Edinburgh Military Tattoo

55 – First Edinburgh Military Tattoo

August 21, 1950

SO, the Edinburgh Festival was a mere toddler, a three-year-old just finding its feet.

And the idea was to have the Army contribute by putting on put on bit of a show.

But any resemblance to today’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is merely coincidental.

The year was 1950, the Second World War wasn’t long over and the country was still recovering from six draining years of conflict.

With nothing to compare it to, the spectators who made their way up to the Castle’s Esplanade were just hoping for a good night out, a Festival alternative with a traditionally Scottish flavour.

There were no giant banks of seats, just standing room at the side.

As the pipers and drummers of the Highland and Lowland Brigades made their stirring, kilt-swinging entrance, four searchlights picked them out.

The show is always a spectacle
The show is always a spectacle

It wasn’t so much a case of theatrical spectacle – floodlighting at the Castle had been banned by the Fuel Ministry.

The programme was sweet but short. There were just eight items. But word of mouth from the 6000 who had witnessed proceedings – and a documentary made by Elizabeth Taylor’s husband Mike Todd – ensured the seeds of success had been sown.

Soon seating was in place and by 1952 the first overseas regiment, the Band of the Royal Netherlands Grenadiers, were bringing international appeal.

Now, more than 14 million visitors have followed in the footsteps of those early audience pioneers.

And despite our – let’s admit it – changeable weather, not a single performance has ever been cancelled.