How Mayor Byrne helped Emerald Society start pipe band

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The forgotten mayor: The bagpipes are on board.

Though a date has yet to be set to officially rename the Old Water Tower Park after the city’s only woman mayor — Jane Byrne — she says she will be there, and the Emerald Society of Illinois is prepared to pipe the music.

In the wake of this column’s attempt to honor the forgotten legacy of Byrne, who served from 1979 to 1983 — and the City Council’s decision to do so — Sneed received the following letter from Thomas J. Cody, a founding member and band manager of the Emerald Society’s (the Irish American Police Association) bagpipers. 

Cody wrote: “May I tell you a story that few know about and her involvement.

“In February 1982, a Chicago Police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty. 

“Funeral services were held a couple of days later. After those services, two other Chicago Police officers, who attended the services of the first officer, were also shot & killed in the line of duty.

“One of those two officers was a member of the Emerald Society of Illinois (Irish American Police Association).

“This officer always said, “If anything ever happens to me, I want a dozen bagpipers at my funeral.”

“The president of the Emerald Society at this time, attempted to contact all the pipe bands in the city of Chicago to have them perform an ‘Inspectors Funeral.’

“This could not be accomplished.   

“President Dan Burke then made contact with the City of New York Emerald Society Pipes Band, and the following day, twenty six members of the NYPD Emerald Society Pipe Band arrived in Chicago. 

“They conducted the ‘Inspectors Funeral’ for these two officers.

“In April 1982, the Emerald Society of Illinois held its annual dinner dance and Mayor Byrne was invited and came to the dinner. 

“She requested to say a few words. When she did, she called President Burke forward and said to him, ‘The City of Chicago should never have to import a pipe band to bury our own.’

“At this time, she presented to Burke a check for $5,000 saying that these funds were her personal funds, and not that of city nor campaign funds.

“On 11 May 1982, I was honored and privileged to attend the first meeting at the Chicago Police Academy. With the funds received from Mayor Byrne, we hired an Instructor and he started to teach the forty-two members who showed that evening.


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