Picture-perfect spirit of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Tomorrow is your last chance to see the stunning ‘Exposure’ photography exhibition at Central Library.

The 23 images on display capture the imagination and creativity of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on one magnificent canvas.

Capturing colourful moments from recent Tattoo performances, New York-based, Musselburgh born photographer Martin Scott Powell’s work gets under the surface of the showpiece military event with a selection of rarely-seen images from the Tattoo’s collection.

Photographer Martin Scott Powell at Edinburgh Central Library

Photographer Martin Scott Powell at Edinburgh Central Library

Tattoo Chief Executive and Producer, Brigadier David Allfrey said: “Like all spectacular live entertainment, the Tattoo’s images and music pass in a flash for our live audience.  And, although wonderful memories remain, the BBC broadcast the show and we record the soundtrack, capturing the full magic is always challenging.  Across the last 6 decades some wonderful photographs have been taken, each recording the tone and character of their time.  This latest chapter by Martin Scott Powell is truly remarkable – each image tells its own story.  Fabulous!”

Photographer Martin Scott Powell remarked: “Working with the tattoo over the 7 years has been a truly fantastic experience. Since we started our collaboration it was always most important for me to communicate the sheer visual impact of every aspect of the show. From the character faces and impeccable uniforms of the pipe majors, to the rich colour and overwhelming beauty of the finale sequence. The images exhibited as part of this show, for me, aim to explore the magic, the atmosphere and the emotion that we all feel when visiting the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.”

The presentation has been fashioned by Edinburgh design agency, Nexus24.

Saughton’s glorious summer of 1908

The Scottish National Exhibition in Saughton Park ran for only six months, attracting nearly 3.5 million visitors. It began with a plan to repeat the success of an earlier exhibition at The Meadows in 1886. The Meadows was not available for this latest venture, but the council had just taken ownership of the sprawling Saughton Hall estate and the 42 acre site complete with mansion, offered the ideal location.

Gorgie Entrance

The scale was phenomenal; the mixture of entertainment astonishing. These were the days when spending a fortune on providing local people and visitors with an attraction that offered everything from a varied programme of music and dance to a village housing 70 French-Sengalese natives, and an enormous figure of eight rollercoaster to a replica Irish cottage – all to be torn down just six months later – was simply the done thing.

Things happened incredibly quickly too. By the time Prince Arthur of Connaught, a grandson of Queen Victoria, opened the exhibition on May 1st, a railway station had been built at the junction of the Corstorphine branch line to transport thousands of daily visitors from Waverley Station, and a bridge constructed across the Water of Leith.

Industrial Hall

Visitors were drawn to the Palace of Industries, an impressive Arabian style structure which cost £10,000 to construct and showcased the latest engineering innovations and techniques from around the world. The Machinery Hall, built at a cost of £3,000 and taking up an impressive 3100sq ft, was stuffed with examples of shipping, mining, printing, gas, steam and hydraulics.

Senegal Village and baby incubators

But perhaps the most intriguing of all the exhibitions were the beehive huts occupied by 70 French-Senegal natives, uprooted  and no doubt slightly bewildered, from Africa to make the corner of Saughton Park their home for six months. Every movement of the tribe’s men, women and children was viewed with curiosity by the exhibition visitors as they demonstrated their skills as goldsmiths, weavers, musicians and dancers to a fascinated public.

There was even an addition to the tribe, born in one of the huts and subsequently given the quite non-Senegalese name of Scotia Reekie!

Water chute

In the Amusement Park there were devices galore to loosen the purse strings. The Water Chute was a favourite with visitors of all ages and everyone saved their 2d for this spectacular ride. At the top of a wooden tower, the passengers were seated in a boat with a sailor standing at the back. The operator signalled release and off it went gliding down a long wooden ramp to hit the water with a large splash of water.

The exhibition was so successful, that when the time came to close in October, some visitors were less than happy. The final celebrations were soured as drunken yobs turned nasty, the ornate bandstand became a battleground of youths pitching chairs at each other while police waded in with batons drawn.

It was a bitter ending to what had been a roaring success. Soon the pavilions, funfair rides Sengalese village and restaurants were dismantled. And Saughton Park’s glorious summer was over.

See more amazing pictures of Saughton’s summer of 1908 on Capital Collections.

 

Seen much of the festival?

Our photographer has been mingling with the tourists and performers on the High Street to capture more fantastic pictures for our Library archive. He also pitched up early and managed to get a ringside seat for the awesome Harmonium Project performance which kicked off the Edinburgh International Festival.

We’ve been at the Church Hill Theatre in Morningside too, documenting the activity of fringe residents, the American High School Theatre Festival. The American High School Theatre Company were wonderful hosts and we were allowed access to their technical rehearsals and a superb swashbucking performance of ‘Zorro – the Musical’ by Chadwick School.

Here’s a couple of our favourite pictures from Zorro which ended with a deserved standing ovation for the cast and crew.

Zorro - the Musical at Church Hill Theatre

Chadwick School perform Zorro – the Musical

Chadwick School perform Zorro - the Musical

Chadwick School perform Zorro – the Musical

The Church Hill Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary as a community theatre venue next month and there’ll be more to come on Capital Collections soon….

Have you seen anything worth talking about? Share your picture memories of festival 2015 on Edinburgh Collected!

Exposure! A photographic essence of the Tattoo

Everyone has heard of the Tattoo and if you are lucky enough to be going you will be looking forward to the greatest show on earth.  In anticipation, or if you did not get a ticket, then you can still get a flavour of the Tattoo from the photographic exhibition in Central Library.

