Memoirs reveal clashes behind Military Tattoo


A DIRECTOR of Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo has revealed military policemen had to be brought in to deal with drunken pipers on the parade ground.

Major Sir Michael Parker, who directed the world-famous tattoo from 1992 to 1994, also told of his clashes with the authorities in charge of Edinburgh Castle.

Sir Michael was in charge of some of Britain’s most spectacular shows, including the Queen’s silver and Golden jubilees.

Predecessors of these pipers may have turned up to the parade ground too “relaxed”, Sir Michael said.


His memoirs, titled It’s All Gone Terribly Wrong, reveal disputes he had with Historic Scotland, the quango which runs the castle.

He dubbed it “Hysterical Scotland”, and said they tried to scupper his plans to fire cannons by saying “they weren’t made for that.”

He also claimed some pipers overindulged themselves before performing at the August event, which has TV audiences of 100 million and pumps around £88 million into the Scottish economy every year.

The memoirs say: “It was surprising how many ‘wee drams’ they managed to get down in one short evening.

“If there was ever any suspicion that we had a few ‘relaxed’ pipers on parade, we would place military policemen at the bottom of the esplanade, and as the pipes and drums counter-marched, the offenders were whisked away without anybody noticing.”




On one occasion Sir Michael had wanted to fire the cannons on the castle’s Half Moon Battery, a key part of the castle’s defences.

He said: “Hysterical Scotland complained that they weren’t made for that.

“I said I thought that was exactly what they were made for, so we were allowed, in the end, to put our pyrotechnics in them.”

Sir Michael, who retired in 2010, also wanted to install giant gas lamps to help improve the lighting.

He said: “Historic Scotland, who ran the castle, were not keen, saying they would never be used again.

“Twenty years later, they are still a major feature.”




He admits his tenure was short-lived, and another passage says: “I wanted to do much more, I loved the job, but , depressingly, after a while some members of the board kept querying why we needed to do improve things, or spend more money at all.

“It came to a head when one said: ‘There’s no need to improve or change anything – people will come no matter what we do.’

“So I decided there and then that my time at the tattoo should come to an end, although I had enjoyed it enormously and I loved the town of Edinburgh itself.”

A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “We are very proud of our enduring partnership with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, that has provided millions of visitors with excellent entertainment over the years.

“As it is the most popular paid-entry attraction in the country, and the tattoo performance coincides with our busiest months, we understandably have to fully consider the impact of any performance, and how it relates to one of Scotland’s most iconic buildings.”

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