Page last updated at 19:34 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 20:34 UK

'Voice' of Edinburgh Military Tattoo dies aged 82


Tom Fleming commentated on his 44th and final Tattoo in 2008

The TV voice of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Tom Fleming, has died in an Edinburgh hospice at the age of 82.

Mr Fleming provided the voiceover for the BBC's television coverage for 44 tattoos - his first being in 1966.

However, he missed his 45th tattoo last year as he had to attend a hospital appointment.

Mr Fleming also commentated on Royal and state events, including Prince Charles' wedding to Princess Diana, her funeral and Remembrance Day services.

He was also known for his commentary on the Pope's visit in 1982 and read The Beginning of a New Song, by poet Iain Crichton Smith at the opening of the Scottish Parliament.

He even provided the commentary for the Eurovision Song contest in 1972.

BBC Scotland head of programmes Donalda MacKinnon said Mr Fleming was a man who was "made for the big occasion".

Tom was cherished by so many people from all corners of the world
Amanda Bruce
Friend and PA

She said: "He helped bring some of the most memorable state occasions into the living rooms of our audiences.

"He's probably best known for that wonderful rich voice which was utterly in keeping with the many state events on which he commentated.

"He was a consummate professional whose eye for detail was second to none."

She added: "Major broadcasts such as the Tattoo just won't seem the same without his authoritative gravitas, which he combined so expertly with witty observation.

"We've lost one of our finest broadcasters and our thoughts are with his family and many friends."

Mr Fleming died in St Columba's Hospice in Edinburgh on Sunday night.

He led the Corporate Ministry of Canonmills Church Edinburgh for 20 years.

He was also made an OBE in 1980, a doctor of Heriot-Watt University in 1984 and a fellow of the RSAMD in 1986, all for services to the Arts in Scotland.

Edinburgh Tattoo
Tom Fleming provided the voiceover for 44 Edinburgh Tattoos

Born in Edinburgh in 1927, Mr Fleming went on to play the leading part in the first full length drama production from Scotland, The Black Eye, in 1952.

The following year he co-founded the city's Gateway Theatre and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1962.

Three years later, he became director of the new Royal Lyceum Theatre and was director of the Scottish Theatre Company between 1982 and 1987.

Since 1966, he had been a commentator for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and voiced commentaries on Royal and State occasions including the Coronation, the Silver Jubilee, two Royal weddings, 10 funerals, the enthronement of two Popes and three state visits by Archbishops to Japan and the US.

In 1995 he was principal commentator for BBC Television for the VE and VJ Day celebrations and was well known for his annual commentary on the Cenotaph Service in London.

In 1999, his own published poetry included So That was Spring in 1954 and Sax Roses for a Luve Frae Hame in 1961.

'Unbounding generosity'

His close friend and PA, Amanda Bruce, paid tribute to his "unbounding generosity of wisdom, common sense and love".

"Tom was cherished by so many people from all corners of the world," she said.

"For all his very public roles on the stage, screen and on the air he was essentially a most private man and all who were lucky enough to count him as a friend and colleague will remember him fondly for his unbounding generosity of wisdom, common sense and love and for the mischievous sense of fun which twinkled from his eyes right to the end.

"He was very much a forward thinker and was quietly persuasive in showing the way where others could follow. He will be hugely missed."

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said Mr Fleming was "a great Scot who will be much missed".

"Tom Fleming had a fine and highly accomplished artistic career, as well as being one of Scotland's most recognisable voices," he said.

"He provided the commentary for an extraordinary number of official, state and royal occasions over many years with impeccable knowledge and authority.

"I well remember his reading of The Beginning Of A New Song at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, which captured the significance of the moment perfectly."

The Tattoo is televised in 30 countries and a further 100 million people see the event on television worldwide.

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