In October of 1980 the Essex County Police/Fire Emerald Society formed it's Pipe Band after the death of one of it's own, Firefighter Harry Halpin of the Newark Fire Department. It was agreed upon that no firefighter or law enforcement officer would be laid to rest without the honor of pipes and drums.
The band marched in its first parade in March of 1981 in the Keansburg and the Newark St. Patrick's Day parades. There were 6 pipers 4 drummers 2 tenors, a bass and a Drum Major, the uniform was a white Irish sweater and blue uniform pants. Today the band has grown to 24 pipers 18 drummers and a color guard, all fully dressed in traditional Gaelic kilts (Kennedy's) and full green and gold tunics for winter wear, dark blue uniform shirts for indoors and white uniform shirts for summer dress.
The band has participated in many social and civic functions in the tri-state area of NJ, NY and Pa. which include the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, Viet Nam Veterans Parade, the New York city Desert Storm Victory Parade, the March of Dimes and the Special Olympics, along with the local New Jersey parades each year.
In 1988 the band took its first trip to Ireland where we marched in Dublin to celebrate Dublin's millennium. In 1990 we returned to Ireland to march in the Rose of Tralee Festival and also performed for the Lord Mayor of Dublin at the Mansion House. It was then, a dear friend of the band from Northern Ireland, Mr. Allan McClintock, wrote a special tune called "The Emerald Society March" specifically for the Essex Band. We are still the only pipe band to play that tune. 1994 we returned again, this time to join forces with the Dublin Fire Brigade Pipe Band and appeared throughout Ireland together.
In 1996 the band marched at the Rose of Tralee Festival for a second time. At that time we visited and performed in Castlewellan, County Down, Northern Ireland, the boyhood home of our Pipe Instructor, Joe McConville.
1998 took us to Edinburgh, Scotland to take in the world famous Tattoo, on to Belfast for a performance for the Lord Mayor at City Hall. We also performed at a festival in Newry, again in Northern Ireland.
On the home front, some of the special events we have been part of include halftime shows at Giants Stadium, for both the Jets and Giants, the opening of the Performing Arts Center in Newark, the opening of Riverfront baseball stadium for the Newark Bears, the Garden State Arts Center festivals, Waterloo Village, the Police Blue Mass at the Sacred Heart Basilica in Newark, Tartan Day Festival in New York City, etc.
The band also participates in the annual memorial services for New Jersey firefighters and law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty and has several times has had the sad but proud honor of leading the funeral corteges of fallen comrades of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
The year 2000 was very special to us as we are the host band at the National Council of Law Enforcement Emerald Societies during Police Week in the Nation's capital, Washington, DC, May 14 and 15, 2000.We had the honor of playing the Capital steps behind the President of the United States, William Clinton. This marked the 2nd Millennium celebration for the band since it began.
2001, our anniversary year, our highlight was marching in the Savannah Ga. St. Patrick's Day parade on March 17th. Our 1st album, (CD) was also recorded this year.2001 was the year the NJ United Pipe Bands started after the attacks of 9-11. We played over 45 services in 30 days.
2002 we went back to Savannah again for St. Patrick's Day. In May Washington DC.
February,2003 took us to Tampa, Florida for the "Gasparilla" Festival. In May we returned to Washington DC and again played the Capital steps, this time for President George Bush.
All band members must belong to the Emerald Society.
All members are career Firefighters or Law Enforcement personnel.
While, Essex was the first Emerald Society band, others have formed, Ocean County, Cape May and Camden Counties , Passaic, Somerset County are all "keeping the tradition alive".