Forty fiddlers invited to military tattoo

A group of 40 fiddlers from Shetland have been invited to perform at this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The invitation, initially received by the Shetland Folk Festival, was forwarded by Mhari Pottinger of the festival committee to local fiddle teachers.

Instructors Pauleen Wiseman and Margaret Scollay, with the help of a small working group, have taken on the challenge of creating the “county super group” which will travel to Edinburgh in late July.

The creation of a county
The creation of a county “super group” will conjure up memories of the Forty Fiddlers, formed in 1960 and put together by Tammie Anderson (right). He is seen here in 1961 recording Alex Hughson for his archive to pass on to the younger generation of Shetland’s fiddlers. Photo: Dennis Coutts

The number 40 is extremely apt as, although not directly linked, it conjures up memories of the legendary group formed by celebrated figures such as the late Tom Anderson over half a century ago.

The “Forty Fiddlers” was originally formed to play at the 1960 Hamefarin, which saw exiles return from all over the world, and then at the Queen’s visit to Shetland in 1963.

That led to the formation of the Shetland Fiddlers Society, which celebrated its golden anniversary last year with the release of a CD

Over the last half century many of the isles’ best musicians have been in the society’s ranks, including Willie Hunter, Aly Bain, Violet Tulloch, Ronnie Couper, Chris Stout, and Steven Spence.

Among the tunes they played were famous names such as Jack Broke the Prison Door and Hens’ March ower da Midden.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place annually on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. Rehearsals in the city begin on Monday 28th July with the shows staged from Friday 1st August through to Saturday 23rd August.

Groups perform to an international audience of almost 9,000 each night, with the BBC coverage broadcast all over the world to an audience in the region of 300 million.

Mrs Scollay said it promised to be an “unprecedented opportunity” to bring the heritage of Shetland to an “unparalleled level of publicity”.

She attended rehearsals and the show last August to gauge how all elements of this production could be pulled together.

Mrs Scollay said: “This is a huge opportunity to take Shetland into the homes of people worldwide and is the biggest stage our fiddle players could dream of. The atmosphere is beyond anything I’ve ever encountered.

“With lighting and sound provided by top professional teams who have worked on productions such as Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor this promises to be lifetime experience for all involved.”

The tattoo takes a different theme each year with the theme for this year’s show being “Our home, family and friends”. This is in keeping with a year of homecoming for Scotland with the Commonwealth Games hosted in Glasgow around the same time.

Plans are well under way for the Shetland fiddlers’ visit. Costumes are at the design stage and will be the creation of local designer Neillanell from Hoswick.

Mrs Scollay added: “While keen to keep a strong traditional element to these garments, Neilla will cast a modern twist, appealing to the mixed ages of the group who will be wearing them in Edinburgh.”

Responses are already in from a large number of invitations and there are more in the mail, encouraging the five-strong tattoo working group. With so many fiddlers in the isles the working group is concerned that no-one should be omitted and encourages players to get in touch. They can contact


Add Your Comment
  • Iain Adam

    • March 5th, 2014 2:18

    Great news, Make sure you don’t all travel on the same aircraft

  • Billy Caldwell

    • August 25th, 2014 19:26

    Just watching the tattoo and the Shetland Fiddlers have just been on…..WOW absolutely amazing…was anyone hurt by an errant bow???? Anyway you where all amazing


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