In the fall of 1979, the executive committee of the (now called) Gaelic Society consisting of Barbara McWilliams, Mary Nee, and Collette Fuller, decided that the College should have a Bagpipe Band. They organized some fund raising activities and collected the needed funds to start a band. (The current President of the College was not interested…) Mr. Michael McDermott, an excellent piper himself, took on the responsibility of forming the first band. Unfortunately, nothing materialized.
Then in the fall of 1981 (I think) a young NYC police officer named Robert Hogan, started doing graduate work at Manhattan College. He made inquiries of how he could defray the cost of his studies and was directed to the office of the Moderator of the Gaelic Society, Brother Kenneth Fitzgerald. Upon entering the office, he exclaimed “Brother Gerald!!” (That was Brother Kenneth’s religious name at the time that he was teaching at La Salle Academy in 1954.) Brother “Gerald” was the moderator of the photography club at the school, and young Bob Hogan was a member and even had photographs to prove it – it seemed Bob had changed over the years, but Brother Kenneth had not (much)!
It was a most opportune event – Captain Robert Hogan was an instructor in the Bagpipe Band of the Famed New York Police Department’s Emerald Society. Irish Luck! Brother Kenneth then had all he needed to really get a band started – some funds and a person who could actually teach the playing of the pipes. However, there was a very serious question remaining: Would college age students in the 1980’s be at all interested in learning to play bagpipes? Well after much preliminary advertising and fanfare, 35 students showed up for the first meeting!! What a start! Under the firm, practical tutelage of Mr. Robert Hogan, the Manhattan College Bagpipe Band was born! It became one of the greatest personal commitments of Bob Hogan!! He organized the whole process: meetings, music, instruction and dedicated tremendous amounts of time and talent to developing those protégés. (Actually, only about 10 were as dedicated as himself, but that was what he really expected.) His approach was to enable the student to play something simple as soon as possible and that would solidify the commitment of the student. The organization provided funds for the kilts and the inexpensive Pakistani pipes, and the member was to provide the Irish sweater and black shoes. His tremendous efforts have succeeded magnificently and are now very ably continued by his son Michael.
A great alive tradition!
—Brother Kenneth Fitzgerald, FSC, December 30, 1999