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.