Pipes and Drums of the Emerald Society

February of 1982 witnessed the tragic deaths of three Chicago Police Officers.  Fatefully, two were lost returning from the first officer’s funeral.  Police Officers from the Emerald Society of Illinois, with the assistance of then Mayor of Chicago, Jane Byrne, arranged for the presence of the Pipes & Drums of the Emerald Society - City of New York Police Department to conduct their “Inspectors Funeral” in Chicago.  This impressive and fitting tribute to these “fallen men in blue” was the impetus for the formation of the Band.  The Bagpipes & Drums of the Emerald Society - Chicago Police Department was subsequently formed in May of 1982 with the help of Mayor Jane Byrne and then Emerald Society President Dan Burke.  Playing at the funerals of Police Officers and Firefighters killed in the line of duty was the goal.  Throughout the years the Band has participated in over one hundred honor funeral services for members of the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department and numerous Suburban, County, State and Federal agencies - including Capitol Hill Police Officer Jacob J Chestnut and Special Agent John M Gibson, killed in July of 1998.  In September of 2002, the band journeyed to New York’s Ground Zero to return the benevolence they offered in 1982.

Forty-four members of the Emerald Society of Illinois consisting of State, County, City of Chicago and Suburban Officers gathered to form the Band.  Over the years, many members have come and gone for various reasons.  However, today the band has over eighty officers in uniform with twelve original members still active in the Band.  Even today members of the Band consist entirely of active and retired Law Enforcement Officers from the rank and file of Federal Agencies, State, Counties, City of Chicago and numerous Suburban Police Departments.

Besides our primary function, the band has expanded its purpose to promote the appreciation of piping music.  To this end, the band performs at numerous parades throughout the year, highlighted by the St. Patrick’s Day events in the Loop and Southside.  As a member of the Midwest Pipe Band Association, the band has participated successfully in various competitions through the midwest.

Several movies that show our Band in action include:

  •  Backdraft
  • The Fugitive
  • The Package
  • The Negotiator
  • Stir of Echoes (Pipe Sgt. Tim Sheehan)

The Band has also performed alongside Doc Severenson, Kevin Matthews, Jay Leno, Drop Kick Murphy’s, Black 47 and Seanchai & the Unity Squad.

In September of 2007, the Band celebrated twenty-five years of service to the members of the Chicago Police Department and the surrounding law enforcement communities by hosting a Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Tattoo at the Chicago Symphony Center.  Performing at the Tattoo were the Bagpipes & Drums of the Emerald Society, New York City Police Department, Police Pipes & Drums of Bergen County, Mullane Irish Dancers, Catherine O’Connell, The Larkin & Moran Brothers and of course, the Bagpipes & Drums of the Emerald Society, Chicago Police Department.  Mayor Jane Byrne was in attendance as the Bands Special Guest of Honor.  The Tattoo was a complete success, and the Band would like to thank everyone who contributed to the Band during the last twenty-five years.

History of the Band

In July of 1998, at the request of the US Capitol Police Department, the Bagpipes & Drums of the Emerald Society, Chicago Police Department performed at the funerals of Officer Gibson and Chestnut.  This was to be the first time in the history of the US Capitol Police that they have had to bury members of their department.  The number of Officers that turned out at the Funeral had to be heart warming for the Family.  The many Honor Guards, Police Motorcycles and squad cars from all over the country were impressive, but unfortunately all too familiar for Police Officers and their families in our area.

The Funeral Procession was going to drive past the Capitol Building before going to Arlington National Cemetery so our bus was placed at the beginning of the procession so we could go straight to the cemetery.  As we turned onto the roadway from the staging area we were totally unprepared for what we observed.  The streets for as far as we could see were lined with people.  Men, Women and Children standing with their hands over their hearts, some crying, some waving American Flags and others throwing roses onto the roadway.  Many people were holding signs such as “Thank You” and “You’ll never be forgotten.

As the procession passed from one county to the next, the local Fire Department had their ladder trucks backed up to the road with the ladders extended and large American Flags draped in black bunting suspended between the ladders.  The biggest shock of all came when we turned onto the expressway ramp and could see that both sides of the express lanes were lined with people as far as we could see.  Drivers in the other lanes had pulled their vehicles to the shoulders and were standing by their vehicles with their hands over their hearts.  We saw construction workers standing on their trucks with their hard hats over their hearts.  Every overpass we passed under had hundreds of people on them doing the same, as well as more fire trucks.  This went on for about fifteen miles.  It’s very hard to express the feeling on the bus that day, but it’s even harder to describe how everyone felt the next day when we saw the exact same thing in a completely different state for Officer Chestnut.

We saw a group of little children standing in a front yard holding a banner written in crayon that just said “Farewell Mr. Chestnut” and a women standing in the road crying holding a sign that said “Thank you from our hearts and from our city”.  And again the highway was filled with as many people as the day before.

We all think of Police Officers that get killed in the line of duty as heroes, but the people from these cities showed the world that these men were their heroes.

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