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Newton firefighters form bagpipe, drum unit

Taxpayer money not used for ceremonial group

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 11:16 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 11:27 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Submitted Photo)
Ron Husted is the founding pipe major for the Newton Professional Firefighters Pipes and Drums.

The Newton Professional Firefighters Pipes and Drums would like to introduce founding Pipe Major Ron Husted.

Ron has generously taken on the task of passing on his Scottish heritage to local firefighters by teaching the art of playing the bagpipes. He has played the bagpipes for 36 years, and has piped in numerous firefighter, police officer, and military memorials.

Ron has piped Iowa National Guard troops into their deployment and return ceremonies, scores of weddings and funerals, special occasions and parades throughout Iowa. He has been the Newton Fire Department’s official bagpiper since 2010, and has played at several ceremonies for the department.

By doing so, several firefighters explored the possibility of starting a pipe and drum band. Ron eagerly agreed to be the corner stone and started to build the foundation of Newton Fire Department’s first Bagpipe and Drum Band.

The band was organized in June and currently features five members who are learning the bagpipes and three who are learning the drums.

You may ask yourself, “Why the bagpipes?” It all started in the early 1800s when the Irish immigrated to the United States during the Great Potato Famine in Ireland. When they came to the USA, the only jobs they could get were the dirty and dangerous jobs: firefighting and law enforcement.

During a working fire in those times, it was not uncommon for firefighters to die and following would be the funeral at which the pipes were played. Not long after this tradition began, non-Irish firefighters requested the pipes be played at their funerals.

The band’s mission is to continue the traditions of the fire service, pay tribute, give recognition, enhance esprit de corps, and build department morale. The band will perform publicly and privately to promote greater recognition and appreciation of the history, traditions, contributions, sacrifices, roles and missions of the men and women of the fire service, and share Irish and Scottish history and heritage.

The only other fire service based pipe band in Iowa is Dubuque Fire Pipes and Drums; their membership includes 12 firefighters, and four civilians. Newton will be the first all firefighter band in Iowa.

The band will not receive any funding from the City of Newton or Newton Fire Dept. Because of the high cost of starting a band, however, the unit is asking the community for donations.

Drums and uniforms are traditionally bought by the band, but the bagpipers purchase their own pipes, which is a $2,000 investment. Drums range from $750 for a snare drum to $1,200 for a bass drum. Basic uniforms begin around $1,500 apiece.

Some fundraising efforts are underway, but there is still a long way to go. Those who would like to donate can get more information by emailing the band at nfdpopesanddrums@gmail.com.

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