Deputy Chief Troyce Miskin performs at the Burton Cemetary on Memorial Day. | Mary Boyle, EastIdahoNews.com
REXBURG — In the clear morning light at the Burton Cemetery near Rexburg, a single piper strikes up a solemn melody. The Memorial Day crowd – already talking in soft tones – grows quiet and gathers to listen.
Surrounded by gravestones with fluttering flags, the Madison Fire Department Pipe Brigade pays tribute to those who have given their lives for their country.
Mary Boyle, EastIdahoNews.com
A similar scene is played out in cemeteries across America every Memorial Day. In the mid-1840s, Irish immigrants were coming to the U.S. in large numbers. At the time, they were only allowed to apply for the most dangerous of jobs — including firefighting and policing. Work-related deaths were common in both professions, and traditional Irish funerals included the sound of bagpipes.
Highland bagpipes, according to historians, were used because they are louder than Irish pipes. Through the generations, the tradition has spread. People have come to associate bagpipes with firefighters, law enforcement and all the men and women who take on the hardest, most dangerous jobs.
In 2019, members of the Madison Fire Department took up the pipes. None of them knew how to play, but together they learned and formed the MFD Pipe Brigade.
“They’re soul-stirring,” Miskin tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We see quite a few people who enjoy being here while we are here. It helps them honor their loved ones and that’s why we do it. They’re here honoring their family and it’s nice to do something for them.”
Miskin admits the Pipe Brigade sometimes “invite themselves” to play at events — such as Independence Day when they play in front of the Madison Fire House, and Sept. 11 when they play at the memorial in Porter Park.
“(Memorial Day) is probably the most special,” says Miskin. “We do it to give back. That’s the only reason.”
And residents seem to appreciate it. Miskin was greeted with applause after his performance.
It seems the tradition of the Pipe Brigade is alive and well in Madison County, and will likely remain for many years to come.
Miskin chats with families after performing at the Burton Cemetary. | Mary Boyle, EastIdahoNews.com
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