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The story behind AG Barr, his bagpipes and the NYPD Pipes and Drums

Written By | Jun 27, 2019

Screen Shot by CDN

WASHINGTON, DC: Attorney General William Barr attended the recent US Attorneys’ National Conference, providing the opening remarks. As the Conference got under way, the NYPD Pipes and Drums corps, the Emerald Society, began to play. Barr stepped off the dais and briefly went backstage, returning with his own bagpipe to join them in a stirring rendition of Scotland the Brave. (see 5:52)

It was a priceless moment for AG Barr, the Attorneys General and staffs, and the Emerald Society.

Watch it here:

While the Emerald Society, whose history reaches back to 1860, may say it was an honor to play with the Attorney General, you can be assured the honor, to the AG, was to play with the Emerald Society. In their 2005 coverage, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, describes the 95-member corps as the group that “sets the standard nationwide.”

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Attorney General Barr opened his remarks with warmth and humor.

“How was that for an icebreaker. A word about how that came about. Jessie, Rob and Zack thought they were going to surprise me by having the Emerald Society pipe band come down from New York. As you know, I am very proficient at, dare I say the word, spying, and I discovered the plot. So this was my counter-surprise.
“The last time I played was just December 8th that was my youngest daughters wedding here in Washington. Some of you might remember I was announced by the President on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. The way that came about was that the announcement was supposed to be the following week. But on the morning of Dec 7 I got a call from the President saying ‘Bill I know we talked about doing it next week, and I know your daughter is getting married tomorrow, and that’s fine if you want to keep it like that, but I am heading out to the helicopter and would like to announce it, if that is ok with you.’
“So sure enough, my first out of body experience and there have been a lot since then and I turn on the TV and there he is announcing me as attorney general.
“The following day at my daughters wedding my daughter says ‘Pop, your the only guy I know who would upstage his daughter’s wedding.’  So when I was toasting, I said, Meg, look at this way, just before the name Barr is being dragged through the mud, you are changing yours to McGaughey. “

In his formal remarks, Barr spoke eloquently of the role of the men and women of the Attorney General’s office. But most revealing were his closing comments:

“There is an inscription in my office, which I pass several times each day: ‘The United States wins its point whenever justice is done its citizens in the courts.’ A prosecutor wields extraordinary power over his fellow citizens even when no criminal case is brought. Almost 80 years ago, Robert Jackson gave his well-known address ‘The Federal Prosecutor’ to the U.S. Attorney’s Conference. If you have not read it in a while, you should before you head back home. Therein, Jackson describes the awesome power of the federal prosecutor and calls for a commitment to fairness and decency. We must always play fair in our efforts to bring criminal prosecutions or litigate on behalf of the United States.
“Fairness must inform all that we do. After all, the whole concept of our American constitution was to establish a Government that could serve the common good while checking government power to protect individual liberty. And that is the Constitution we are sworn to support and defend. As you carry out your mission, I rely on you to lead wisely, hold those who injure the public accountable, and zealously represent the United States in court, while at the same time maintaining unshakable confidence in the rule of law and justice for all. That is your charge, and I know that you embrace it willingly, and well.”
A life long passion

Attorney General Barr has been a passionate bagpiper since a young age. “Bill was a serious piper,” Mike Green, a fellow band member, said recently.

“He started playing as a young kid, in New York. I’ve seen pictures of him, ten years old, wearing a Balmoral bonnet, a kilt, a doublet, big bagpipes on his shoulder.” (William Barr’s Secret Passion: The Bagpipes)

Calling into “Hannity” to discuss the appointment of Barr, President Trump tells the talk show host:

“Our new Attorney General, Bill Barr, is a great gentleman.”
William Barr, Pipes and Drums, Bagpipes

Attorney General William Barr (center) with his pipe band.Photograph by Dolphy Fairhurst

But new information has come to light. This magazine has located five individuals who attest that Barr, who has come under fire for his SparkNotes summary of the Mueller report, plays the bagpipes. And, no, it wasn’t just a onetime thing, in college, where he mistook a set of bagpipes for a bong. Throughout the eighties, Barr performed in the City of Washington Pipe Band—one of the top bagpipe ensembles in the world—giving new meaning to the cool-dad line “I used to be in a band.” (William Barr’s Secret Passion: The Bagpipes)

All in the Family

AG Barr’s oldest daughter, Mary Daly, left her position as director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office upon that announcement. Ms. Daly will be working with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit according to Justice officials at the start of the year.

Also in February 2019, Tyler McGaughey, Meg Barr’s husband, left his job at the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, VA, to join the White House counsel’s office. McGaughey will work for a group that is separate from the legal team working on countering the  Russia investigation.

The Emerald Society – NYPD Pipes and Drums

New York City (NYPD) police officers. Both active and retired form the NYPD Pipes and Drums. They work with the Irish American Emerald Society, an organization of American police officers or fire fighters of Irish heritage.

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Michael C. Donohue founded the Emerald Society in New York City on March 17, 1956 (St. Patrick’s Day). Their goal being the preservation of the music, culture, language and traditions of Ireland. But most importantly to protect Irish firefighters. 

Emerald Societies are in most major U.S. cities.

Federal law enforcement officers such as Special Agents and Customs and Border Protection officers who are of Irish/Gaelic descent are eligible to join the Emerald Society of the Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.

The organization known as the National Conference of Law Enforcement Emerald Societies (NCLEES) states that its objectives are:
  • To unite all public safety Emerald Societies in order to develop fraternalism amongst its members.
  • To preserve the Irish culture and to promote the contributions of our ancestors.
  • To recognize the accomplishments of Irish-Americans in Law Enforcement and other public safety professions.
  • To exchange information and enhance communications among member organizations and to start new public safety Emerald Societies.
  • To provide a unified and effective voice for its member organizations to the Congress of the United States and other government institutions.
  • To work with civic and public safety associations on areas of mutual concerns.
AG William Bar, Bagpipes, NYPD Pipes and Drums, Emerald Society, Thomas Stuart

By Jim Henderson – Own work, CC0,

Forming in 1960, the NYPD Pipes and Drums is one of the first Police Pipe bands in the US. Sergeant Finbar Devine was bandmaster form 1960 – 1995. The group is an  annual participant in the NY City St. Patrick’s day parade on Fifth Avenue and Presidential inaugural parades in Washington.

The NYPD Pipes and Drums plays for Popes, Presidents, and city officials. The band also maintains a color guard. Today, the bandmaster of the pipes and drums is Detective Kevin McDonough.

The NYPD is one of the foremost American police department pipe and drum bands.

Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award-winning writer and wanderer. She turns her thoughts to an eclectic mix of stories - from politics to sports. Restless by nature and anxious to experience new things, both in the real world and online, Jacquie mostly shares travel and culinary highlights, introduces readers to the chefs and creative people she meets and shares the tips, life and travel information people want to read.