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22nd August, 2013


The route north was adjusted to take in Flamborough Head, Whitby and the coastline around the entrances to the Tyne and Wear. To catch the tide, however, the ship needed to pick up the Leith pilot just before 1 a.m. on the second day. The pilot, an experienced chatty chap, had a tug secured fore and aft then manoeuvred us with great skill over the sill and into the lock. On the other side we gradually made the berth, while an urban fox that was foraging nearby, seemed to take little notice of this massive shadow approaching.   

Forth Railway Bridge

The great draw for Leith at this time of year is, of course, the Edinburgh Military tattoo and many of our guests had booked for the evening performance. Our splendid guest speaker, Sir Michael Parker, a previous producer of that wonderful spectacle, invited his ex-colleagues and the present producer for lunch on board. Perhaps in way of return, I was also invited to the evening performance provided I wear my uniform as we were to take seats in the VIP box. We arrived early and had to cross the parade ground on the way up to the officers’ wardroom in the castle, passing on the way our Saga passengers who were taking their seats. They looked somewhat surprised, but had caught on by the time we made the return journey, following a liveried gentleman carrying a rather large silver mace, various other senior army officers in full dress uniform and passing now in front of around 8000 spectators. We waved at each other enthusiastically.

The narrator in his preamble introduced the Saga guests and I to the rest of the crowd after everyone was seated, which encouraged yet more waving. Little did I realise that the Minister of Defence was to take the salute from each act in turn and he was seated only about five yards away. Every time he stood he, and those of us within range, were illuminated by a very bright spotlight. I managed to avoid any indiscreet waving. Perhaps the most amusing moment though, had been earlier in the officers’ wardroom when one chap addressed me as Rear Admiral. 

A great evening was followed the next day by a tour to see first the impressive Forth Railway Bridge and then the Falkirk Wheel, a unique technical achievement used to alleviate the need for eleven dilapidated old locks on the restored canals that connect the east and west coasts of Scotland. The Wheel lifts boats 79 feet and was part of the £84.5 million Millennium Link project.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.