Devotees of the Highland pipes well know the tradition of naming tunes for distinguished individuals and historic places and events. That tradition remains alive and well. Many contemporary composers retain that sense of history and moment. One such is Terry O'Neill, a piper who hails from Albany, New York.
O'Neill took up the pipes in 1984 while earning a degree in law at Albany Law School. He played for many years with the champion Schenectady Pipe Band. During his fifth year with the band, he spontaneously made up his first tune - a jig he named for a friend -- Col. Edmond S. Culhane, Jr., commander of the Rhode Island State Police. (The Colonel's Irish roots are in County Cork.)
O'Neill went on to compose many tunes inspired by a large circle of friends in the law enforcement profession. He himself in the descendant of three generations of police officers, going back to his maternal great grandfather, a native of Dungarvan, County Waterford.
By 1990, O'Neill was an advisor to the Governor of New York on criminal justice matters. His duties included representing the state in relations with its Native American communities. There had been considerable friction between the Mohawk Tribe and the state government over illegal gambling and smuggling over the border from Canada. Relations between the Mohawks and the New York State Police were particularly strained as the police occupied the Mohawk Reservation after a period of violent unrest.
During this time, O'Neill was invited to visit reservation schoolchildren with his pipes. He entertained the children and told them humourous stories about the police officers his tunes were named after. The performance was a big hit with children, parents, teachers and tribal elders and did much to smooth relations between the police and the Indians.
O'Neill is particularly proud of his friendship with one of America's most illustrious law enforcement officers. That man is Thomas A. Constantine who heads the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). DEA has a worldwide mission to combat international narcotics trafficking. Constantine, a Buffalo, New York native with over forty years police experience, is a second generation descendant of the famed Considines of County Clare. He was serving as New York's state police superintendent when President Bill Clinton asked him to take over DEA in 1994.
Constantine's extraordinary contribution to the struggle against illegal drugs is widely celebrated among his peers in the world's police community. In October 1997, his peers worldwide elected him Honorary President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Last Fall, the government of Colombia awarded him its highest law enforcement decoration for his efforts to dismantle the vicious Cali Cartel based in that country.
Mr. Constantine also inspired O'Neill to write a book of children's poetry called Constantine's Circus and to found a not-for-profit corporation of the same name to reach young people with an anti-drug abuse message. In addition, O'Neill composed a stirring 6/8 march called "Thomas A. Constantine." The tune is being promoted among police and youth pipe bands worldwide as a way of saluting Mr. Constantine and the hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers around the world who are involved in our common struggle to eliminate illegal drugs.
To contact Terry O'Neill and Constantine's Circus, Inc., you can write to Constantine's Circus, Inc., P.O. Box 7223, Capitol Station, Albany, NY 12224, USA. Telephone: 518-465-4413. Fax: 518-465-3200. World Wide Web Site: http://www.reu.com/tomtyger. (Site includes a profile of Mr. Constantine) E-mail: Tygertom@aol.com. To contact Mr. Constantine, write: Hon. Thomas A. Constantine, Office of the Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration, 700 Army-Navy Road, Arlington, Virginia 22202 USA. Telephone: 202-307-8000. FAX: 202-307-7335.

Home Page

Back to Menu Page