A royal military tribute to the last call

High above the city of Edinburgh, pipers warm up before the Pipers warming up before the 62nd Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo. The Tattoo runs until Aug. 24, with seven performances or military music and precision per week.


By PATRICK DICKSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 12, 2013

The 2013 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a celebration of military music and tradition, is held each year at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

"Tattoo," is derived from "Doe den tap toe", or just "tap toe," which is Dutch for "Last orders," and literally means: "close the (beer) tap." The term "Tap-toe" was first encountered by the British Army when stationed in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession in the mid-1700s

The British adopted the practice and it became a signal, played by a regiment's pipers and drummers each night to tell tavern owners to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so that the soldiers would go back to their barracks to sleep.

Traditional, massed pipes and drums are now joined by civilian and international bands, such as the Dutch Bicycle Band and the Mariachi Oro de Mexico.

The broader program, however, retains some great traditions: In what one Scottish newspaper points out is a “seasonally incongruous sing-a-long,” the audience joins in a rendition of Auld Lang Syne at the end of each show as the Lone Piper — himself a signature of the whole affair — plays out the finale.

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Part of the cast of the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo gather before the Aug. 10 show. The first Tattoo took place in 1950.


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