Montgomery County Fire Fighters Pipes and Drums

Brotherhood Through Music since 2005

The Montgomery County Firefighter Pipes and Drums is a combination pipe band serving the greater Washington area and beyond.

HISTORY OF THE BAGPIPES AND THE FIRE SERVICE

Excerpted from Ohio Fire Chief, July 1997

The tradition of bagpipes played at fire department and police department funerals in the United States goes back over one hundred fifty years. When the Irish and Scottish immigrated to this country, they brought many of their traditions with them. One of these was the bagpipe, often played at Celtic weddings, funerals and ceilis (dances).

It wasn't until the Great Potato Famine and massive Irish immigration to the East Coast of the United States that the tradition of the bagpipes really took hold in the fire department. In the 1800's, Irish immigrants faced massive discrimination. Factories and shops had signs reading "NINA" - No Irish Need Apply. The only jobs they could get were the ones no one else wanted - jobs that were dirty, dangerous, or both - firefighters and police officers. It was not an uncommon event to have several firefighters killed at a working fire. The Irish firefighters' funerals were typical of all Irish funerals - the pipes were played. It was somehow okay for a hardened firefighter to cry at the sound of bagpipes when his dignity would not let him weep for a fallen comrade.

Those who have attended a funeral where bagpipes were played know how haunting and mournful the sound of the pipes can be. The most famous song played at fire and police funerals is "Amazing Grace". It wasn't too long before families and friends of non-Irish firefighters began asking for the bagpipes to be played for fallen heroes. The bagpipes add a special air and dignity to this solemn occasion.

Associated with cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, pipe bands representing both fire and police often have more than 60 uniformed members. They are also traditionally known as Emerald Societies after Ireland-the Emerald Isle. Many bands wear traditional Scottish dress while others wear the simpler Irish uniform. All members wear the kilt and tunic, whether it is a Scottish clan tartan or Irish single color kilt.

Today, the tradition is universal and not just for the Irish or Scottish. The pipes have come to be a distinguishing feature of a fallen hero's funeral

 

FIRE DEPARTMENT TRADITIONS 

 

Saint Florian

Saint Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, was an officer in the Roman army during the third century. Saint Florian had converted to Christianity but kept his new faith a secret to avoid persecution. When ordered to execute a group of Christians during the persecutions of Diocletian, Saint Florian professed his faith and refused to follow the order. He then had a stone tied around his neck and he was thrown into a river where he drowned.

Florian is said to have once stopped an entire town from burning by throwing a single bucket of water onto the fire. Saint Florian is the patron saint of firefighters, chimney sweeps, barrel-makers, soap boilers, harvests, Austria, Poland and others.

The Maltese Cross

The Maltese cross is known around the world as a symbol of the fire service. It is often seen painted on fire trucks, on the clothing of firefighters, depicted on firefighters badges, and is quite often the chosen design of firefighter tattoos. So where did the Maltese cross come from, and how did it get to be known as a symbol of the fire service? The Badge of a Fire Fighter is the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection and a badge of honor. Its story is hundreds of years old.

When a courageous band of crusaders known as Knights of St. John fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but horrible device of war. It wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracens weapon was fire. As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths.

Thus, these men became our first Fire Fighters and the first of a long list of courageous Fire Fighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each hero a badge of honor-a cross similar to the one fire fighters wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the Fire Fighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a Fire Fighter's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage...a ladder rung away from death. 

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New Member Q & A

Q: What positions are available?

A: Bagpipes, Snare Drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum, Drum Major, Color Guard and Booster.

Q: Who can be in the band?

A: Any MCFRS FF or EMT active or retired. Any family member of MCFRS, Any outside agency police, fire, EMT or Military. Any person not affiliated with a public safety department not to exceed 20% of band membership.

Q: How much money will this cost me to start?

A: $50 application fee. Band provides piper students with a practice chanter and instructional book. Students are encouraged to purchase their own chanter which is approximately $60 for chanter. Drumming students will need to purchase sticks and a practice pad for approximately $50..

Q: When and where do you practice?

A: Wednesday nights in Mt. Airy at 7:00pm, subject to change with advanced notification.

Q: Who purchases my instrument?

A: Each individual will purchase their own instrument. Bagpipes $1200 Snare $700 Tenor $500 Bass drum no cost (band owned).

Q: What does the band supply?

A: At this time the band supplies 2 Badges, 1 Doublet, Plaid Broach, Hose and Free instruction.

Q: What uniform items do I purchase?

A: Each uniform item will be purchased over time period as you progress with instrument of choice. Kilt, Sporran, Glengarry.

Q: What kind of commitment do I need to make?

A: Attend practice sessions as much as possible to progress on your instrument. We have quarterly band meetings and fundraising events we will need you to attend. When you are proficient in playing your chosen instrument you will play band events as an active member.

Q: How do I start?

A: Send an Email to recruitment@mcffpipesanddrums.org  Come to practice!