Non-military pipers get Tattoo chance

Piper Hugh Scott plays outside The Castle. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Piper Hugh Scott plays outside The Castle. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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PIPERS with no military connections are being given the chance to take part in Edinburgh’s Royal Military Tattoo for the first time – so long as they smarten up.

Tattoo producer Brigadier David Allfrey has recruited civilian pipers from across Scotland to form a Tattoo “house band” and promised to teach them to march, stand and wear the kilt properly before they take to the Castle esplanade in front of 9000 people a night.

The initiative effectively allows high-quality pipers to join a military band without joining the military.

The brigadier hopes in the long run to adopt the same principle to attract top drummers and dancers as well.

Brig Allfrey said: “We will offer any piper, drummer or dancer of an appropriate standard and age in Scotland or around the world the opportunity to play in the Royal Military Tattoo.

“They can get in touch with us before the performance each year. We will put them in full dress and we will teach them to march properly.

He added: “Quite a lot of civilian bands are very scruffy and do not march decently.”

A special uniform and cap badge have been designed for the new band. Brig Allfrey said: “Most civilian bands in Scotland do not wear full dress – they will put on a tie and a kilt and a waistcoat, normally with sunglasses added.”

The band is called Pipers’ Trail because the idea for it came from an earlier project which Brig Allfrey ran some years ago, touring the country, encouraging young pipers and drummers to consider a career in the army.

The new band will consist of 24 members who are now undergoing intensive training to get them ready for their debut. Brig Allfrey said: “Their music is absolutely excellent, but they don’t march or look the part. We will train them to march properly, stand properly and wear the kilt properly.”

One of the recruits to the new band is Mike Spain, who works as business development manager with the Northern Lighthouse Board in George Street.

He signed up after seeing a notice on the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association website inviting people play at the ­Tattoo.

Mr Spain, 49, who is drum major in the Kinross and District Pipe Band, said: “I thought it was a great idea. It’s very difficult for civilians to get involved in the Tattoo. Most civilian bands could not commit the necessary time as bands, even though individuals might be able to.

“We will be working during the day, appearing in the Tattoo at night and then back to work the next day. But what member of a decent pipe band would not want to take part in it? I’ve watched the Tattoo every year since I was a kid. It’s something everyone should want to do if they can.”