Girls from Malawi joined Mary Erskine pupils for shows

Malawian girls' choir performing at the Tattoo. Picture: contributed
Malawian girls' choir performing at the Tattoo. Picture: contributed
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The Edinburgh Military Tattoo may be over but the friendships forged on stage between two groups of teenage girls from very different backgrounds will remain.

As the curtain fell on Friday night, 20 girls from the Mary Erskine School and 20 from The Edinburgh High School in Malawi vowed they would always stay in touch after sharing the spotlight.

Catherine Lungu, 14, has loved her time in the Capital and has plans to return.

She said: “We’ve enjoyed Edinburgh. I feel that I should stay in Scotland, but I miss my family at home. I’ll be back though.”

Learning about the history of Edinburgh and Scotland has been the highlight of the trip, apart from treading the stage night after night in the Tattoo.

She said: “It has been so exciting performing at the Tattoo, I have never performed in front of thousands of people before. The first night I was nervous before I went on stage but I knew that with my friends I could do it – it gave me the confidence.”

For new friend and Mary Erskine pupil Meghan Hughes, 17, the girls who have travelled 7600 miles from Malawi have become like “sisters”. She said: “It’s been an absolutely amazing experience. The girls fit in so well and we were all really good friends straight away.”

Three of the Malawian girls stayed in Meghan’s home during their time in the city and she took them to the beach at North Berwick and on a sightseeing trip to London. She said: “I am an only child so it was like having sisters – they really were part of the family.

“We’ve made bracelets for each other. It’s just been a once in a lifetime experience.”

The Edinburgh Girls’ High School in Northern Malawi was opened in 2012 by Scottish-born Janet Chesney who saw the need for increasing girls’ access to secondary school education. The school is now attended by 160 pupils. Mary Erskine continues to support its African counterpart through fundraising and pupils visiting regularly but this is the first visit to Edinburgh for the Malawian girls.

Catherine, who is a recent fan of mince and tatties as well as other Scottish fare, said: “I have made many friends and we will be friends forever. They’re amazing and fantastic. It doesn’t matter where you come from.”

Brigadier David Allfrey, chief executive and producer of the Tattoo, said the girls became a key part of the 2018 show – helping open the spectacle with traditional Malawian chants and bring it to a close with a chorus of Amazing Grace. He said: “Even the most cynical or sceptical person will have enjoyed the care these girls took in their performance.

“Malawi is a country where it’s very difficult to get on in the first place, and even more difficult if you’re a young woman, so it has been empowering.”

Mr Allfrey hoped future years will see similar visits, while the girls will be supported to ensure they “don’t go back to school with a bump” after their Capital adventure.

He praised the “exemplary” students and “fantastic” staff at Mary Erskine for making the trip a success.

“This is not a one-off,” he said.