Swan Song: Bagpiper Joe Brady to Take Final Bow Leading NYC St. Patrick’s Parade

Joe Brady leading the 1st Battalion, 69th Regiment in the 2015 New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade. Photo > Nikki Brady

After 33 years at the front of  New York City’s legendary St. Patrick’s Day parade,  beloved Peekskill stalwart and world-class bagpiper Joe Brady is retiring as Regimental Pipe Major of the 1st Battalion, [Fighting] 69th Regiment

In that capacity, Brady marches at the head of the parade, alongside the Regiment Commander. He leads the battalion whose soldiers have marched at the front of the 260-year-old parade for the last 161 years. Historically, over 150,000 others follow the soldiers in the procession, with 2 million or more spectators cheering them on.

At 6:30 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, Brady will lead the soldiers out of the Lexington Avenue Armory over to 51st Street for a special Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The soldiers will occupy the southern half of the church as the place of honor.

The Battalion Commander traditionally joins the Adjutant General of New York, the Governor of New York, and the Mayor of New York City in a front pew for the service and the blessing for the Regiment’s soldiers.

Following Mass, the battalion marches to 44th Street and 5th Avenue, the official start of the parade.

After the parade, the Regiment will name Brady Pipe Major Emeritus.

“I have had the honor to lead over 800 soldiers into a packed St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate mass and then to march in one of the largest parades in the world — a celebration of our Irish religious, ethnic and civic values,” Brady said. “It is incredibly inspiring.”

This year, Brady, 66, will retire from the physically demanding role. The bagpipes and traditional highland dress weigh over 40 pounds and require an incredible amount of stamina, especially while marching. Brady will bestow the honor on a young champion bagpiper, Sean Dalgauer, 25, from Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. Like Brady, he is an Iona College graduate who started playing the pipes as a child.

Joe Brady gives a thumbs up during the 2015 New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade. Photo > Nikki Brady

“Marching with the 69th Infantry Regiment has been so special to me because of its rich military history as the most decorated Regiment in the country and its ongoing commitment to giving back to the community,” said Brady. “Sean appreciates the Regiment the way I do, and it was the right time and right thing to do for the Regiment to pass the baton,” says Brady.

The 69th Infantry Regiment was formed in the 1760s, and served in nearly every major conflict since the Civil War. In 1851, at a time when Irish immigrants were the targets of bigotry, the 69th Infantry Regiment protected the parade, then in its 89th year.

“Joe Brady is a legend and an icon of the St. Patrick’s Day community,” said Colonel Don Makay who served as the 69th Infantry Commander from 2016 to 2019. “It was always an honor to march alongside him and to keep the battalion in sync with his music. He is as much a part of the 69th legacy as the soldiers in uniform. Joe is a soldier at heart and we will miss his companionship during the parade and throughout the season.”

With a strong Irish and Scottish heritage, Brady started learning the bagpipes from his father at age seven. By age 17, he was rated as a professional open grade bagpiper – an extraordinary achievement at such a young age. The bagpipe is a tricky instrument to master; it is limited to nine notes, achieved by blowing and squeezing, requiring a remarkable amount of endurance.

Brady has earned worldwide recognition as a bagpipe competitor, judge and performer. He’s played for numerous dignitaries and has had gigs with the Chieftains, Wolftones, Andy Cooney and the High Kings, among others. He played with the Commandant’s Own at the retirement ceremony for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, an honorary member of the Fighting 69th, in Washington D.C., in September 2015.

The bagpipe’s hums and wails have become a symbol of fallen heroes and often evoke powerful emotions ranging from pride to sorrow. For most of his life, Brady has played bagpipes at the events most important to people — traditional weddings and funerals, celebrations, and important military events, which he will continue to do as long as he can.

44 Comments

  1. Mad respect and congrats for a job well done from an other Ex Iona PM and friend. Cheers
    Mike Faughnan

  2. Job well done Joe. For 33 years you’ve been piping at the front on the grandest stage of all. Congratulations!!!! I’ll always treasure the autographed album of yours, “Joe Brady Piper” that you signed personally.

  3. Bravo Zulu, Joe B! You have led well in all of your endeavors, especially this one which I’m sure has been a labor of love.

  4. You always do such a top-notch job, very professional and a fun guy. Congratulations to a legacy!
    Pipe on.

  5. Congratulations on your long career of service to the 69th and to the wider community of patriots. I’m sure that we have not seen the last of you Joe.
    Stay well and enjoy your retirement.
    Faugh a Bealach!!!

  6. Pipe Major Joe Brady is not only a Piper Extraordinaire, he is a wonderful husband, father brother and friend! Congratulations on this event and all your wonderful achiements, so proud of you!

  7. May Irish eyes be smiling on you as you lead this historical parade….and may God’s love shower you with grace and continued blessings! 💚☘️

  8. Joe Brady makes a difference in everything he does. The parade will not be the same without you. Thanks Joe.

  9. Congratulations Boyo! Piper Emeritus Fighting 69th, you deserve this. Let me say it is my privilege to know you and was a pleasure for the many years that you and the committee allowed me to work the Hunter Mountain Celtic Games. God Bless You Joe and may your future sail on calm seas and fair winds.

  10. My grandfather Daniel ONeill served in the Fighting 69th during World War I. I have a picture of him in his uniform. Handsome guy he was. All the men in my father’s family have served in the US armed forces. Most of us in times of conflict. WW I, WW II, Vietnam, Middle East. All the years I saw Joe Brady leading the bands at out Capital District Scottish Games put me in touch with that proud history. Very well done, Joe!

  11. Hey Joe….. Congrats! I had the pleasure of watching you lead the parade more than once….. you were an incredible presence …. I remember thinking…. this guy is not 6’ 6” …..but he sure looks like it on 5th Avenue!

    and to think your golf game is almost as good as your bagpipe playing…. I use the word “almost” very loosely. TJ McDonough.

    1. Hey joe
      Congratulations on your retirement. You are the best. In the highest compliment of the military: WELL DONE!
      MIKE GUIRY

  12. Joe has been playing for the runners of the Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon for over 6 years. Always the best part of the race. He is set agian for March 26th.

  13. Joe,
    Remarkable. We are very proud of you and your commitment to the heritage and work that you love.
    March on!

  14. The Walter Birtles family congratulates you, Joe, on your fine accomplishments. We wish you only the best & much happiness in this next chapter of your life.

  15. I miss the olde days, Hunter, Pearl River Eastover. the Parade wont be the same without you! Thanks for good memories

  16. Hey Joe congratulations love finding the story and reading all about you ,my mom Iris and grandma Simmons would listen to your album every St. Patrick’s Day congratulations again.

  17. So proud to know you and your extraordinary piping. Just wish you had better weather today for the parade!
    Charlie Murphy-Dodson

  18. May your glass be raised up and your kilt stay down. Thanks for the memories Joe. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and Cheers…

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