The use of bagpipes at funerals was a tradition dating back to the Clans of Scotland and Ireland. The practice of using bagpipes at the funerals of firefighters and police officers in the United States began in the 19th century in cities like Boston and New York, where many police officers and firefighters were Irish and Scottish immigrants.
The Massachusetts State Police Pipes and Drums is a volunteer ceremonial unit that was conceived in 1994 after the tragic line of duty death of Trooper Mark S. Charbonnier. At the funeral service for Trooper Charbonnier, the Massachusetts State Police had no bagpiper to play during the solemn service, and a desire arose for a job corp of bagpipers.
Mr. Iain Massie, a Scotsman and former piper in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards has been the Musical Director and Bagpipe Instructor since the formation of the band. Mr. Massie wrote a letter to then Superintendent, Colonel Charles Henderson, suggesting the formation of a pipe band. Mr. Massie had been a bagpipe instructor at the Scottish Infantry School of Music in Aberdeen, Scotland, was a certified Pipe-Major from the Army School of Piping of Edinburgh, Scotland, and had a Senior Teacher Certificate and Graduate Degree from the Institute of Piping, Glasgow, Scotland.
On December 1, 1994 the first meeting of troopers interested in forming the Pipes and Drums was held at the General Headquarters in Framingham. Mr. Massie proposed to those present that a corp of sworn Massachusetts State Police Troopers undertake the formation of a volunteer pipe and drum band. The playing standards and dress standards would be of the highest possible caliber, in keeping with the tradition of the Massachusetts State Police, and to proudly represent the job throughout the Commonwealth and the Nation.
The initial training for a bagpiper requires a great deal of practice and commitment, with nearly three years of training before being ready to fully perform a variety of the band music. The Pipes and Drums was officially established in January of 1995 when the lessons began. The band had their debut performance in June of 1996 at the Massachusetts State Police Memorial Service. There were only six original members at that performance, all of whom were bagpipers.
The band grew to sixteen members over the next two years. Unlike many police and fire bands, The Massachusetts State Police Pipes and Drums restricted membership in the band to active and retired members of the Massachusetts State Police. On March 26, 1997, after conferring with the department staff counsel, Colonel Reed Hillman authorized the use of the name ‘Massachusetts State Police Pipes and Drums’ and approved the current shoulder patch of the band. The band incorporated as a non-profit organization in June of 1997. Band uniforms were designed and purchased, complete with kilts and insignia. Later in 1997, the band added a drum major, completing a full parade-ready pipes and drums band. The drum major carries the Department fallen with him, with the name of every Department member killed in the line of duty, including their end of watch date, on a scroll displayed on the drum majors' sash.
Since their formation, the Pipes and Drums have honored the memory of Department members killed in the line of duty by performing at their funeral services. From the Massachusetts State House, to Washington D.C. the band has marched in parades, played for memorial and awards ceremonies, performed at Department events, played for charities , and represented the Massachusetts State Police with pride. The band has played at Inaugurations and members have played at the funerals of Congressmen and Governors. In 2014 the band performed at Fenway Park for the memorial of the Boston Marathon bombing, a nationally televised event.
In 2015, as the Massachusetts State Police proudly celebrates 150 years of service, the band is celebrating its 20th year of performance, with 26 members.