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Carrigaline Pipe Band – The Early Years

Thanks to Joe Healy for kindly sending us this article which first appeared in the Carrigaline Newsletter in Winter 1993. World War Two was raging across Europe. Here in Ireland, recruitment for the Defence Forces and Local Defence Force was the order of the day. The sound of the pipes could again be heard in Carrigaline, as drilling, route marches and parades got underway.

The Local Defence Force, or L.D.F. as it was popularly known, was one of the finest voluntary organisations formed in this country. Founded in 1940, its greatest contribution was the bringing together of people of different political and religious persuasions. It also helped to unify the community to prepare for an invasion which seemed inevitable at the beginning of the ‘emergency’. At that time, the L.D.F. had over two hundred thousand men in training.

As there were a number of pipers in the ranks of the Carrigaline company, it was decided to form a pipe band. Second-hand pipes and drums were purchased, and piping and drumming practice began in earnest. The band made its first public appearance on St. Patrick’s Day, 1943, at a church parade through Carrigaline village, as it was then, to the old Catholic church on the hill (now demolished). Also taking part in the parade were units of the Red Cross and the Local Security Force.

The late Willie Cogan, a founder member of Carrigaline Pipe Band. Pic: Joe Healy

As time went on, Carrigaline L.D.F. Pipe Band was very much in demand for parades and route marches, as well as for sports meetings, hurling and football matches, shows and carnivals. It was tough going for the bandsmen, as the bicycle was then the primary means of transport, and every piper and drummer had to carry his instrument strapped to his back.

Occasionally an open lorry was made available for faraway venues, and even a tractor and trailer transported the band on a few occasions. The uniform worn was tire standard green battledress “bullswool” with brown boots and leggings, called “jampots”. When the war ended, the L.D.F. was re-organised as a regular unit of the army, and the new force was called the F.C.A.

Around this period a number of piping and drumming enthusiasts came together to form a civilian pipe band. Their objectives were to promote pipe band music while endeavouring to attain a high standard in piping and drumming. They aimed also to provide a healthy recreation for its members and a service to the community. The funding for this venture was provided by a generous public, through raffles, flag days, carnivals, dances and concerts. No state aid or sponsorship was available at any time.

A hardworking committee and the enthusiasm of a youthful membership saw the band fully equipped and uniformed by June 1948. Their first parade through Carrigaline village took place on a Sunday morning, and it was a wonderful occasion both for band members and all who had helped establish it.

Their first RTE broadcast was also made that same year, from the Sundays Well studio which operated out of the old female prison at the time. Also in 1948, the band made its first appearance at the old Athletic Grounds, for the county hurling final between Blackrock and Glen Rovers, where the crowd were impressed by the marching, dress and musical spectacle provided by the band. Down the years the band has given many fine performances at Pairc Ui Caoimh, becoming a household name throughout Munster.

President of Ireland, Dr. Patrick J. Hillary, in Carrigaline to officially open the local Community Complex in September 1985, makes a special presentation to Pipe Major Willie Cogan, a founder member of Carrigaline Pipe Band. Pic: Joe Healy

Their first opportunity to travel abroad came in 1960 when the band was invited to the famous Breton Festival of Quimper. The trip was a tremendous success and was the forerunner of many more such visits abroad. In subsequent years the band travelled to Dunoon in Scotland and competed at the Cowal Highland Games. They also visited Glasgow for the World Pipe Band Championships, and in recent years a number of trips have been made to Guidel in Brittany, in conjunction with the twinning of Carrigaline and Guidel.

The Festival Interciltico Do Morrazo, one of the great Galician Festivals in North- Western Spain, is held annually in the neighbouring towns of Moana, (Pontevedra) and Cangas De Morrazo.

Carrigaline Pipe Band were invited to play at the festival, with the organisers asking them to include traditional set dancers and musicians in the travelling group. A tremendous amount of hard work was invested in the organisation and funding of the trip. At the festival, the band, the dancers and the musicians from Carrigaline, gave a number of outstanding performances at what was undoubtedly a most memorable occasion.

The band and its members have always taken a prominent place in pipe band competitions. The premier award in Munster has been won on many occasions. Successes have been recorded at Kilkenny, Dungarvan, Killarney, Tralee, Newcastle West, Abbeyfeale, Mallow, Fermoy, Cobh, Youghal, Ballybunion, Shannon Airport, Kanturk, Limerick, Dublin and Cork. Their greatest achievement was the winning of the All Ireland Pipe Band Championship Intermediate Grade (2) in 1962.

The drum corps has also given an excellent account of itself, winning many awards including the Munster and All Ireland Championships. Honours have also been recorded in solo piping by the band’s many accomplished individuals.

The year 1993 saw the retirement from active service of one the band’s best known members, William (Willie) Cogan, who served the band continuously for over fifty years. A founder member, he was pipe major for two terms, from 1947 to 1953 and from 1983 to 1989. He originally acquired an interest in piping from his father, James Cogan, who was the first piper in the area back in 1914, and who played with the National Foresters Pipe Band, Shanbally. Willie went on to learn all aspects of the art of bagpipe playing from pipe major Tadgh Crowley from Cork City, who was a well-known authority on piping and traditional music.

Willie gave much of his time down through the decades helping to run the band, both as a player and organiser, while imparting his piping skills freely to young players. As a life-long abstainer, non-smoker and disciplinarian, he continually set an example to all members, and in so doing, helped to ensure the ongoing success of Carrigaline Pipe Band.

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