F.D.N.Y. EMERALD SOCIETY PIPES AND DRUMS
The Men of the F.D.N.Y Emerald Society Bagpipe Band
This record is dedicated to All Members & Families of the New York City Fire Department.
Down through history, many great battles and wars have echoed to the tune of the bagpiper. Even today, the United States forces go into action with the sounds of the “Garryowen” playing in the background. The Emerald Society Bagpipe Band is currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary (1982). In 20 short years, they have written a colorful history all their own.
Let’s return to the autumn of 1961 when, at an Emerald Society meeting, a few interested members started talking about forming a bagpipe band. What better way to preserve and encourage our Irish tradition and culture than to form a bagpipe band? Both sanctioned and encouraged by the Emerald Society Executive Board, a committee was formed to solicit interested members. With the greatest dispatch, a number of Emerald Firefighters responded with much enthusiasm.
And so in January of 1962, the Pipe Band became a reality, and, once again, proved that the Irish and their descendents are great lovers of music. “The skirl of the Bagpipes sends shivers of proudness throughout my body,” remarked one candidate as the group set to work. The following members were selected to lead the band. Named to the post of Chairman was James Ginty, and his supporting cast included Francis O’Rourke, William Duffy, Patrick McAndrews, Edward McLoughlin, John Clarke, Peter Sheridan and Jim Corcoran.
Now came the major task of coordinating these members into an eventual playing band. The men interested in playing the pipes bought them directly from Scotland. The drums and uniforms were purchased by funds raised through raffles, boosters, and dances held by the Emerald Society. All members of the band are regular, full-time members of the New York Fire Department and, of course, members of the Emerald Society. The band used St. Jerome’s School Hall in the south Bronx for practice sessions and the services of competent instructors for both pipes and drums were obtained. The first instructors included Tom McSwiggan (County Tyrone Pipe Band), Larry McSwiggen and John Doris. The first Pipe Major was Billy Duffy, who served in that capacity for twenty years, culminating with the production of this album. As of 1983, Ed Geraghty has succeeded Billy Duffy as Pipe Major.
After 11 months of instruction and practice, the bagpipers made their first appearance at an Emerald Society dance held at City Center, New York, in November 1962. The following March 17th, they made their trek up Fifth Avenue as part of our annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and were warmly received by the huge throngs of Gaels.
In November of 1963, the pipers finally acquired their kilts, tunics, plaids and assorted Highland regalia. The pipe band tartan was acquired from Granger and Campbell, Ltd., of Glasgow, Scotland. One can easily see the significance of colors:
The Bright Red tunic represents the New York Fire Department. The “Green” stands for our Emerald Society. The “Light Blue” represents the rank of Firefighter with the “White” taking in the officers’ ranks of the Department. Although the tartan is relatively new, one can be assured that the organization which it represents is rich in a colorful history and tradition and dedicated to the protection of life and property in this great city. For the sake of posterity, the tartan has been duly recorded and registered with the Scottish Tartans Society in Stirling, Scotland. The group is also a member of the United States Pipe Band Association.
As for where they have played, the occasions are too numerous to mention. They’ve been everywhere!!! They’ve played for Ed Sullivan, for Jerry Lewis and his Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, for visiting foreign dignitaries, for official Fire Department functions, such as Medal Day and Memorial Services, and have played numerous times at the personal request of His Honor, the Mayor. They’ve played in hundreds of parades, and at Shea and Yankee Stadiums, at Madison Square Garden, at the NYC Marathon, at the Waldorf Astoria, and, of course, in the Emerald Isle. In January of 1981, they were the first band to march up lower Broadway in the ticker tape parade to welcome home the hostages from Iran. During the summer months, they play in competition against other pipe bands at the New York Feis, at various games and at other events up and down the East Coast. Needless to say, they have garnered their share of trophies and awards which are now on permanent display at the F.D.N.Y Division Training. Their ultimate goal is to compete in the Emerald Isle and in Canada.
They are a credit to the New York Fire Department, to the Emerald Society, to the ancestry and to the wonderful spirit that prevails within their ranks.
America’s concern with cultural roots has been made more visible by the reawakening of interest in Irish music and folklore. The Men of the Pipes and Drums have been in the forefront in that movement. Encouraged by their growing legion of followers up and down the East Coast, the band has now released this record album. It’s a final tribute to their 20th Anniversary and will be duly recorded for the sake of posterity. Spin that record!