In 2005 – under the leadership of veteran Chicago police officer and long-time piper Joe Brady, the members of the Carolina Pipes & Drums of the Emerald Society had worked in the Johnston County area under the leadership of Chief Gary Ragland to build a public safety pipe band. At the same time, an interest in piping was growing within the Wake County EMS Division as several interested potential piping students pressed Wake County EMS Chief and resident piper – Skip Kirkwood – to help them learn to play the pipes (one of those interested medics was Assistant Tony Crawford).
On May 6, 2006 – while attending the dedication of the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Raleigh, Brady (that day performing with the Charlotte Fire Department pipe band) met Crawford. Also in attendance that day were Raleigh Firefighters Jason Lane, Joe Harwell, Lloyd Johnson and Garner Firefighter Michael Bishop. A series of meetings were held, which concluded with an agreement to form a new band which would incorporate both the Johnston County contingent and the public safety community from Wake County and the surrounding areas. A date was picked for an organizational meeting. Chief Kirkwood sent a letter of invitation to 65 public safety agency heads in the east-central region of North Carolina, soliciting participation of pipers, drummers, and those interested in learning.
On June 8, 2006 – an organizational meeting was held at the EMS Training Center in the Wake Commons Business Park. Some 50 law enforcement officers, firefighters, and paramedics, and public safety supporters attended. Experienced players began “tuning up” and students were provided information about obtaining practice chanters, drum sticks, and practice pads. A regular schedule of Wednesday – Thursday practice sessions was established, based at the Wake County EMS Training Center on Carya Drive in Raleigh… On July 9 – another letter went out to the public safety chief officers, inviting them to engage the band for ceremonial occasions within their agencies. It didn’t take long!
A date was set for the band’s first official fund-raising event, “the Tartan Ball” – which would be held on November 18, 2006. An event committee, headed by Garner Fire Captain/piper Mike Bishop, assisted by Raleigh Fire Lieutenant/Drum Major Jason Lane and Raleigh Fire Captain/piper Lloyd Johnson, geared up and got to work. The event was held at the Raleigh Fireman’s Club on Bay Leaf Church Road, and saw a capacity crowd of over 250 fans, friends, and family. A great time was had, with Irish and Scottish Dancers, a ceilidh band, and of course the Pipes and Drums. This event netted $3,200, which will go right toward outfitting more band members with Black Stewart band kilts, as well as adding a couple of more drums to the mix…