FREEPORT — The Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps will answer London’s call with a march and a beat.
The Corps plays at memorial services, parades, and pubs throughout the state, but for the first time since its formation in 2004, 14 members will fly overseas to perform March 18, 2018, in London’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade alongside the Police Emerald Society of Great Britain and Flanders Memorial Pipe Band.
The history of the Corps dates back to 9/11. On the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, local pipers and drummers volunteered to perform at a memorial service in Westbrook. Afterwards, they realized Maine lacked a traditional Scottish pipe and drum band to play at the funerals of fallen safety personnel.
The Corps held its first official meeting two years later and, in 2005, gained non-profit status. Members now routinely donate to the Wounded Heroes Project of Maine and fund a $500 scholarship to youth pursuing a career in public safety each year.
Each Tuesday, they travel from as far south as Wells and as far north as Waterville to practice in Freeport. Most are retired or active public safety personnel, while some “civilian members” simply support the Corps’ mission: “To honor all our public safety personnel both locally and nationally by providing Scottish music for funerals and memorials without any cost.”
Drummer Robert LaPlante said he was drawn to the group by this mission. He works in the state Probation & Parole office in Lewiston.
“The idea of honoring our veterans in public safety is really attractive to me,” LaPlante said. “This is the least that I could do for them, when they’ve done so much for us.”
LaPlante’s family lineage has been traced back to the Hamilton family – who’ve played a prominent role in Scottish history since the 14th century – but this will be his first trip overseas.
Drum Sergeant and Corps President Marc Arnold, however, lived just outside of London as a child, while his father was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. He joined the band about 10 years ago, after his 2004 retirement as a Brunswick police lieutenant.
“After I retired from the (police department) I was looking for something to do,” Arnold said. “… It’s very important for me to be part of this band, being someone who was in law enforcement. The group is more like a family than anything else.”
Pipe Major Michael Lundin also comes from a military family: his father is a veteran of the National Guard and his brother a veteran of the Air Force. He joined the band in 2005 as a volunteer firefighter in Gorham and is now it’s longest standing active member.
“I take to heart the mission that (the Corps) stands for,” Lundin said.
The Corps is in the process of fundraising to alleviate the estimated $1,000 cost per band member for the London trip.
“We’d like to pay 100 percent for everybody, but … all of our fundraising activities wouldn’t be able to do that, unfortunately,” Arnold said.
Their next fundraiser will be on Nov. 4 at Bull Feeney’s Pub in Portland. In the meantime, the band is selling limited-edition commemorative T-shirts and challenge coins to mark the 2018 London tour and is accepting donations to make the trip possible.
The Corps will also play at Byrnes Irish Pub in Bath and Brunswick on the 17th of every month leading up to their trip.
“It takes quite a bit of money to pull something like this off,” Arnold said. “Every little (donation) helps to offset the cost of those members coming.”
Treasurer Brendan Murphy said the trip is the perfect opportunity to extend the pipe and Scottish tradition outside of Maine. While in London, he said, the band also hopes to perform at the National Police Memorial and National Firefighters Memorials to “recognize (their) fallen brothers and sisters from (United Kingdom) public safety.”
“We’d like to be international ambassadors (of our mission),” he added. “London is a great opportunity (for that).”
Members of the Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps at their practice Tuesday, Oct. 3, in Freeport: Michael Lundin, top left, Mike Nugent, Bob LaPlante, Lisa Archer, Nicole Parent, Kevin Joyce, Brendan Murphy; John Reigel, bottom left, Pat Kelly, and Marc Arnold.