2010 has been a tumultuous year in many ways. Some of us have experienced the joy of new life, the exhilaration and relief of beginning a new job, or gaining advancement in a present career. Our country has definitely been on a roller coaster ride this year in terms of economics, politics and religion. Others of us have dealt with the self-inspection and growth that comes with personal loss. The District has been on a roller coaster ride of its own and as always it has been a great one. We began the year at our traditional resting place, Tir na nOg Irish Pub in downtown Raleigh. Fun and revelry were had by all as the now familiar ring of the pipes echoed throughout the pub, reminding everyone that old acquaintances should never be forgotten. Little did we know of the events of the year to come.
As most folks involved in public safety will tell you, we are all blessed to have two families; our loved ones that raised us and wait for us to return home safely, and our brothers and sisters on the job that watch our backs, keep us safe and help us to return home to our other family. Likewise, our group serves two families. One is the community that we live and work in. These are the people that call on us to play for some of their happiest occasions and their most heartbreaking ones as well. We are sincerely humbled when allowed to honor these times and we hope that you will continue to call on us whenever we can help you in our small way. The other family we serve is of course our public safety family. There is no greater duty than to help out our fellow police officers, firefighters, paramedics and telecommunicators, whether it is to celebrate a graduation or promotion, or to honor the memory of loved ones lost. This remains our mission: to serve these two families as one. The District has endeavored since it’s beginning to honor both of these families and this year hopefully has been no exception.
The band did our part to help out with several community events this past year, including the St. Paddy’s Day 8K Run in Raleigh and the Night Out Against Crime in Wilson, NC. An opportunity to educate and spread the joy of the pipes came to us through an invitation to play at the International Food Festival hosted by St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Smithfield. The reception was warm and the spectators had as much fun as the band. Later in the year, the band was able to celebrate the first snow of the season while participating in the Christmas tree lighting ceremony for the Flowers Plantation community in Clayton, NC this past December.
As is often the case, the Wake and District Public Safety Pipes and Drums were called on to perform as opening acts for artists coming to the triangle, such as the Tannahill Weavers, one of the worlds foremost performers of traditional Scottish music. It is always good fun to meet artists from around the world and make new friends that appreciate such a loud instrument as ours!
A perennial right of passage for any self-respecting pipe and drum band is the participation in events surrounding that day of all days, St. Patrick’s Day. The District is no exception and what a time it was. Once again, we travelled to see our friends to the south, as the town of North Myrtle Beach is blessed with a large Irish community and a great pub in Flynn’s Irish Tavern. As was the case last year, we were blown away by the thousands that turned out on a great sunny parade day to greet us with smiles and cheers as we did our very best not to disappoint. We have made good friends in the owner and staff at Flynn’s and look forward to seeing them again soon. Back in our home town, the band made the rounds in downtown Raleigh on their St. Paddy’s pub crawl. If you have not been with us on this occasion, we highly recommend you check it out this year. It is great fun and a chance to see and talk with us in a more ‘relaxed’ state of mind.
The District was able to serve our public safety family many times throughout the past year. We played in graduation and promotion ceremonies for our comrades in the NC State Highway Patrol, as well as the Raleigh Police Department. Our friends at the Raleigh Fire Department celebrated the graduation of the 36th Raleigh Fire Academy as the sound of bagpipes and drums filled the Raleigh Civic and Convention Center (no small task). One of the fastest growing departments in the Wake County area, the Garner Fire Department graduated an academy and promoted several officers, including our own band manager, Mike Bishop, to the rank of Captain. There were also several opportunities throughout the year to serve our brothers and sisters in Raleigh Fire through promotional ceremonies at City Hall. We continue to be honored by the dedication of the Raleigh Fire Department towards our efforts and thank them for their constant support and encouragement.
One of the things that unfortunately seems to be inherent in the public safety community is the untimely loss of members who report for duty every day to simply “do their jobs”. This year we saw friends and neighbors honor the memories of law enforcement officers from the NC Department of Motor Vehicles and the Greene County Sherriff’s Department. Band membmers also played for the Durham Fire Department for the sudden loss of Brad Roberts and most recently, we continue to send our thoughts and prayers to our brothers in the Chicago Fire Department on the recent loss of two of their brothers. While North Carolina was spared this year, many of our nation’s fire departments were not as fortunate. We remember and honor them. The band was privileged to participate in events paying tribute to our public safety family during National Police Week, the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and closer to home, in the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend and Parade, our home event. We appreciate our friends in the NCFFF and thank them for their continued support. These are the events that our group was founded around and for. The need was seen by several, and acted upon by a small group of visionaries, to form this band for the purpose of honoring the fallen. It will continue to be our purpose and the source of our greatest pride and fulfillment.
One of the forces that drive us to perform better is simply the act of competing. Being challenged to play as well or better than your peers ignites a spirit to continue to improve and play well that remains with the player long after the competition. In 2010 the Wake and District once again entered the circle of competition. Taking firsts in Loch Norman and Scotland County, a second in Greenville, and a third in Stone Mountain, the District finished the year ranked 12th out of 117 bands in Grade 5. This lead the regulating organization known as the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association (EUSPBA) to award the band an upgrade to now compete in Grade 4. We congratulate the competing members of the band on their continued commitment and hard work. They are a true source of pride for all of us. We also had several individual players compete and earn medals in individual competitions, especially among our drummers. The quality of their work does not go unnoticed and we thank them for their dedication.
As if we weren’t busy enough with two families, we here in the District are blessed to have yet another family, formed through the fulfillment of our mission. We have had quite a year ourselves. Along with his promotion, and I’m sure he would say more importantly, Mike Bishop, our band manager, became a daddy with the birth of twin boys, Ryne and Landon. Through a fortuitous connection, we were able to build a relationship with Ravenscroft School that resulted in new (to us) drums for the band. They have been a welcome addition to our group, often receiving compliments. We also were allowed to participate in a joyous occasion, the marriage of Tir na nOg owner and longtime District supporter Pete Pagano to his love, Katy Shea. Through the gift of song, our pipe major helped us wish our band mother, Annie Nice, safe home by writing and performing a tune written for her as she returned home to her native Ireland in search of peace and contentment after a difficult year of loss in her life. Annie, you are always in our hearts and never far away. To Pete, Annie, and the phenomenal staff of Tir na nOg, we say thank you, though it hardly seems enough. You have all taken us in and been our most loyal and devoted fans. We have bid farewell to a few of our members as they have moved on to other careers and pursuits, as well as welcomed in some new and fresh faces. To all of them we wish the best of luck in all they do.
Once again, we concluded the year with the skirl of the pipes ringing within the walls of our home pub, as well as a “New Beers Eve” gathering amongst band members. What a truly tremendous year it has been for our little band. One thing has been very different, however. If you are one of our more devoted fans, you may have noticed that in 2010 there was no “Tartan Ball”, our perennial November fundraising bash. Why did we break from tradition, you ask? Well, because we have something very special planned. In celebration of our fifth year together as a pipe and drum band, we will be hosting a fifth anniversary concert at the Progress Energy Center on January 8th, 2011, which happens to be sold out by the way. Hope you have your ticket! If not, we certainly hope to see you very soon in the coming year and wish you a very prosperous and blessed 2011.
– Lloyd Johnson, founding band member
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