John Pye: President of the Irish Club White Rock
WHITE ROCK - One of the mandates of the Irish Club White Rock is to promote Irish heritage and culture, and they do that very well.
The Irish Club White Rock make their home base at the Elks Hall in White Rock. It's been a win win situation for both organizations who have shared the premises for the past several years.
It is there that Irish dance teacher Brenda McDonald teaches Irish dancing to the younger generation and holds regular Friday night adult Irish ceili dancing sessions.
I recently spoke with Club President John Pye about some of the activities which they host throughout the year. He said, "we have our regular ceili on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month but that will be easing off at the end of May with our final ceili scheduled for June as we get into the summer months.
"We're a very community orientated club. For instance, we donated money to help send some dancers to compete at the World Irish Dance Championships which were held recently in Belfast."
John Pye has a very interesting background himself. Born in Glenarm, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, he spent 15 years in the British Merchant Navy where he entered as a cadet officer and ended-up with his masters ticket back in the old country.
When he retired from what he calls his first career, he emigrated to Canada in 1975 and joined the Vancouver Fire Department as a pilot on the original fireboat which was later sold in 1988 to San Francisco.
Pye later worked as an emergency preparedness lieutenant where he gave presentations at offices, work sites, and public buildings, on what to do in case of an earthquake or any other civic emergency.
"When you think about what happened on 9/11 in New York," said Pye, "'where 349 fire fighters died on one day....that's like half of the Vancouver Fire Department.
"A lot of firefighters from this area attended many of those funerals and they were completely devastated. The problem in New York was that there were so many funerals that firefighters from all over North America were needed to help. Consequently, they were attending on behalf of the New York firefighters."
In 2004, Pye retired from the Vancouver Fire Department and moved to White Rock. Although now retired, he continues to volunteer in the honour guard.
"When one of our retired members passes away, if the family wishes, we will always send a seven member honour guard. They will line the entrance of the church or chapel while the mourners are coming in and going out and it is a sign of respect for the families. The fellowship in the fire department is fantastic."
When the New York firefighters were digging through the rubble at Ground Zero, or as the firefighters referred to it as "the Pile," hundreds of Claddagh rings were recovered. John Pye is very proud of his Irish heritage and he and his family proudly wear Claddagh rings. In fact, Pye wears a gold Claddagh earring.
John Pye isn't the kind of man who would retire to a rocking chair even though he has a beautiful retirement get-away home in Birch Bay. In typical Irish fashion, he is enjoying the "craic," at the Irish club and thriving on his busy and energetic retirement schedule.
For more information about Club events and membership in the Irish Club White Rock, call President John Pye at (604) 542-0734 or Olwyn at (604) 536-5128.