Primer on the Pipes

Marty Mooney arrived at Peddie in 1997 as a college counselor, English teacher and football coach. Among his many roles at Peddie, he most recently served as Dean of Residential Life, and has been instrumental in transforming the residential experience at Peddie and developing the post-graduate program. He and his wife Danielle will see their youngest child graduate this year. Marty will be moving on from Peddie as well, becoming the head of school at Bridgton Academy next fall.  They will be missed.

I first played the pipes for Peddie graduation in the spring of 2003. I had been learning and playing on and off since 1996, but that was the first year I felt like I was good enough to lead the graduation. In 2016, my friends in the Lia Fail Pipe Band joined me, and I hope that Peddie always retains this tradition. As this will be the last time I will lead this procession (as a Peddie faculty member at least), I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of the meaning behind the music.

As the procession starts, the pipers march through the gauntlet of seniors, with faculty following. For this portion, I’ve always chosen to play “Scotland the Brave” in honor of Thomas B. Peddie, the Glaswegian benefactor whose name graces our school. In the same set, we’ll play “The Rowan Tree,” an old Scottish folk tune, and “Wings,” the regimental march tune of the Royal Engineers.

Following that set, as the procession moves along towards Coleman, I have always played something to honor the Headmaster. For many years, I chose the Irish street ballad “Wearing of the Green” for John Green, as well as “Star of the County Down” which was a favorite of our former chaplain, Rosemary Gleeson. In recent years I’ve done “Oh Shenandoah” to celebrate Peter Quinn’s affection for the Commonwealth of Virginia. When my daughter Katherine graduated in 2013, I even played portions of a Dropkick Murphys song for her.

Finally, as we move toward the tent, the last song is always “Garryowen,” which is one of of the most identified tunes played on the pipes. The “Garryowen” is a bright, uptempo 6/8 march and meaningful to me for a number of reasons. First, it is one of the favorites of Doc Martin, our most veteran faculty member, who carries the mace for the faculty procession; and second, it is the official regimental tune of the U.S. First Cavalry Division, and as graduation is almost always on Memorial Day weekend, I’ve chosen the song to honor the the fallen.

Some say that all bagpipe music sounds the same, but if you really listen this commencement day, you’ll hear all of the songs and now you’ll know all of the stories.