Fort George. The name is redolent with the history of our Highland regiments and their pipes and drums. Today the Fort, a magnificent series of 250-year-old rock solid buildings jutting out into the Moray Firth, is the only ancient monument in Scotland still functioning as intended, as an army barracks. Currently it is the home of the 3 Scots Regiment, the Black Watch. Last night the old stone and a crowd of thousands witnessed a spectacular evening of military music and displays, all part of the inaugural Highland Military Tattoo.
Before the night began I had a walk round the impressive blocks and had a think about the great names of the piping past who must have walked, played and paraded over the same neatly cut grass and tarmac, with the same chill wind blowing off the sea: Pipe Majors Donald MacLeod, Donald MacLean to name but two. If you haven’t been to Fort George and the Highlanders Museum you need to go.
We were treated to a meal in the Officers’ Mess before the show and I was pleased to see this fine painting of who I believe to be P/M Jimmy Anderson late of the Black Watch hanging in the dining room. I remember him judging many years ago in the early days of the modern Perth Games and no doubt those of his colleagues who are still around may have a few stories to tell. Perhaps they would like to add something in the comment section below.
Well, to the show. This was a highly enjoyable mix of music and military display. It was a credit to producer Major Bruce Hitchings MBE BEM and his team. It must have been quite difficult to harness the talents of local groups of fiddlers, singers and dancers with the exigencies of the military. It all came off wonderfully well and by the end of the night the well wrapped up spectators were clapping and singing along to all the old favourites Scotland the Brave, Auld Land Syne, Keep Right on to the End of the Road and the Black Bear. The whole evening was masterfully strung together by commentator Alasdair Hutton OBE.
To start us off, and before it got too dark, we had a fly past from a replica biplane from WW1. An entertaining series of performances followed: a high end demonstration of musical skills from the Hellcats: drummers, trumpeters and fifers from the military band of the West Point Military Academy in the US, the piccolos beautifully in tune, a tribute to the fallen from WW1, a Culloden reenactment, and towards the end, there was Cruachan the Shetland pony mascot of the Black Watch pawing the sward and charming the audience.
At the finale we had Lights Out played by Sandy Cameron, Roy Bridge, and then a spectacular fireworks display. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable night out and I hope, as Director and Chairman Major General Seymour Munro said in his programme notes, that this tattoo is here to stay.