camden county emerald society pipes and drums
- August 4, 2022
The Camden County Emerald Society Pipes and Drums were formed in 1995 by members of Chapter 10 of the Emerald Society of the State of New Jersey who realized the need for a police and fire band. We are comprised of active and retired police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and former U.S. military members.
The band’s original date for debut was set for September, 1995, at the annual Irish Festival in Wildwood, New Jersey, but those plans were quickly dismissed with the murder of Haddon Heights Police Officer John Norcross and Camden County Prosecutors Office Investigator Jack McLaughlin on April 20, 1995. The band was able to lend its moral support to the families and departments of those fallen officers, and again as we were called upon to play at funerals and memorials that year, for yet another 12 Officers who made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Delaware Valley and New Jersey.
The band has been invited to play at special events and for dignitaries throughout the region, including playing for the Archbishop of Philadelphia on St. Patrick’s Day and leading the 1996 Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Annually, we perform for the Camden County Hero Scholarship Club, which honors the heroic actions of police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and civilians. One of our proudest moments came when we played at the Garden State Race Track for the Police Appreciation Day, which was founded by one of our former members, Fran Ferry. This event raised money for police survivor groups. As the band developed into a strong and respected musical group, more requests and invitations to perform were received. A special invitation was received from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, to perform at their annual bagpipe tattoo in 1997. This was truly an honor as only 16 bands from North America are invited.
Tragedy struck once again on July 24, 1998. The band was called upon to do its solemn duty after a call came from Washington D.C. to confirm our worst fears. Two United States Capitol Police Officers were killed in the Line of Duty. The band performed at the national memorial service at the steps of the Capitol for Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson. Drum Major Richard Desmond made a request to have the pipes played in the Capitol Rotunda, and permission was granted by the only person who has the authority to do so - the President of the United States. Five pipers were then escorted to the caskets, where, for the first time in the history of the United States of America, music was played inside the Rotunda. The pipers played “Going Home” and “Amazing Grace”.
In November, 1999, a great tragedy struck in Worcester, Massachusetts. Six firefighters made the Supreme Sacrifice while fighting a blaze in a cold storage facility. It was almost two weeks before all of their remains would be recovered. In one of the greatest responses ever witnessed, police officers, firefighters and civilians from the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia arrived for the memorial march. The silence in the three mile march was broken only by the dirge of the snare drums. Officials estimated the marchers at over 30,000.
The September 11, 2001 attacks saw the band members respond to New York City to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts and then play at 44 funerals and memorials for the lost members of the PAPD, NYPD and FDNY, including one in Puerto Rico. We were truly humbled to play as we honored our fallen.
July 4, 2002 once again brought tragedy close to home when we lost three little girls and three of Camden County’s bravest, Chief James Sylvester, Fire Marshal John West and Firefighter Thomas Stewart in an early morning house fire.
The Camden County Emerald Society Pipes and Drums are dedicated to provide a solemn and dignified farewell to a fallen brother or sister, although, the majority of our performances are holiday parades, special events and supporting charitable organizations. We thank you for your continued support!
Since 2002, the band has been taking part in honoring those who have made the supreme sacrifice at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Md. In that time, the band has become a major part of this important and solemn weekend.
In 2004 the band became involved with the Ronald McDonald House to help raise funds for families staying at the house. The band has raised thousands of dollars since becoming involved. The band also has been a steady participant at the AOH North Wildwood Irish Festival.
In 2010, the band was once again chosen to be Host Band for National Police Week in our nation’s capital, Washington DC. This is the second time we have been chosen as Host Band. We previously had the honor in 2003. This is a great honor for the band to be chosen twice in seven years.
The pipes and drums have done some extensive traveling in our short history. The band has traveled to Ireland twice (2008 and 2009). We have also traveled to Savannah, Ga. to take part in one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parades in the country.
In 2010, the pipes and drums were honored to play in the Savannah St. Patrick’s day Parade with the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Pipes and Drums, with over hundred playing members!
After the parade, our travels were still not finished. The band was contacted by Specialty Training Group to play at their convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico! The pipes and drums had four great days in San Juan and made many new friends. We are hoping for a return trip in the very near future.
Since the band’s beginning, we have been called upon many times to honor our brother and sister Police Officers, Firefighters, Armed Service, and Emergency Medical Service personnel.
We are honored to be able to honor our brothers and sisters and will continue to do so whenever we are needed