History of the Tattoo

How the Tattoo came to be

History of the Tattoo

The Tattoo throughout the years     

Tattoo History

  • The first Edinburgh Tattoo took place in 1950 and there were eight items in the programme.
  • Hollywood movie producer Mike Todd, the fourth husband of film star Elizabeth Taylor, made a documentary programme on the Tattoo in 1950.
  • The first overseas regiment to participate was the Band of the Royal Netherlands Grenadiers. The year was 1952, and there were also performers from Canada and France.
  • The first commercial twelve inch stereo LP record of the Tattoo was released in 1961.
  • The event was first seen in colour on TV in 1968.
  • The first lone piper was Pipe Major George Stoddart. He played in every performance for the first eleven years. His son, Major Gavin Stoddart, followed his father as lone piper at the Tattoo and became Director of Army Bagpipe Music for 12 years.
  • From 1950 to 1991, there were four producers - Lt Col George Malcolm of Poltalloch, Brigadier MacLean, Brigadier Sanderson and Lt Col Dow.
  • Major Michael Parker then took over as producer for the 1992, 1993 and 1994 Tattoos. He was succeeded by Brigadier Melville Jameson in 1995, who in turn was followed by Major General Euan Loudon from March 2007-2010. Brigadier David Allfrey, a former Commander of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, has been producer of the Tattoo since 2011.

The Tattoo today

  • More than 14 million people have attended the Tattoo since it began. The annual audience is around 220,000.
  • Around 100 million people see the Tattoo each year on international television.  Approximately 70 per cent of each audience is from out with Scotland. Half of these are from out with the UK.
  • Around 35 miles of cabling (the distance from Edinburgh to Glasgow) is required.
  • The Tattoo has sold out for eighteen consecutive years.
  • The Tattoo has always been staged at Edinburgh Castle. Rehearsals take place at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh.
  • 48 countries from across six continents have been represented at the Tattoo.
  • The word ‘tattoo’ comes from the closing-time cry in the inns in the Low Countries during the 17th and 18th centuries - ‘Doe den tap toe’ (‘Turn off the taps’).
  • New £16 million spectator stands and hospitality facilities were put in place at the Castle Esplanade for the summer of 2011. This innovative new amphitheatre replaced the 37 year old, award winning stands which were based on the pioneering Mero system used for Germany’s 1972 Munich Olympics.
  • Not a single performance of the Tattoo has ever been cancelled.

The Tattoo’s Contribution

  • The Tattoo is set up and run for charitable purposes. Over the years, it has gifted some £8 million to service and civilian organisations.
  • At the last official independent count, visitors to the Tattoo contributed an estimated £77 million to the Scottish economy.
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