Emerald Society prepares for Irish pilgrimmage

Posted at 4:16 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 17:24:14-04

On Easter weekend, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to line the streets of Dublin, Ireland, in celebration of the rebellion of 1916 known as Easter Rising.

Among those distant celebrants will be 22 members of the Cincinnati chapter of the Emerald Society, who will participate in a several events, including a reenactment of the reading of the 1916 proclamation of independence from Britain.

The centenary, said Thomas Hogan, a trustee of the nonprofit Cincinnati Emerald Society, “would be comparable to being in America in 1876.”

The Cincinnati Emerald Society is a chapter of the National Conference of Law Enforcement Emerald Societies, which is comprised of firefighters and law enforcement officers of Irish descent and exists partly to promote awareness and appreciation of Irish culture and heritage.

The local chapter is perhaps best known for the mournful sounds of its pipes and drums band, which marches at the funerals of police officers, firefighters or military men or women killed in the line of duty. The band plays at funerals all over Ohio, Kentucky and in part of Indiana. In recent months, it played for Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim and firefighter Daryl Gordon

The Cincinnati Emerald Society performed during the funeral of fallen firefighter Daryl Gordon in 2015.

"It takes a toll on the pipers and drummers doing funerals, it really does," Hogan said in a light Irish brogue — he said he was born and raised in Wexford, in the southeast of Ireland.

Easter Rising likely will be a happier event. While in Dublin, the Cincinnati Emeralds will march in two parades, conducting an honor guard and carrying the flags of the Republic of Ireland, the United States, Ohio and the Emerald Society.

As with any nation’s origin story, the event the Cincinnati Emeralds are traveling to celebrate is part history and part lore: One century ago, on Easter day 1916, a group of some 1,600 Irish rebels – both men and women – rose against the massive British empire in different locations in Ireland, the largest rebellion centered in Dublin. The empire struck back, killing nearly 500 people in Dublin alone, mostly civilians, and later executing 15 of the uprising’s leaders – and creating 15 martyrs. Militarily, the uprising failed, but it inspired public demands for independence and ultimately led to the creation of the Republic of Ireland, and as a result, Northern Ireland.

Hogan said the Cincinnati Emeralds will be sharing some symbolism of their own during the honor guard, at which they will carry the Daryl Gordon memorial ax. Named for the firefighter killed in a 2015 Madisonville blaze, the ax is engraved with Gordon’s name. Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman's name recently was added.

Hogan, who is an Emeralds board member and works in construction, said participating in the Easter Rising centenary “shows the closeness of the connection between Ireland and America, that the immigrants that came over a lot of them started out in police and fire.”

He said the delegation’s members were paying their own way.

“I don’t know too many other groups from the States that were invited over to go march, especially in the reenactment," Madeira Police Officer Jay Roy said. "I think we’re probably the only group from the States that are involved in that aspect of it. Later on in the afternoon on Saturday (March 26), there’s a main pipe band parade where pipers are going to be from all over the place, and we’re going to be involved with that as well.”

It will be Roy’s first visit to Ireland. He said he has traced his Irish ancestors back to Ohio in the mid-1700s.

“Not only is it an honor to be invited to go over there and do this for their anniversary,” Roy said, “but it also gives us an opportunity to see where our families came from years ago. Down the line, my kids and their children will be able to look back and say, 'My dad was in that parade, there’s his picture right there.' That’s a great honor.”