WEEK TWENTY-ONE – The National Mòd/The Edinburgh Tattoo

>> The National Mòd

The Edinburgh Tattoo <<

The Mod                      tattoo

First held in 1892, the National Mòd is the main festival of Scottish Gaelic featuring literature, song, arts and culture. Like the royal court of old, it is peripatetic in habit although its locations are not, as is often asserted, confined to the Highlands and Islands. Largely formal, The Mòd includes Gaelic song, fiddle, bagpipe and clarsach competitions as well as spoken word events. Less formal is the socialising, often referred to as the ‘Whisky Olympics’! Formality – or rather formation – is at the core of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The annual celebration of the parade skills of the British military, in more recent decades it has featured performance troupes from across the world. As a unique element of the city at festival time, the Tattoo attracts enormous crowds with its spectacular displays and its impressive location on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, although there is little grounded in Scottish culture involved.

Dùthchas Beò
by Màrtainn Mac an t-Saoir

Too often parodied
as an over-tartaned extravaganza
of pitch-imperfect parrots ‘still-pissed from the night pefore’
the epitome of twee
the nadir of naff
the apotheosis of parochialism
with seditious scoring: ‘Only 85 for Music? Eh? How come? Ciamar?’

Ach an seo leam fhìn,
mìltean is bliadhnaichean air falbh
on talla luma-làn ud,
san do sheinn thusa gu dùrachdach
– sa bheil thu a’ seinn an-dràsta air an rèidio –
bho bhonn cridhe a’ bhoireannaich ghoirt
a b’ òg a rinn a h-aomadh
“Fear an Leadain Thlàith”,
curidh tu stad orm,
bheir thu orm èisteachd
mar a thug air na h-uile a bha an làthair,
is tha do roghainn, air sgàth deagh bheusan,
gun an rann mu a leatrom a ghabhail
– measg chaileagan fo ochd bliadhn’ deug –
nas truime buileach leam
air dhòigheigin a’ giùlan cumhachd a’ bharrachd
a-nist gur e màthair do thriùir a th’ annad fhèin.

Taing dhan Àgh, smaoinichidh mi – chan e, fairichidh mi.
Taing dhan Àgh airson a’ Mhòid.


Living Tradition
by Martin MacIntyre

Too often parodied
as an over-tartaned extravaganza
of pitch-imperfect parrots ‘still-pissed from the night pefore’
the epitome of twee
the nadir of naff
the apotheosis of parochialism
with seditious scoring: ‘Only 85 for Music? Eh? How come? Ciamar?’

But here alone in my kitchen
miles and years away
from that packed hall,
in which you sang so strongly
– in which you are now singing on the radio –
from the heart of the torn woman
who was ensnared at a young age by
“Fear an Leadain Thlàith”
“The Lad of the Lovely Hair”
you arrest me, render me able
only to stop and listen
as you did all present then,
your chaste choice to omit the verse on her pregnancy
– in an under-eighteens’ competition –
all the more poignant
carrying more transformative power, now somehow
that you are a mother of three.

Thank God for the Mod, I think, no, thank God for the Mod, I feel.


by Diana Hendry

The setting is all important.  A castle set high
above the city makes a wonderful backdrop.
Choose dusk or darkness. Play about with lights
on the ramparts. You need massed bands –
brassbands with  trumpets,  trombones and drums
to stir up the pride and patriotism of the crowd
who have paid good money for this. There must be
much marching. And tartan.  You need the swing
of the kilt and the swirl of the pipes. You need
children singing, fiddlers fiddling and if possible
a pretty little girl doing a highland dance between
crossed swords. That will go down a treat.
As will a nubile soprano and a burly drum major.

About the music.  It’s not easy to march
to Somewhere Over the Rainbow but The Chinese
Army of Liberation can do it after they’ve sung
An Ode to the Motherland and Abide with Me.
Never forget Scotland the Brave because we are,
aren’t we?  It’s o.k. to let the American marines
practise their rifle drill. Their synchronicity plus
the guilty hope that one year they’ll get it wrong
and the captain will get his head chopped off
will keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Do include the Top Secret Drum Corp from Basle,
who look like old-time musketeers with
those lovely white plumes in their hats. They can
turn their drumsticks into whistles, fence
with their flags. O such fun! For spectacle do
let the Chinese do their Dragon dance. Everyone
knows it’s not a real dragon. Use a gun
with a good boom on it to get the fireworks going.
Finally bring a tear to everyone’s eye with the lone piper.

Always stress tradition.  Let everyone know
this is the 66th Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
and they’re very, very lucky to get a ticket.
Remember you’re The Flower of Scotland.
Remember Burns.
Remember Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Remember the Queen.
Forget war. Forget death.


Martin MacIntyreOriginally from Lenzie, Glasgow Màrtainn Mac an t-Saoir / Martin MacIntyre  is an author, poet and storyteller. In 2003 Ath-Aithne (Re-acquaintance) – a collection of short stories – won The Saltire Society First Book Award.  Cala Bendita ’s a Bheannachdan (Cala Bendita and its Blessings), his latest collection, was shortlisted for The Saltire Literary Book of The Year in 2014. In 2006 Martin’s early poetry was published in  Dannsam Led Fhaileas / Let Me Dance With Your Shadow . In 2007, he was crowned ‘Bàrd’ by An Comunn Gàidhealach.


Diana HendryDiana Hendry has published six collections of poetry, the most recent being The Seed-Box Lantern: New & Selected Poems (Mariscat Press). She has also published more than forty books for children. Her young adult novel, The Seeing  was shortlisted for a Costa Award. A junior novel, Out of the Clouds is to be published this year.



Images courtesy of;

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s