They've opened for the Dropkick Murphys, performed at Ryder Cup ceremonies, and played alongside Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block. They've flown to Ireland, where they took home prizes never before awarded to a non-Irish band. And since their inception in the early 1990s, they've led the St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston.
Despite the lengthy resume, the Boston Police Gaelic Column always finds time for its annual visit to the Franciscan Hospital for Children.
"I think it's sometimes lost in the shuffle, but the band doesn't forget that hospital," said James Barry, Boston police officer and band president. "We make a special effort every St. Patrick's Day to get out there and perform for those kids and that staff."
Clad in navy blue kilts and police shirts and jackets, the Column visited the hospital Thursday.
"It's a wonderful place run by a wonderful, wonderful staff," Barry said.
Although the band is known for leading Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade, it has also played in several parades in Ireland.
In 1996, the group performed for the first time in Cork, Ireland. They won an award for best bagpipe band, which had never before been given to a non-Irish group. The band returned the following year and earned the award for best parade entry.
"To say that it was exciting would be an understatement, for sure," Barry said.
The band also performs at a variety of charity events, helping to raise money for treatment and care of cancer and cystic fibrosis.
But perhaps the band's hardest task is to play at funerals for fallen officers.
"It's our solemn duty, especially because that's how we began," Barry said.
In 1991, members of the Boston Police Bomb Squad were attempting to defuse an explosive device in Roslindale. Officer Jeremiah J. Hurley Jr. was killed when it exploded.
When Hurley's funeral was held, there were no police bagpipe bands in the New England area. The New York Transit Police bagpipe group was asked to play, and the idea for Boston's own band began.
"The seeds were sown on that day," Barry said. "Within six months of Jerry's passing, we had rehearsals going, and we started the Column."
Today, the band has 26 members, all sworn officers from departments in Boston, Plymouth, and Rockland.
The Column will lead Sunday's parade in South Boston once again. And on Monday evening, they will return to Ireland, where they've been invited to perform in a parade in the small town of Courtmacsherry.
"We're looking forward to it," Barry said.
"We've had a lot of fun, and I think we've done a lot of good," he added. "We've entertained a lot of people."
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