"Some people felt there already was a police band in the county and the East End couldn't do it," Kevin Gwinn
said, by means of explaining the slogan.Gwinn founded ELIPPD in 1990, with just 12 members.
"We were everyone that nobody wanted and now we're everyone that everybody wants to be."From humble beginnings - making their debut in borrowed kilts at Southampton Village's July Fourth parade in 1991 - the ranks have swelled, quadrupling over the last 15 years. So has ability.ELIPPD
has won a state championship, come in first out of 80 bands at the New York City St. Patrick's parade, and logged a similar achievement in Savannah.The band has played everywhere from Montauk to County Mayo, Ireland.Gwinn
is a traditional drum major.He
can play each of the instruments in the band - bagpipes, snare, base, and tenor drums.The 50-some members of the band are entirely self-taught, "which is unheard of," Gwinn related. At the outset, Gwinn taught drums and Barry Winkler, a retired South-ampton Town Police Officer and Jim Flood from Nassau County PD taught pipes.
...Mike Smith, another STPD officer, is the pipe major - "Key to the band," Gwinn explained.
taught Smith drums, then he
moved on to pipes."They say the best piper is always a drummer," Gwinn
reported.On Saturday Smith's six-year-old son Finbar joined the men clad in the traditional bagpiper garb.He
shamrock painted on his
cheek; many band members have theirs tattooed on a calf. The band plays some 24 gigs a year.Over the two-week time frame that comprises St. Paddy's season, they'll march in over a half dozen parades.Saturday morning saw the group mustering for the Westhampton Beach parade.As Smith put the band through its warm-up paces, Gwinn
described the significance of the components of an ELIPPD costume.
Starting with shoes, band members wear police patent leathers "because we want them to be shiny," Gwinn
informed.Spats recall military dress tradition and handmade green hose is decorated with police blue flashing."The kilt is original to us," Gwinn
said."Green for our Irish heritage, blue for police, and red and white for America."Silver kilt pins are worn - always in the right corner - to ensure pleats stay put on blustery days.A chain encircles each band member's waist, with a pouch called a sporran attached.The sporran's long horsehair tassels add flamboyance to the costume, but were originally designed for warmth.Gwinn
adheres to the regimental pipe band tradition, meaning no undies under the kilt."The pipe major checks you before the parade; if you're wearing anything you get sent home," he
said.The deep blue doublet may have military stripes to denote rank within the band.There's corporal, sergeant, and only one major.Gwinn
and colleagues chose blue because, "We wanted to make sure, when people see us coming around the corner, they know we're police."A plaid (pronounced with a long A) wraps across the right shoulder and is secured with a green stone pin.Topping it all off, band members wear a traditional black balmoral highlighted with white checks to signify police.As drum major, Gwinn
wears a feather bonnet with police check and the colors of Ireland.He
carries a mace the band presented to him in 1992.It's made of imported wood and silver, and has a gold plated harp at the top. (The harp, not the shamrock, is the official symbol of Ireland, by the way.) Gwinn affixed the Mass card from band member Ryan Lynch's funeral to the shaft of the mace "so he's always with us."
"Those are the guys you'll want to watch if it gets windy," Gwinn
said with a grin.