Shrewsbury pipe master relishes time with kilted contemporaries
Shrewsbury – Dan Mooney was 12, living in his homeland of Glasgow, Scotland, when his mother enrolled him in the Boys Brigade to keep him out of the pool halls. He had the choice of playing drums or bagpipes. Not wanting to wait in the long line for drum sign-ups, Dan picked the pipes. His inaugural puff into the unwieldy instrument became a joyful ritual he would live and breathe for a lifetime. A Shrewsbury resident since 1970, Dan is pipe master for the 73-year-old Newton-based Sutherland Pipe Band.
After six years of playing in parades and other events with the Boys Brigade, Dan joined private pipe bands. He and his kilted contemporaries competed as members of the Kenmuir Band and the City of Glasgow Transport Band, and became prize-winning pipers. According to Dan, pipers are judged based on tone, execution of pace and timing, finger dexterity, and their ability to play in unison so that 10 pipers sound like one.
In 1960, Dan spied an ad in the Glasgow Daily Record indicating that the Worcester Kiltie Band of Worcester, MA was seeking new members. Dan moved across the ocean to play with them. The band, according to Dan, ranked as the best band in the world during the 1960s and 70s.
Dan met and married a U.S. native of Scottish decent. He and Jean enjoyed raising their daughters with pride in their Scottish heritage, taking them to numerous pipe games during their youth.
Dan plays pipes at weddings and funerals and also delights in playing at annual events. He’s played at graduations for Quinsigamond Community College, orientations at Wheaton College, Fourth of July parades in Boston, St. Patrick’s Day parades in Abington and scores of other events.
As the daughter and wife of a piper, Jean’s been an avid spectator, but doesn’t like playing pipes herself. Neither do their daughters. “But we’ve got two grandsons,” Joan said, “Who knows? Maybe they’ll play one day.”
In the meantime, Dan likes teaching other youngsters who are just starting out with pipes. He enjoys helping new players to develop their techniques.
Dan considers piping to be a pleasant pastime. It’s worth the ribbing and jokes he endures for wearing a kilt, he said. He enjoys the camaraderie, the competition and the drinking with friends afterward.
“It’s a good feeling to win,” he said, adding that it’s also fun to draw a crowd. He grinned at the memory of one night when the Sutherland Pipe Band took their practice outdoors and a group of police officer s approached. He thought they were going to be asked to leave, but the law enforcement crew pulled up chairs to sit and listen.
Dan is known for adding a bit of Glaswegian humor to the piping events. Glasgow is it’s own special place, gruff , like the Bronx, here, he said. “It’s the same kind of humor.”
As Dan looks ahead, he has no plans to set down his pipes. He looks forward to helping younger players “come along” with the art to continue the tradition.
The Sutherland Pipe Band is always seeking new members, he said. For more information on the band, visit www.sutherlandpipeband.org.
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