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Issue 91 - Roddy Martine's View

Scotland Magazine Issue 91
February 2017


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Roddy Martine's View

Roddy Martine looks forward to this year's Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

For 70 years the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been drawing open-air audiences from all over the world and for 66 of those years its stage has been the historic esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. An integral part of the annual Edinburgh International Festival, the Tattoo had modest beginnings as no more than a small military parade held in Princes Street Gardens to honour the fallen of the Second World War.

Elevated to the castle esplanade in 1950, the spectacle has since grown beyond the wildest dreams of Sir John Falconer, the enlightened post-war Edinburgh Lord Provost, and Sir Philip Christison, the General Officer Commanding Scotland, who first came up with the idea. Around 1,200 people now take part in the show each year and, over the decades, performers have travelled from 48 countries across six continents. In excess of 220,000 visitors buy tickets to attend each year. Around 20 per cent of them are from Scotland, 50 per cent are from elsewhere in the UK, and 30 per cent — that’s 65,000 people — come from overseas. What’s more, the Tattoo is annually broadcast to 40 countries and watched by around 100 million television viewers.

So, sooner or later, it was inevitable that it would travel. In 2016, the show sold over 46,000 tickets for performances against a mock-up castle backdrop in Melbourne, Australia, and in Wellington, New Zealand. As a global statement on the status of Scots in the 21st Century, it was inevitable that the Scottish clan and family associations would eventually become involved. After all, it was from the ancient clan and family regions of Scotland that all of the great Scottish regiments evolved. Be it the Royal Scots, raised in 1633 by Sir John Hepburn to fight for Charles I in Ireland; the original Gordon Highlanders, formed by the 1st Duke of Gordon in 1794; or the Black Watch, assembled in 1739 by the anti-Jacobite clans to fight for the British Government at Culloden — all have their roots in the great clan ties.

Taking a lead from the magnificent annual Tartan Day parades in Manhattan (and similar pageants held elsewhere throughout the USA and Canada), I think it about time that the enduring and worldwide family of Scots was corralled once more on home turf. Our history is comprised of our clan and family traditions: the feuds and loyalties of our turbulent past. This is who we are.

The Scottish Government has designated 2017 as the year of Heritage, History and Archaeology and, never one to miss a show business opportunity, the Tattoo’s producer, Brigadier David Allfrey, has decided to engage with the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs and introduce an unforgettable splash of tartan. With representatives of Scotland's clans and families expected to muster in force, chiefs from two clans will make an appearance at each of the performances. Those of us who witnessed the spectacular March of the Clans from Holyrood Park up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle during the International Gathering of 2009 will never forget the astonishing impact it created. Although not on the same scale in terms of numbers this time, The Macnab of Macnab — many readers will no doubt be familiar with the iconic Sir Henry Raeburn portrait of his ancestor hanging in the National Gallery of Scotland — has to date coordinated no less than 50 clan chiefs and heads of families to participate in August.

About time. So far as I’m concerned, the world could do with a splash of tartan and I, for one, am very much looking forward to it.