Scottish soldier, Lance Bombardier Megan Beveridge made piping history when she became the first female to pass the very exacting Army Pipe Major’s course. Now she has made history again at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo as the first Regular Army female piper to take on the prestigious role of the Lone Piper at the Scottish capital’s annual military music extravaganza.
Fifer Megan, who hails from Burntisland, is also the youngest to have attained the Pipe Major’s qualification, at the age of 21. She was selected for the honour of being the Lone Piper by the Army’s Director of Army Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming, Major Steven Small, who has carried out the task many times himself as a Piper for The Black Watch – now known as The 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
She was the sole focus of the 8,800-strong audience, as she was lit-up on the Castle Ramparts, after the massed Pipes and Drums and Military Bands on the Esplanade fell silent and she played the famous lament ‘Sleep Dearie Sleep’ at the end of the finale. This is cited by many Tattoo-goers as the most moving and uplifting part of the show and is certainly one of the greatest honours and achievements that any Army Piper can hope to achieve.
Ceremony of the Gaelic Toast
Almost all professional Pipers and Drummers in the Regular Army are from Infantry or Royal Armoured Corps units. Megan is a member of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery, The Scottish Gunners, who are unusual in the fact that they are not an Infantry or a Royal Armoured Corps Regiment, but still have a Pipes and Drums in their strength.
Women can serve in Artillery Regiments in the Army, so Megan chose The Scottish Gunners as her Regiment to further improve her prospects as a Piper. When she isn’t piping, her job at the Regiment is as a Transport Junior Non-Commissioned Officer, co-ordinating transport for the day-to-day running of the Regiment, and for more complex tasks, such as large exercises.
Megan has been playing the pipes since she was nine years old, citing her big sister, Kerry-Ann, who played in The Black Watch Cadets Pipes and Drums, as her inspiration for starting. Megan, who also played with the Cadets, as well as the Royal Burgh of Inverkeithing Pipe Band near her home in Fife, joined the Army when she left school at 16, and went on to complete a year at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.
She isn’t the very first woman to be the Lone Piper at the 67-year-old show. That title goes to Elaine Marnoch, a Cadet with Aberdeen University Officer Training Corps, who played in the Tattoo in the 70s. However Megan is the first woman from a Regular Army Pipes and Drums to take on the role, which is normally reserved for the infantry and Royal Armoured Corps – parts of the Army which will only start accepting women from later this year for the first time.
Before each performance of the Tattoo, The Lone Piper has to welcome the Salute Taker for that show. They perform the Ceremony of the Gaelic Toast, where the Piper and Salute Taker each have a Quaich (Scottish drinking cup) of whisky, the Piper recites the Gaelic Toast (welcoming the Salute Taker to the Castle, wishing them, the Queen and everyone there the best of health) and then they drink together. The Piper then gives a salute and the Salute Taker takes their seat.
“I’m more nervous about the Gaelic Toast than about the piping!’ said Megan, who also came first on her Pipe Major’s course for Piobreachd (a very intense and complicated traditional form of solo piping). On Saturday, however, she had to perform the ceremony with none other than the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.
Being the first woman to have achieved her Pipe Major’s qualification, she hopes she won’t be the last. “I hope that I’ve inspired other female Pipers to join the Army. It’s a great job and I’m really pleased to be able to do it.”