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The Big Yin’s big day in the Big Apple: Sir Billy Connolly leads annual Tartan Day Parade in New York

© Benjamin Chateauvert/PA WireSir Billy Connolly leading the New York City Tartan Day Parade as Grand Marshal
Sir Billy Connolly leading the New York City Tartan Day Parade as Grand Marshal

The Big Yin had a big day out in the Big Apple yesterday as he led the annual Tartan Day yesterday.

Billy Connolly said he “absolutely loved” being grand marshal of the event, which showcases Scotland to the United States.

The 76-year-old comedian, who is battling Parkinson’s disease, announced last year that he was retiring from touring.

But the Big Yin could not resist the opportunity to lead 3,000 pipers, ­drummers, Highland dancers and Scottish clans along New York’s famous Sixth Avenue.

More than 30,000 spectators lined the street to watch the spectacle, which included a “pup parade” of Scottish dog breeds.

An accompanying dog competition was judged by Sir Billy’s wife, Pamela Stephenson.

Sir Billy said: “I’ve absolutely loved being grand marshal of this year’s New York City Tartan Day Parade.

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

Previous grand marshals include Outlander star Sam Heughan, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox and Sir Sean Connery. Last year KT Tunstall became the first woman to lead the event.

Kyle Dawson, president of the New York Tartan Day committee, said: “We’ve enjoyed a phenomenal week of celebrations – from ceilidhs to workshops and pipe bands performances to parties.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their outstanding work – from our wonderful sponsors to volunteers and marchers. Because of you, New York has enjoyed a tremendous tartan takeover.”

Earlier, young pipers brought Grand Central Station to a standstill with an impromptu performance ahead of their appearance in the big parade.

Hundreds of people stopped to watch as the North Lanarkshire Schools Pipe Band played Scotland the Brave and Rowan Tree.

Many used their mobile phones to capture footage of the moment as the strains of the pipes and drums echoed around the station.

The band uploaded a clip online, which was quickly shared more than 9,000 times and generated almost half a million views.

The station manager shut the flash mob down after two songs but waited until the second piece was finished before asking them to stop.

Pipe major Ross Cowan said: “It’s our first time in New York and we wanted to make the most of it.

“Grand Central Station is one of the busiest spots in Manhattan so we figured what better place to give the locals a taste of Scotland ahead of our appearance at the New York City Tartan Day Parade.

“We certainly attracted quite the crowd.”

The band was invited to travel from Scotland to take part in yesterday’s parade. Meanwhile, a Fife firefighter who is hanging up his hat has gifted a custom-made one to US counterparts.

Andy Hunter, from Dunfermline, gave the helmet, painted with the logos of both the Scottish and New York fire services, to the Chief of the New York Fire Department.

Andy, 50, is the regional co-ordinator for Scotland for the Fire Fighters Charity. It has raised more than £8 million for the New York Widows and Children Fund, which supports families of the 343 firefighters killed on 9/11.

He said of the presentation: “It was one of the proudest moments for me in all my years as a firefighter.”