You can hear it coming from a mile away. It whines, wails, groans and hums. Sounds annoying right? Wrong! Because on St. Patrick’s Day there’s no finer sound than that of the moans and pitches of bagpipes echoing through the streets of New York City in the world’s oldest and largest annual parade that celebrates Irish heritage and the patron saint of Ireland.
For the past 22 years, Joe Brady, the regimental pipe major of 1st Battalion, 69th Regiment has led the traditional parade of marches along side the regiment Commander (currently Lt. Col. James Gonyo) playing military marching tunes for the famed “Fighting 69th”. Although technically they follow the NYPD mounted police escort in the official Line of March, Joe Brady leads the soldiers in their 150-year role as head of the parade, followed by 250,000 or so other marchers up Fifth Avenue.
This year, Our Dad’s Flag also led the 251st Annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade as Joe Brady wore Our Dad’s Flag on his sash throughout the entire 1 1/2 mile route of the parade — to be seen by 2 million spectators and televised locally throughout the New York metropolitan area! This was a fitting and humbling tribute by Joe as this year’s parade, according to the official committee of the parade, was marched “In honor of ALL American Veterans — from every branch of service and from every war or conflict.”
We know that “Our Dad” was pining for good ol’ New York on St. Patrick’s Day. While in Afghanistan he was missing the Mass at St. Pat’s, the marching, and the madness and mayhem that always follows at the Armory. Many thanks to Joe for escorting Our Dad’s Flag in an effort to promote patriotism and represent all the men and women currently serving far from home as he marched through another page of American history.
The March of March
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in 1762 formed by ex-patriot Irish and Irish soldiers attached to the British Army stationed in the colonies as a way of celebrating their roots. They dedicated the day to the Patron Saint of Ireland (and the Archdiocese of New York) which included congregating, playing pipes and Irish tunes, wearing green, and marching to Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral for words from the Archbishop of New York.
According to Richard Crawford, piping enthusiast and author of Pipers of the Highland Regiments 1854-1902, in the 1700s the British government tried to suppress the Scottish families and clan traditions. They forbid them to wear kilts and plaids and did not allow them to play music such as the bagpipes. By 1852, the British reconsidered renaming the bagpipe an “Instrument of War” and incorporating its role into the military. The blowhard Brits realized the pipes had a purpose. They noticed that when the pipes played as a form of marshal music it encouraged the celts, put a lilt in their march and really got them into the spirit of fighting.
Throughout the following years, bagpipes and drummers became popular “instruments of war” and became recognizable as such, especially for celtic forces. Many regiments had a pipe band and/or a regimental piper who boosted morale. Over time this dwindled. Joe Brady, a former NY State Guard member, is currently the ONLY official pipe major for a regiment left in the U.S. His most frequently performed song with the 69th? Garryowen, the old Irish quick-step, which is the official regimental marching tune of the Fighting 69th.
Wanna Know More Joe?
Joe Brady has Scottish and Irish roots and learned the bagpipes from his father. By age 17 he was rated as a professional open bagpiper – an extraordinary achievement at such a young age. The pipes are a tricky instrument to master; it is limited to nine notes that are achieved only by blowing and squeezing and its musician must have lots of stamina! The bagpipe is one whose hum and wails are recognizable and associated with so many emotions from pride and joy to sorrow and loss. Joe Brady, plays not only the regimental pipe major for the 69th, but plays at numerous other military events and of course the traditional weddings and funerals.
Brady has earned worldwide recognition as a bagpipe competitor, judge and performer. He’s played for numerous dignitaries, gigs with the Chieftains and Wolftones and in places and competitions all over the world.
Many thanks to Joe Brady Jr. for escorting Our Dad’s Flag in the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. What a great day!
Want More Fighting 69th?
Coming soon . . . Lt. Col. Gonyo – check your mail soon!
Thanks for reading and we’ll continue to share our adventures as the flag travels the US. Bet you can’t guess where Our Dad’s Flag goes next! Perhaps we’ll go for a stroll on the boardwalk? Also, we hear something’s happening at the zoo? Hmmm.
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