Inside the Maloney family home St. Patrick's Day was not just a celebration of Irish culture. It was more like a national holiday.
No school. No work. Everyone trekked from Long Island into the city to watch the parade.
"It was the holiest of holidays in our house," Richard Maloney said.
There was good reason for that. In 1960, Richard's father, Edward Patrick Maloney, a resident of East Northport and a New York City police officer, cofounded the Pipes and Drums of the New York Police Department's Emerald Society. The other founders were Capt. Pearse Meagher, Sgt. Jack Hartigan and Kathleen Cronin.
The band has always been the first group of bagpipers to appear as the parade marched up Fifth Avenue. It is tucked between a marching regiment from the city's Fighting 69th - an Infantry regiment of the New York Army National Guard - and the NYPD Emerald Society. The St. Patrick's Day Parade on Wednesday marks the band's 50th anniversary.
"For the most part, going to the parade meant going to see our father," said the founder's son, Ed Maloney, 48, now of Tampa, Fla. "My father's position was front row, center. For my sisters and brother and I, as kids we wanted to leave immediately after the band marched by. For us, anything after that was anticlimactic."
A birthday bash too
There was another reason to rush out. St. Patrick's Day was also the birthday of their maternal grandmother, Juliana O'Shea, and a celebration took place each year at her apartment.
"We just wanted to get back to Grandma's for her birthday bash," Ed Maloney said. "Later in the night my dad and several band members would show up at my grandmother's apartment on Anderson Avenue in the Bronx. It was right up the block from Yankee Stadium. They'd start playing in the street and march up the stairs to her fifth-floor apartment. It was great. All the people would open their doors and applaud."
Applause was commonplace for the band. It performed at Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden and on the "Ed Sullivan Show," "Today" and David Letterman and Rosie O'Donnell's shows. It also appeared in the films "Ghostbusters" and "The Departed."
"My earliest memory of the band is sitting in the audience during the 'Ed Sullivan Show' in 1966. I was 5," Ed Maloney said. "The band entered the theater from behind and marched down the aisle and went up on the stage."
Edward P. Maloney died in 2000, but his musical legacy lives on. The Pipes and Drums of the NYPD Emerald Society continues to perform around the country. At its first St. Patrick's Day Parade, the band consisted of 24 active policemen, two policewomen, one retired police officer and an NYPD blacksmith, for a total of 28 members. Today there are more than 100 members.
And the Edward P. Maloney Memorial Pipe Band was formed five years ago in Binghamton, where Richard is a fireman and piper.
Honoring the founder
"It's a great feeling," Richard said of performing in a band named after his father. "A couple of guys from my old band knew my dad. When they broke off to start a new band, they asked me to join them. Then they asked if they could name the band after my dad. How could I say no to that?"
Richard also couldn't say no when his daughter Erin, 19, asked to join the band.
"I am very proud of her," he said. "Just like my dad, I never pushed the pipes or drums on any of my kids."
Each member of the Edward P. Maloney Memorial Pipe Band wears a name tag with his or her last name printed in Gaelic. Erin, a drummer, wears the one that belonged to her grandfather.
"Our band's motto is: Keeping the tradition alive," Richard said.