NEILSTON shone brightly as more than 1,500 villagers turned out for its first-ever Christmas lights switch-on.

The festivities – funded by a National Lottery Awards for All grant – featured live bands, Santa costumes galore and even a Shetland pony called Woody.

The Neilston and District Pipe Band marched up and down the village with dozens of merry revellers in tow as the crowds warmed up for the main event.

Children were kitted out in their finest festive outfits as Santa Claus himself arrived in the village to dish out sweets and learn what the area’s youngsters would like to see under their tree.

While much of the focus was directed towards the turning on of the village’s gigantic Christmas tree, a theme of charity and giving to others underpinned the event.

An area set up to handle collections for the East Renfrewshire Foodbank raked in hundreds of donations as villagers gave generously to support those who struggle to make ends meet.

Pupils from Neilston and St Thomas’ primaries were among those who lent a hand, as were tots from Madras Family Centre.

Other organisations which helped included: Neilston War Memorial Association (NWMA), Blachère Illumination, Cup N Saucer, Neilston Strings, Neilston Development Trust, Neilston Parish Church, Dalmeny Choral, Neilston & District Pipe Band and East Renfrewshire Brass Ensemble.

Councillor Paul O’Kane, who represents Neilston and Newton Mearns North, helped to orchestrate the lights switch-on.

He said: “What a fantastic day. It’s hard to believe that just two weeks before this was simply an idea and some money from Awards for All.

“There are so many people who mucked in to make this event possible.

“I never fail to be amazed by this wonderful wee place.

“It’s such an honour to say I’m Neilston born and bred but it’s an even bigger honour to represent you all.

“Thank you finally to all the good people of Neilston not just for turning out in your hundreds but for your hundreds of donations to the local food bank.

“Let’s make the 2018 switch-on even bigger and better.”

NWMA secretary Matt Drennan added: “There was well over 1,500 people there.

“The war memorial association gave out over 350 selection boxes and advent calendars to the kids, from Santa.

“I would just like to thank Paul O’Kane for all his hard work pulling this together at such short notice.”