About the Band
The formation of a DC fire service pipe band was the dream of members of the Emerald Society Firefighters of Washington for many years. The DC Emerald Society was founded in 1979 by such Irish names as Murphy, Kelly, Flaherty, Healy, Rielley, McCoy, McClafferty, Dinkle, Harrington and Jones.
While Emerald Societies were in existence in New York City since the early 1950’s, the influx of New Yorkers to the DC ranks in the late 1970’s raised the question why don’t we have an Emerald Society of our own in DC? Hard working members answered this question by creating a successful Fire Emerald Society in the nation’s capital.
Fraternal, family and charity events were soon organized, and uniformed members representing the DC Fire Department were seen up and down the East coast, and in Ireland as well. Soon after the Emerald Society question was answered came the next tough question, why don’t we have a fire service pipe band? The formation of a pipe band is a difficult thing, and as any band member will tell you, it requires a significant amount of talent, time, effort and money.
Attempts in the late 1980s and 1990s were unsuccessful. It was the tragic events around September 11 that would serve as a catalyst for this most recent and successful attempt. Members watched the sincere devotion of the musician-firefighters of the New York City Fire Department Pipes & Drums as they served at 343 funerals to honor their own, including Durell “Bronko” Pearsall, a drummer in their band, and Father Mychal Judge, the band’s Chaplin.
The call was heard again, and this time it was answered. In February 2002, approximately 40 DC firefighters turned out for the first band practice. Under the leadership of then Capt. Henry Welsh and now Ret. Lt. Bob Purdy the initiative gained momentum. Instruction was volunteered by Mark O’Donnell, a Grade I piper who had played with the championship City of Washington Pipe Band, and Tom Hayden, then a Prince Georges County Battalion Fire Chief and snare drummer in the Prince Georges Police Pipe Band. Lt. Dave Hollinger assumed the important job of Band Manager, and all of the members stepped up to meet the challenge of forming a pipe band in just one year.
The membership of the DCFD Emerald Society band is distinctive in that all members are active or retired DC firefighters ranging from those recently graduated from the Training Academy through some retired from service for twenty years.
After much searching, the Inglis Tartan was selected for our uniform kilt. The colors of this beautiful tartan are important to the members as they nearly match those of the DCFD uniform patch, but there is also a deeper and more meaningful significance.
The Red and White stripes on a Blue field are the colors of our American flag, whose nation's capital we protect.
The Green background represents the color of Ireland, our heritage.
The Gold stripe is a reminder of the long line of DC firefighters who have served the city and it's citizens before us.
On the right shoulder, the band wears our own custom patch in the shape of a Maltese cross, the symbol of firemen, with an American flag and shamrock encircled by a Celtic belt, a symbol of family.
The band wears the previous DCFD uniform patch that had been retired by the Department. This older patch is worn by the band as a sign of tradition in the fire service and in respect to the many who served wearing this emblem.