Letter from Edinburgh 24.07.09

“The view is good but the chocolate cake is the best!” This is the con­sidered view of a nine year old’s first visit to Edinburgh Castle. Having stood patiently in line for an entrance ticket for the best part of 45 minutes, we were in need of coke and cake. So, having hurtled up through the Argyll gate, we found the cafe. This is helpfully situated next to the One o’clock gun. I knew Cam was hungry because normally when he sees major pieces of military hard­ware he wants to know what they are for. It was ignored. The Castle’s cafe has a good line in cakes. The view too is truly splendid from the picture windows facing north across Princes Street, Edinburgh’s New Town, the Firth of Forth and across to Fife … and, with the imagination of the next generation, Shetland!

Having consumed cake, energy levels were restored for the rest of the Castle. We did St Margaret’s Chapel, which was thought to be “boring”. “What do you find inter­est­ing in here Dad?” Outside is Mons Meg which threw enormous cannonballs two miles, but not for many hundreds of years. It’s a pretty impressive cannon so we did stop to read about the defence of the Castle that Meg had taken part in many years before.

Then to the Scottish National War Memorial. Bell’s Brae must be doing a good job as many famous names were recognised from battles of years past. We looked at a page of the honour roll for one of Scotland’s most famous regiments – the Black Watch. The books of names are in two parts, one for each war. Inevit­ably, the 1914-18 war part is much thicker with a larger collection of names. We found, on the first ran­dom page, a private of the regiment killed in action aged 17. It was noted by a thoughtful young brother that this was someone a year younger than the older sister. We then tried the Castle’s Great Hall. There a Scot, dressed in military tunic, was ex­plain­ing swords and clothing to the visitors. During a lull he explained that he used to work for British Airways in Glasgow but had packed it in to make a career out of his full time profession.

Then to Cam’s highlight of the Castle. The Royal Scottish Dragoon Guards’ Regimental Museum. It’s full of tunics, dress uniforms, pic­tures of dramatic military scenes and a gift shop. This is where a tank was purchased. And, thereafter, some soldiers to go with it. I got off lightly. There was a whole armoured divi­sion that nearly made the plane home! But Cam did study for some time the impressive painting of the Guards in the full frontal Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Waterloo. The description of the painting did sug­gest that some artistic licence was taken. But whatever. A full scale charge of very heavy horses must have been quite something. “Is that like the Pelamor Fields scene in the third Lord of the Rings film?” I suspect that Tolkien, and certainly Peter Jackson, had such epic military actions in mind when framing modern movies.

Tavish Scott MSP


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