2005 Edinburgh Military Tattoo - Page 5

The Bands new clothes

The practices continued for the rest of the week until the Friday which consisted of two shows the first one being a dress rehearsal and the second show was actually our first real Tattoo albeit one in front of an audience of local people who had received concessionary tickets, at some level perhaps the most important show of all.

In the lead up to the first shows we had been under some stress because by the Thursday morning our dress uniforms had yet to arrive and the thought of doing a Tattoo in our camouflage with our "communist" caps was not a pleasant thought. The concerns were somewhat heightened, as we were all aware that the kit had been shipped using the facilities of our Pipe Major Craig's father in law who has an undertaking business. The box used was the very same as the ones used in which coffins are shipped, which led us to thinking of scenarios like when we opened our box, we found Uncle Ted (who was a little stiff and formally attired) and Uncle Ted's family got to go to a bodiless memorial service dresses as an Irish Pipe Band!

As you can imagine when the box did arrive (Thursday midday) and Uncle Ted was missing the relief was absolute!

The next big challenge was getting all this gear on and looking like a military pipe band, which you'd think should be easy being the consummate professionals that we are. (Uh huh - Ed.) The basic problem was that we very rarely, if at all, wore our full uniform in South Africa mainly because of the heat and this over the years contributed to the demise of the garments (jackets, shawls, buckled shoes etc) generally so up until we left SA`s shore for Edinburgh we did not have a dress uniform to speak of. It was with great effort by the band and the families of band members that we had a dress uniform and a striking one at that!

So here we are on the eve of our world debut trying on our uniforms for the first time. It went well but there were a few challenging items.

The "shawl" or if you are of the "tea towel" loving fraternity (tartan) you may call it a "drummers plaid" from which it differs only in that it does not have the stability of the latter as it is not belted at the waist. It is in this instability that the problem lies because once over your shoulder and through our broaches the shawl tended to obey gravity and the nett result was that our jackets were pulled open at the collar leaving us looking a little lopsided. Now if the bandsman wearing the jacket was generously proportioned and as a result filled the jacket out the shawl looked ok but if you were a slighter member or female then well ... ya looked looik a sack o spuds. It was off to Tesco where we purchased their entire supply of safety pins which we used to pin any offending shawls to the jacket and sometimes directly (ow!) to the bandsmen. This also ensured that shawls were not left littering the esplanade during the tattoo ... this was a honour bestowed on the Drum Majors belt instead. More on this later.

Buckled shoes are almost a signature of a truly Irish Pipe Band and we had worried slightly that these would also be a problem but thankfully a few strategic holes in the flap supporting the buckle ensured trouble free marching and marking time ... the worry was that with the height at which we needed to mark time that the buckles would be reduced to shrapnel and that many famous Highland regiments might meet their end at the hands of shoe buckles made in Steeledale!

The debate in the Band and Regiment about headdress has been an interesting one and generally the agreement was on Berets (green) as worn by the regiment rather than Glengarries (too Scottish) or Caubeens (frankly ... too Irish). The problem with a Beret as with a Caubeen is one of shape and shaping. The members of the Band who had received Beret styling tips at the hands of the SADF (South African Defence Force) managed to get their Berets into something referred to locally as "houding" which I think translates loosely as having a certain "Úlan", those new to the Beret, well ... didn't. The sight of some of these berets would have sent SADF non commissioned officers into rants about "vlieende pierings" (flying saucers), "sop borde" (soup plates) and to calling the wearers "vaak seuns" (dopey boys). This would also usually mean that a trip around a distant tree with ones rifle above ones head making the sound of a space ship would be in order, thankfully the SA Irish is slightly more benevolent in its attitude to fashion. A few quick lessons in boiling and shaping and our berets looked half decent, well most did anyway.

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