The photos by Martin Scott Powell are dramatic, thought-provoking and stunningly beautiful.  They capture the spirit of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo with its fantastic performers to its world-beating backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

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This year’s theme is ‘East meets West’ showcasing performers from all corners of the globe.

Thirteen million people have seen the Tattoo to date, so that is testament to its enduring appeal.  If you want to have a glimpse of that appeal and experience the ‘wow’ factor of these photos the exhibition is on until 29th August.

There are even free postcards to send home to friends and family to show them what they are missing.

Look what we’ve collected!

Just thought we’d share some highlights from the many memories that have appeared on Edinburgh Collected since its launch in April.

This fabulous shot captures the story of our summer so far –

Edinburgh Rainbow

Edinburgh Rainbow shared by SKerr

‘From There to Here’ have added some simply spectacular photos of children playing on Wester Hailes’ ‘Venchies’, a series of wooden play structures. The pictures date back to sunnier summers of the late 70s and early 80s.

Venchie Fun shared by From There to Here

Venchie Fun shared by From There to Here

We’ve also been collecting memories of the Church Hill Theatre which will shortly be marking its 50th anniversary as a community theatre venue. This wonderful ensemble shot documents the cast of the first ever pantomime at the Church Hill Theatre back in December 1965.

'The Enchanted Waltz' pantomime shared by Church Hill Theatre

‘The Enchanted Waltz’ pantomime shared by Church Hill Theatre

Go back to school with Kathleen Glancy who’s shared her memories of her 1950s schooldays. She remembers how she covered her school books with brown paper, the school nurse’s visits and her prefect duties of bringing in the crates of milk and keeping the classroom coal fire burning!

Kathleen Glancy's class photograph from P1 shared by Dean Village Memories

Kathleen Glancy’s class photograph from P1 shared by Dean Village Memories

And in celebration of Edinburgh’s Living Landscapes, there are some lovely pictures of floral meadows and natural grasslands that have sprung up around the city.

Floral Meadow at Silverknowes Foreshore shared by Edinburgh Living Landscapes

Floral Meadow at Silverknowes Foreshore shared by Edinburgh Living Landscapes

Contribute to the Living Landscape Photography competition and you could win a great prize and see your photo appearing on Edinburgh Collected!

Share your memories on Edinburgh Collected and and help us make history.

 

 

Two WW1 scrapbooks, some dogged determination and a phone call from the Netherlands

A little while ago we stumbled over two uncatalogued scrapbooks which had been donated to the library and dated from World War One.

Front cover from World War One scrapbook (vol 1)

They were compiled by a Thomson Family living at Glengyle Terrace in Edinburgh and give a remarkable insight into Edinburgh’s WW1 home front. This was all we knew about the family’s donation.

The scrapbooks are jam-packed with all kinds of ephemera – newspaper cuttings, leaflets, photographs, tokens. There are also personal articles, such as letters and a ration book, which give clues to the family who made them. Many of the letters are sent to a Thomas Thomson. At first, we assumed that Thomas must have been primary school age to have been interested in maintaining the scrapbooks for the duration of the long war, but the 1911 census confirmed he would only have been 3 years old at the outbreak. We deduced that Thomas’ mother and father must have collated the scrapbooks on his behalf.

Scrapbook page: unknown soldier, stickers & scraps

But who were the Thomson family? And what happened to Thomas? Thomas’ father was an investment secretary and actuary married to Barbara who was born in South Africa. (This explained why so many articles and news clippings in the scrapbook related to South Africa.) With the help of family historian and volunteer John, we tried various searches to try and find out if young Thomas ever had any descendants. We found out that Thomas had married Jean in 1938 but we couldn’t find a birth record for any offspring. John doggedly searched passenger lists online and amazingly found records for a Thomas Thomson, colonial administrative officer of the right age travelling with his wife and a young son to Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the 1950s. But the wife wasn’t Jean. We couldn’t be sure we’d found our man.

Thomas D Thomson, photograph reproduced by kind permisson of Thomson family.

Thomas D Thomson, photograph reproduced by kind permisson of the Thomson family.

The only way to piece the puzzle together was to pay a visit to the ScotlandsPeople Centre on Princes Street. Here we were able to view full records of entries we’d found only as indexed versions online. Over the course of a morning, everything started to fall into place. Thomas Thomson had married three times, first to Jean, then to Margaret and finally to Kathleen. However, we still couldn’t find a birth or marriage certificate for Thomas’s son, Master ‘D’ who had appeared in the passenger lists. We found Thomas’ death certificate, giving his residence in the borders, but there was no mention of any descendents. ‘D’ had disappeared.

It seemed as though we’d hit a dead end. After months of searching and having come this far, there was nothing more we could do. Except well, we could try one of those google search things…

…and bingo, buried a couple of webpages down was a link to a discussion forum. And within it – an email address for a D Thomson, who spoke about his late father’s connection to the Borders. However, it was a Dutch email address. Could it possibly be the person we were looking for?

Within hours of sending an email, we received a phone call from Dave Thomson in the Netherlands! Understandably more than a little surprised, Dave was also curious about the scrapbooks and the family history trail that had led us to him. He had been completely unaware of the family scrapbooks lying on the shelves of Central Library in Edinburgh. We’re indebted to Dave for kindly giving us permission to publish volume 1 and volume 2 of the WW1 scrapbooks on Capital Collections so that this remarkable piece of social history is now available to all.

Do you have a story lurking in the family closet? Go online and find all the local and family history resources that Your Library has to help. And if you discover something worth talking about, why not share it on Edinburgh Collected?


Post script
Dave and John are due to meet in the Netherlands later this month. Inspired by our scrapbook mystery, further family history investigation is on the agenda…

 

Your Edinburgh goes mobile!

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