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The Signal Hill Tattoo is an internationally known award winning historical
animation program. Each summer, audiences thrill to the echo of the cannon,
mortars and musket fire combined with the stirring tunes of the Fife and Drum
Band which beckons visitors to a bygone age of 19th Century British military
might. Set atop famous Signal Hill, the Tattoo portrays the garrison life and
duties of the British Infantry soldier in the harsh conditions of the
Newfoundland Station in the mid 1800's.
The Royal Newfoundland Companies of the 19th century era frequently lent color at ceremonial and social events such as the St. John's Regatta and provided a guard of honor for important visitors. The Regiment performed a number of duties, ranging from fire fighting to operating the Port Signalling Service. In the turbulent political atmosphere of 19th century Newfoundland, the Companies were required to quell a riot in St. John's in 1861. They opened fire on a mob resulting in a number killed and a score injured. As a result of their actions and in keeping with a policy of financial constraints the Royal Newfoundland Companies were absorbed, the following year, into The Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment which itself was subsequently disbanded in 1870.
Since its inception in 1967, literally thousands of young men and women have profited greatly from the military training they received as members of the Signal Hill Tattoo Historical Animation Program. More importantly, these same people have contributed in great measure to their own communities from attributes instilled through Tattoo training in leadership, citizenship and community involvement. Each summer upwards of sixty five young men and women of high school age are employed and undertake an intensive training program in the military tactics of a British Infantry Regiment. Commencing in early July, the Signal Hill Tattoo is held each Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and features a military extravaganza of 19th century British linear military manoeuvres.
The Signal Hill Tattoo has won numerous awards including the coveted Canadian Heritage Award, the City of St. John's Tourism Event of the Year Award, the Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Manning Award, and has been twice named to the Top 100 Tourist Attractions in North America by the American Bus Association. The Signal Hill Tattoo is recognized as a "must see" tourist attraction and is the first presentation of choice for Newfoundland families hosting family or friends from away. The Tattoo has traveled throughout the Province participating in various community events and has performed for numerous dignitaries including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth as well as several Canadian Governor Generals. The Signal Hill Tattoo has a strong commitment to commemorating our Province's rich military history.
The name Tattoo originates from the military tradition of shutting off beer keg taps at the end of the evening. This practice served to notify soldiers to return to their quarters. In the early 17th century, "taptoe" became tattoo, symbolizing a military display. The return to quarters signal also became more involved over the years, first with a drummer and then with a drum, pipe and bugle.
The Signal Hill Tattoo is performed each summer on O'Flaherty Field one of the sites where defences were erected during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713),which resulted in the withdrawal of French troops from Placentia and the establishment of Fortress Louisbourg, and the Seven Years War (1756-1763), which ended forever the danger of French attack in North America.