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Updated 11/22/2019


Dundee Military Tattoo
James Shand

Dundee Military Tattoo was composed by James "Jimmy" Shand. James Shand was born in East Wemyss in Fife, Scotland, son of a farm ploughman turned coal miner and one of nine children. The family soon moved to the burgh of Auchtermuchty. The town now boasts a larger than life-sized sculpture of Shand. His father was a skilled melodeon player. Jimmy started with the mouth organ and soon played the fiddle. At the age of 14 he had to leave school and go down the mines. He played at social events and competitions. His enthusiasm for motor-bikes turned into an advantage when he played for events all round Fife. In 1926, he did benefit gigs for striking miners and was consequently prevented from returning to colliery work. One day Shand and a friend were admiring the instruments in the window of a music shop in Dundee. His friend said: "It wouldn't cost you to try one," so Shand walked in and strapped on an accordion. The owner, Charles Forbes, heard Shand play and immediately offered him a job as travelling salesman and debt-collector. He soon acquired a van and drove all over the north of Scotland.

He died in December of 2000. More than 330 compositions are credited to Jimmy Shand. He recorded more tracks than the Beatles and Elvis Presley combined.

A military tattoo, is a military drum performance. It dates from the seventeenth century when the British Army were fighting in the Low Countries (Belgium and The Netherlands). Drummers from the garrison were sent out into the towns at 21:30 hrs (9:30PM) each evening to inform the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The process was known as Doe den tap toe and encouraged the inn keepers to "turn off the taps", stop serving beer and send the soldiers home for the night. The drummers continued to play until the curfew at 22:00 hrs (10:00PM).

Over the years, the process became more of a show and often included the playing of the first post at 21:30 hrs and the last post at 22:00. Bands and displays were included and shows were often conducted by floodlight or searchlight. Tattoos were commonplace in the late 1800s with most military and garrison towns putting on some kind of show or entertainment during the summer months. Between the First World War and the Second World War elaborate tattoos were held in many towns with the largest in Aldershot.

One of the best known Tattoos is held on the Esplanade in front of Edinburgh Castle each August and forms the centerpiece of the annual Edinburgh Festival. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo was first staged in 1950; it combines the traditional sounds of the Pipes and Drums with the modern aspects of the armed forces. Another well known Tattoo was the Royal Tournament which was held annually in London from 1880 to 1999. The largest tattoo in the United States is the Virginia International Tattoo, held every year in Norfolk, Virginia. Over 850 performers play traditional music and many international acts join every branch of the Armed Forces for a spectacular show.