RCAF piper represents Canada at Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
By Captain (retired) John-Hugh MacDonald
A Royal Canadian Air Force officer represented Canada at the prestigious Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, held at at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, from August 3 to 25, 2018. Captain Fraser Clark was invited to perform at the world’s premier military Tattoo, held this year in honour of the Royal Air Force’s 100th anniversary.
“The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo celebrates the enduring bonds of friendship between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force,” said Tattoo producer Brigadier David Allfrey. “We are delighted to have Captain Clark with us to help mark this very special anniversary. He is a hugely accomplished piper and has been a joy to work with. He has been a premier ambassador for his service and for Canada.”
The Tattoo brings together some of the best performers from around the world and fuses them into a cohesive team to produce a complex and stunning display of military precision and pageantry.
An accomplished piper and leader, Captain Clark began his piping career as a reservist in the 48th Highlanders of Canada. He holds the coveted Canadian Gold Medal for piping, is a two-time North American Professional Solo Champion piper, has been a featured soloist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and has performed the “Lament” for Veterans Affairs Canada pilgrimages abroad.
He was retained to teach pipers for the corps of cadets at The Military College of South Carolina, where he earned a Master’s Degree in American history in 1998, and has held numerous piping appointments in Canada and abroad, including historic music supervisor of the 78th Highlanders at Halifax Citadel, in Nova Scotia; pipe major of The Ceremonial Guard in Ottawa, Ontario; acting pipe major of the RCAF Pipes and Drums; and director of the Massed Pipes and Drums of the Virginia International Tattoo.
He is currently a guest performer with the Police Scotland Fife Pipe Band, one of the top six bands at the 2018 World Pipe Band Championships. As well, he holds a PhD in history from Edinburgh University, where he graduated with High Distinction, specializing in the historical development of the bagpipes in Canada from the Plains of Abraham to the end of the 20th century. A veteran of Afghanistan, Captain Clark joined the Regular Force in 2003 as a public affairs officer and is on the staff of the director general defence security organization in Ottawa.
With his piping credentials, Captain Clark found a natural fit at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. “Parading with the Royal Air Force and being front-and-centre with performers from around the world was the experience of a lifetime,” he said, adding that it was like “living every piper’s dream.”
It was also the product of hundreds of hours of training, rehearsal and drill at Redford Cavalry and Infantry Barracks in Edinburgh, under uncompromising British Army supervision. “The Tattoo is as much about teamwork and leadership as it is music and ceremonial,” said Pipe Major (Warrant Officer Class 1) Ross McCrindle, senior pipe major of the British Army. “Captain Clark’s experience in leading and working with top military and civilian bands around the world has been an asset to this year’s program, bringing a rich knowledge of military history and traditions as well as world-class piping credentials to the Tattoo.”
Since it began in 1950, more than 14 million people have attended the Tattoo, which boasts an annual audience of 220,000, plus another 100 million on international television. Forty-eight countries from across six continents have been represented at the Tattoo, which has gifted some £8 million to service and civilian charities. It is always held at Edinburgh Castle, a mighty fortress and World Heritage site which has withstood countless sieges and housed Scottish kings and queens for centuries. It is also the home of the nation’s Crown Jewels, and attracts more than a million visitors a year from around the globe.
The word “Tattoo” is derived from the Dutch “Doe den tap toe” (“Turn off the taps”), a closing-time refrain for inns that signaled to British soldiers during the 17th and 18th centuries that it was time to return to camp. Garrison musicians often paraded the soldiers home, and the custom grew to include concerts and displays—which have come to be known as Tattoos—for the public.
Captain MacDonald, MMM, CD, was a piper and infantry soldier in the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, before transferring to the RCAF as pipe major of 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario.