June 24, 2018
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Irish eyes smile as Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps entertains St. Patrick’s revelers

By Beth Brogan, BDN Staff

BRUNSWICK, Maine — “To the Guinness! Hoist!” drum major emeritus Vaughn Dyer shouted throughout the day Sunday — St. Patrick’s Day — each time the Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps rested their bagpipes and drumsticks.

In response, overflow crowds at pubs from Portland to Bath raised their glasses, mugs or bottles and cheered.

Beginning early Sunday morning at Brian Boru in Portland and concluding — four pubs and many Guinnesses later — at Byrnes Irish Pub in Bath, the corps spent the holiday clad in kilts and all manner of green, performing such songs as “Bonnie Dundee” and “Rakes of Mallow.”

After performing at Ri Ra Irish Pub in Portland late Sunday morning, where they then downed a quick lunch of burgers or bangers and mash, the corps marched down Commercial, Market and Fore streets, pausing outside Bull Feeney’s before making their way into a cavernous but jam-packed upstairs back room.

After waiters hoisted tables overhead to make room for the drums, drum major Val Graffa lifted his tall mace and the bagpipes sounded the first notes of “Amazing Grace” — always the first and last song.

“I guess we do it because of the mission,” pipe major Michael Lundin said of the corps. “We provide bagpipes to public safety personnel who pass away in the line of duty. I think it’s important, what we do.”

The Maine Pipe and Drum Corps performs at funerals, parades — including Bath’s Blarney Days parade on Saturday — weddings and at events such as the Highland Games each August.

The corps is a tradition for the Arnold family — all three generations, including Hap, 79; Marc, 48; and Colin, 17, the youngest member of the group and a soloist on the bagpipes.

Marc Arnold joined first, because, he said, as a retired Brunswick police lieutenant, he missed the camaraderie of the force — and he liked Scottish music.

Then his father, Hap, started in the color guard and now performs on tenor drum.

Most recently, Colin Arnold joined. He said he enjoys spending time with his dad and grandfather and loves playing the pipes. He’s also wearing his kilt to the prom.

“It’s great to have all the family together,” Hap Arnold said, adding with a smile, “And Guinness is drum lube.”

Later Sunday afternoon, the corps marched into another full house — this time at Byrnes Irish Pub in Brunswick.

Among those hoisting glasses was Amy McMullen of Bowdoinham, who has come to Byrnes to hear the Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps each St. Patrick’s Day for the last three years, to remember her father.

On Sunday, she cried when the corps played “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

“My dad was born on St. Patrick’s Day, and he’s passed now,” McMullen said, leaning against the bar with her mother, Margie McMullen, and husband, John Wilson. “He used to sing Irish songs, but after he passed I couldn’t listen.”

Listening to the bagpipes on Sunday, she said, “But he’s singing in heaven.”

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