When we got to Edinburgh many of us (the oldies) paid ten pounds and got a months
membership of the Sergeants mess. The mess was beside the barracks and was literally
within crawling distance of our beds. The "naffy" was another alternative but was
favoured more by the youngsters and Tony Reis - he became a surrogate daddy to
the bandsmen of at least 5 famous highland fighting regiments.
The sergeants mess held concerts every night for members which were all performed
by Tattoo performers but this time doing their own material and not that of the Tattoo.
The Pipe Bands were the main features as the mess was frequented by all the Pipe Majors,
Drum Majors etc and they made up a very knowledgeable audience. You can imagine therefore
our shock horror when Craig told us we were going to put on a show. We`d actually known
since before leaving SA but had gone into denial.
Eventually however the evening caught up with us and after that nights Tattoo we
changed into our relaxed uniforms (tunics off - black golf shirts on) and headed
down to the mess. We had that afternoon put a show together and we were determined
not to embarrass ourselves as up until then the commonwealth had managed Amazing
Grace on pipes with steel drums whilst wearing shorts and T-shirts (performers
will remain nameless) . We opted for the conservative option, thankfully.
That night there was actually three performances by Pipe Bands, us, the Black Watch
and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. We were unlucky enough to be first which
upped the pressure a bit as we didn't really know what to expect.
We tuned up and decided to march into the mess to taps rather than to a tune. We
formed up in a semi-circle and struck up to Sarie Marais which had been requested
by a member of the audience. As we cast our eyes around we noticed that the
audience was growing as we played and we must have been doing alright as the
applause was quite enthusiastic. Its nerve racking because everyone knew that
it was one thing playing to a knowledgeable audience, but this knowledgeable
was a very rare event. If this audience enjoyed the performance it was because
you had played well, very well.
We went through our repertoire and because many of the tunes we play are our own
(composed by Chris Mulinder) I think we had a certain novelty and originality.
We finished our performance with our Regimental Quick March "Killaloe" and then
dismissed. It was the young pipers from the Argylls that were first to congratulate
us on a good show which reinforced the relief we felt. Later under cross examination
by Dr Daniel "Ginger Consulting" Limpitlaw the Pipe Major of the Black Watch was
very complimentary when he said "ah heed nae idea youse cood play tha well….ahd
only heard tattoo stuff…."
Suitably relieved the desire to be "relaxed" was upon us so it was a few pints of
80 shillings, some "tatties and neeps" whilst listening to The Black Watch and the
Argylls do their thing.
Despite the hangovers the next morning, we had a spring in our step.