Clan Ewing: Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2017

On Tuesday 8th August 2017, Ewing clansfolk marched onto the Esplenade at Edinburgh Castle to take part in the opening ceremony for the world famous Edinburgh Tattoo. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is Scotland’s premier event, attended by 9,000 people each weeknight for most of the month of August, and televised across more than 40 countries, reaching a television audience of 100 million. Since 1950, the Tattoo has been held each year on the Esplenade (or parade ground) in front of Edinburgh Castle.

In 2017, Clan Chiefs and Commanders were invited to lead their clansfolk to the Castle, to take part in the opening ceremony of the Tattoo. Each evening was shared between two or more clans, and for our night at the Tattoo, we were joined by Clan MacPherson led by their chief Sir William Macpherson of Cluny. Clan Ewing was represented by Ewings from across the United States and the United Kingdom.

There was a real buzz in the air as we met up before the show under the temporary seating which towered above us, and then set off together across the Esplenade and through the Castle to the Great Hall, passing groups of pipers tuning up along the way, resplendent in their military uniforms.

Clan Ewing in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle. Photo: Melissa Orme.

The Great Hall is a fine oak-panelled room, decorated with displays of weaponry from the Castle’s historic past. Here we heard a talk from Tattoo Producer, Brigadier David Allfrey MBE, before a brief drill in the courtyard outside. Then we were off. The clans marched down to the castle drawbridge to the tune of ‘Captain Norman Orr Ewing’ gallantly played by The Pipers’ Trail Band, led by Major Stevie Small MBE, which was relayed to the waiting audience.

As we marched across the drawbridge and onto the Esplenade, commentator Alasdair Hutton gave a brief summary of Ewing history for the audience, highlighting: our legendary descent from the Irish prince Anrothan; that our clan is descended from Clan Ewen of Otter on Loch Fyne; that Ewings were later based in Dumbartonshire and Stirlingshire near Loch Lomond; that Sir William Ewing is said to have carried a standard for Mary Queen of Scots at the Battle of Langside in 1568; that in 1685, Clan Ewing supported Argyll’s Rising against King James VII; that Ewing Tartan is inspired by the plaid of ‘reid & blak cullerit claith’ (‘red and black coloured cloth’) of Johnne Ewing in Heiddykis of Kirkmichael (d.1609); and that we achieved (or regained) official recognition among Scotland’s historic clans in 2014.

Clans Ewing and MacPherson lined up in two columns on the Esplanade, where we were reviewed by the salute taker for the evening, the Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Then along with Dr Browning and Sir William MacPherson, Clan Commander John Thor Ewing joined the Lone Piper at the head of the two columns, where the Lone Piper gave a traditional 16th-century Gaelic toast, ‘Ceud mìle fàilte dhuibh uile gu baile Dhùn Èideann agus chun a’ Chaisteil. Mòran làithean sona dhuibh is sìth. Slàinte do’n Bhànrigh. Ard- cheannard ar Ceann-feadhna. Slàinte dhuibh uile!’ (‘One hundred thousand welcomes to you all to the City of Edinburgh and to the Castle. A long happy life and peace to you all. Health to the Queen, our chief of chiefs. Health to you all!’), in honour of which the Lone Piper, the salute taker, and each clan leader then drank a quaich of whisky, before the clans dispersed to their seats, and a truly spectacular show began.

Clan Ewing on the Esplanade for the Royal Edinbugh Military Tattoo, 2017

We were treated to enthralling performances featuring the iconic Massed Pipes & Drums as well as the Indian Naval Band who were marking 70 years of their country’s independence, the Fanfare Band of the 9th French Marine Infantry Brigade, who introduced Breton piping traditions to the familiar Scottish pipes, and the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force Central Band performing a beautifully choreographed display, among other acts, culminating with the Lone Piper’s solo performance of the haunting lament ‘Lochaber No More’ from the Castle ramparts, before the Massed Pipes and Drums marched off the Esplenade to the sound of ‘The Black Bear’.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2017. Photo: Jim Ewing.