If you head up to Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall, you are likely to discover one of our talented costumed characters wowing the crowds with tales of the Castle’s fascinating and at times turbulent past.
Ally Strachan, of Timeline Scotland, is one of these performers. We recently caught up with him to discover the ins and outs of this fascinating profession.
How did you get involved in re-enactment?
It was totally accidental! I got involved in a re-enactment group – even though I didn’t have a main part I really loved it, especially as I have always taken a keen interest in history. The more involved I became, the more I enjoyed it. When I was made redundant from my job working in IT for an airline I decided to take the plunge and turn my hobby into a job.
The rest, as they say, is history…
How long have you been working with Historic Scotland?
Professionally for the last five years, but I have been connected with Historic Scotland for much longer, going way back to when re-enactment was a hobby for me.
Do you only work at Edinburgh Castle or do you get the opportunity to work at other Historic Scotland sites or other venues/places?
I’ve had the opportunity to work at various fascinating sites including Stirling Castle, St. Andrews Castle, Dirleton Castle, Tantallon Castle, Rothesay Castle, Dunstaffnage Castle & Chapel and, one of my personal favourites, Caerlaverock Castle. I’ve also worked in various museums and other properties throughout Scotland.
What is your favourite historical period/show?
Kilts & Captivity which takes place in the Jacobite period, which is always really well received. It seems to strike a chord with the visitors. My own favourite historical period is the Scottish Wars of Independence. I’m a bit of a Robert Bruce geek as I find him fascinating and very human.
What is the strangest question you have ever been asked?
Is it difficult to wear a sword?
What is your most favourite thing about working at Edinburgh Castle?
The variety of people is a huge part of working at Edinburgh. I love the interaction with such a wide range of nationalities. I also appreciate the staff here and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve learned so much from them. Thanks guys!
Has anything embarrassing or unexpected happened to you on stage?
My very first solo show was a bit of a nightmare as I was feeling a bit nervous. I was just starting to get it together, building up a bit of confidence when my mobile rang with a very embarrassing ringtone which just threw me completely.
Anything you wish you had known before starting out as a performer?
How to put my phone on silent!
What’s the best part of being a performer?
I’m doing something I’m passionate about and doing it professionally which is about as good as it gets. I love the fact that the range of questions after the show can be extremely varied so you have to keep your wits about you. The questions aren’t always related to the period I may be covering and I’ve seen me fielding queries from William the Lionheart to Bonnie Prince Charlie. That covers about 600 years! It certainly keeps you on your toes but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is my dream job and I consider myself very lucky to be doing it.
To find out when Ally and the rest of our captivating costumed characters are bringing history to life, head over to the events section of the website for more details.
PA/ Nick Finnigan, Executive Manager