Beating Retreat 2005

Edinburgh Castle - Saturday 28th May 2005 (8pm)

Every May, there are two major events in Edinburgh where the BB is on public display.  The first of these happens during the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland where the BB provide the Guard of Honour for the Lord High Commissioner on Assembly Sunday.  The second is the Ceremony of Beating Retreat at the Castle.  This is an account of this year’s Retreat held on 28th May.



Participating Bands

Bugle Band Central (Brass) Band Flute Band Pipe Band
  • 55th Edinburgh
  • 2nd Port Glasgow
  • 4th Dunfermline
  • 31st Edinburgh
  • 223rd Glasgow
  • 1st Kirkliston
  • 8th Stirling
  • 1st Tulliallan
  • 7th Airdrie
  • 3rd Carluke
  • 2nd Wishaw
  • Dundee Battalion
  • Edinburgh, Leith & District Battalion

First Rehearsal - Tulliallan

  Following preliminary meetings of representatives of all participating bands, the programme is agreed and there is an initial full rehearsal a few weeks before the event.  This usually takes place at Tulliallan, where all bands meet to discuss, practice and review final arrangements for the Retreat.

Dress Rehearsal - George Heriot's School

The pattern of the day follows the same format each year and commences with a rehearsal held in George Heriot's School Playground in the afternoon.  The Bands then receive an evening meal.  This is followed by an impromptu concert in Parliament Square before marching up the High Street to the Castle for the Retreat Ceremony at 8.00pm.

The participating bands started arriving for the rehearsal from 1.30 p.m. onwards.  Some of the flute band arrived earlier than anticipated and started off with a game of football in the grounds.  

The Brass / Bugle Band were due on the playground first 2.15 to 2.55 p.m., however due to the roadworks on the Forth Bridge, both Tulliallan and Dunfermline were delayed and we did not get underway until around 2.25.  

After ½ hour practising new drill manoeuvres, the band moved from the playground to the grass areas to the front and side of the main school building for sectional rehearsals coming together later to go over the joint trumpet/ bugle items.


The pipes then moved onto the playground where they rehearsed until 3.35 to be followed by the flute band.  As mentioned above, while one band is using the playground the other participants make full use of the school’s grounds to rehearse their own items.

This year, as the rehearsal was running some 15 minutes ahead of schedule, the full rehearsal took place at 4.00. The full rehearsal follows the actual performance programme, starting with the bugle fanfare and running through to the march past.  Any glitches in both drill and playing are sorted at this time.

Following the full rehearsal, the bands moved to the school refectory where a hot meal was provided.  This year the choices being, Scots or steak pies, pizza or macaroni and cheese. 

After tea there is time for a final cleaning of the instruments and changing into uniform.  More time was spent relaxing here too, due to Edinburgh’s Saturday Parking restrictions being in force up until 6.30 p.m.



The Bands gathered in Parliament Square from around 6.45pm; and between 7.00 and 7.15 gave a short concert to all the tourists who were in the area.  With the performance at the castle in mind, each band in turn played a couple of numbers, followed by a massed item.  Before the March up to the Castle a General Salute is sounded.

The police arrived to hold up the traffic and the bands paraded to the Castle up the Royal Mile taking it in turns to play along the route.

 Upon arrival at the castle,  prior to the retreat taking place, the Chief Guest, Captain Stuart Samson, Director of Army Bagpipe Music came to meet the participants.


Retreat Ceremony

The Bugle Fanfare “Silver Bugles” sounded from the Ramparts above the drawbridge at 8.00, this was the signal for the Pipe Band to march off from the castle onto the esplanade.  Once in position the pipe band were followed by the Trumpet/ Bugle Band and finally the Flute Band.  All Bands in position at either end of the Castle Esplanade, the stage is set for the Retreat itself.

The first item on the programme is always the Pipe Band performing a number of airs and drummers call, they follow the standard pattern of a pipe band display, marching down the esplanade, countermarching and forming a circle.  At the end of their programme, they march down the esplanade and take up position, between the other two bands.

The Brass / Bugle Band are next to perform. Marching up the Castle Esplanade they perform a couple of items of figure marching before performing their programme facing the audience.  The musical programme consists of Brass Band marches from the Brass Band and Bugle Band Marches from the bugles.  There is a drum solo and a  joint item from bugles and brass.  At the conclusion of the programme the band has returned to the starting point at the foot of the esplanade.

The next item was the flute band, performing various airs marching around the esplanade before performing to the assembled guests. Once the performance was finished and they had marched back down to their place at the foot of the Castle Esplanade, the finalé takes place.


The finale involves all the assembled bands playing Amazing Grace,  this was followed by The Massed brass and bugle bands performing the Evening Hymn, This year The B.B. Vesper Hymn “Great God Who Knowest All Our Needs” to the tune ”Whitburn” and “The Scots Sunset” a new arrangement of “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” with “Sunset”.  Finally once permission has been given by the Chief Guest to march off, the Massed Bands march past playing “Scotland the Brave” and “Heilan’ Laddie” returning to the Castle for dispersal.

Inside the castle the bands dismiss and before leaving, this year our senior Drum Major George Sim decided that it was time to hand over the mace to someone else.  To mark the occasion we had a short presentation ceremony. 

On behalf of the Central Band I would like to wish George our best wishes in his retirement and thank him for all his input to not only the “Retreat” but the BB over many years.

I would like to congratulate most of all, all the performers who took part in the most difficult of weather conditions.  The Castle Esplanade is quite exposed and when it is windy, it is very difficult to control heavy instruments.  The wind also has an affect on the sound all bandsmen produce.  All in all it was a very good night’s entertainment for the audience in very windy conditions.

Also on behalf of the Central band, I would like to thank Richard Knowles and his committee on the running of the Retreat itself.  Also to all the Bands who have travelled both form the Edinburgh Area and from across Central Scotland, without whom there would be no performance. 

A thank you is also extended to the authorities at Edinburgh Castle for the background organisation at the venue, George Heriots for allowing the use of the school facilities, the police at Tulliallan for the rehearsal facilities and locally for looking after the march up from Parliament Square.

Finally on behalf of the bandsmen a final thank you to Robert Doig and his team for the preparation of our evening meal at Heriots

Donald McLaren
55th Edinburgh
Coy. /
Central Band /

Scottish Bands Committe


Fanfare Trumpets / Bugles: Silver Bugles
March on Pipes & Drums: Pipe Major Neil MacPherson
1st Scottish Horse
Major May
Brass Band / Drum & Bugles: Mechanized Infantry
Performances Pipes & Drums:

Murdo’s Wedding
Lord Lovat’s Lament
Practise Night at Cuiken
Smiths a Gallant Fireman
Sleepy Maggie
Come by the Hills
Outward Bound
Pony Gallop

Pipe Major K Cairns

Brass Band / Drum & Bugles:

Bugle Medley No 1

Sons of the Brave
Bugle Medley No 2
Drum Solo

Sgt. Lichfield

Fifes & Drums:

Theme from The Great Escape
Shine Jesus Shine
My Grandfather’s Clock
The Kingdom of God
Ode to Joy
Soldier Soldier

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Massed Bands Amazing Grace
Retreat Ceremony Brass / Bugles Vesper Hymn ("Whitburn")
A Scots Sunset
March Past Massed Bands Scotland the Brave
Heilan Laddie