Eileen Dahill/Minnesota

The Brian Boru Irish Bagpipe Band

My Uncle Pat Creighton from Belfast and his friend Emmett McCarthy, who played for the Irish Army, were one of the founding members of the Brian Boru Bagpipe Band established in 1962 in Minnesota. It’s still going strong after 52 years. A few years back I was chatting with the band and a band member ‘piped up’ and said, “I never heard of a Pat Creighton from Belfast in the Brian Boru!” I didn’t know if that was a call to arms but I chose not to say anything. A few seconds later another piper replied, “That’s the name written in my kilt!” They still wear the original saffron kilt after 52 years.


Does this Kilt make me look fat?

The Brian Boru are a fabulous street band. They seem to be everywhere and are known for their jovial sense of humor. You can’t approach them without walking away with a laugh. A craft beer in Minnesota was even inspired by the band. It’s a pale ale called the Saffron Kilt and is brewed in Mankato, Minnesota.

Highland Games

We went to the Highland Games to watch the bands compete. In the pouring rain all the competitions commenced including the Games of Brawn which has significant purses to be won. But even a sheep from the herding exhibition tried to get out from under the rain and into the entertainment tent. The pipers continued their competition.

The Boru are a class 5 competition band. The highest class in competition in Minnesota is the Macalester Pipe Band which is class 3. The rain is pitter pattering so loudly under the tents that we all are yelling at each other to be heard. My friend Mi Mi’s grandmother is over on holiday from the Isle of Skye and we end up leaving the tent to talk under sopping umbrellas in the pouring rain to have our proper chat without screaming in each others ears. We are getting soaked.

Towards the end of the day the rain changed from a drizzle to a mist. We all started taking ‘selfies’ as we are beginning to look more presentable. We wipe the fog from our glasses and chase paper napkins down to pat our wet hair. We waddle out to the field trying not to slip on the grass for mass bands and the awards. The pageantry of mass bands makes us all start clapping and cheering that we made it through the day. We can see the sky is going to break and we start our goodbyes which will still be continuing as we walk to our cars.

Boru wins Big

The Boru win best piper (John McCormick), best quick march medley, and a perpetual trophy in memory of George McCracken called the “Most Promising Bass Drummer” to Randy Conaway. The band is stunned. Their casual bravado gives way to shock. In the 52 years of Boru they have won little or nothing at the Highland Games. Some say they have been sorely overlooked a wee bit these past 5 decades. But the Boru never seemed to really care. At the end of the day its all about the piping and the craic for the Boru at the Highland Games. And what other Irish Pipe Band has a beer inspired by them?