not dying, not dead, not slipping away.”

This year’s Tartan Day parade also included Scotland’s veterans minister Graeme Dey who welcomed Connolly’s role in the event.

“The annual Tartan Day celebrations are always a spectacular showcase of Scotland,” said Dey.

“I am delighted that Sir Billy Connolly, who has made such a significant contribution to Scottish culture, is leading this year’s parade.”

Kyle Dawson, President of the New York Tartan Day Committee, said they were “beyond delighted” Billy Connolly was Grand Marshal.

“For over half a century, he has entertained us all through his work and, because of this, he is beloved on both sides of the pond,” said Dawson.

“We’ve enjoyed a phenomenal week of celebrations – from ceilidhs to workshops and pipe bands performances to parties,” he added.

“We had the great honour of welcoming Sir Billy Connolly as Grand Marshal of this year’s NYC Tartan Day Parade and saw tens of thousands of people line the sidewalks of Sixth Avenue to cheer on our participants.”

Previous Grand Marshals have included Outlander star Sam Heughan, Sir Sean Connery, actors Alan Cumming, and Brian Cox, while Scots singer KT Tunstall became the first woman to lead the parade last year.

The National:

The thousands of participants yesterday included pupils from North Lanarkshire schools with 52 drummers and pipers from the North Lanarkshire Schools Novice and Juvenile bands marching alongside Highland dancers, Scottish terriers and Scots clans.

The parade is the showpiece event of Tartan Week, which brings a full programme of special events to New York from April 3-8 this year.

Before the parade began, the Saint Andrews Society of the State of New York held a Kirkin o’ the Tartan while Oban Pipe Band were invited to play at the post parade party where drams of Oban malt whisky helped keep spirits up.

On Friday despite pouring rain, the Highland Divas sang Flower of Scotland at the 21st Anniversary National Tartan Day Observance in Bryant Park – described by Tartan Week organisers as the “perfect opening to what promises to be a weekend to remember”.