The Irish – Be they kings, or poets, or farmers,
They’re a people of great worth,
They keep company with the angels,
And bring a bit of heaven here to earth
– Irish saying
The tale of a creaky voiced Belfaster who carried himself with the legality of a king, spoke with the lyricism and depth of a poet, while possessing an agrarian commonality would strike some as a fanciful story of legend. However, for those who knew Patrick Joseph (Paddy) Bawn, would tell you of a man who appeared to have an omniscience which could only be described as divine. His warmth and gregarious spirit touched the lives all those fortunate enough to have shared time with him.
Paddy Bawn was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 30th, 1930. By the tender age of fifteen he was gainfully employed at Mackie & Sons, a foundry manufacturing textile machinery for export internationally. After turning eighteen he embarked on a policing career which would span 43 years, and two continents. His life long commitment to policing saw Paddy begin as one of the youngest recruits in his Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) training squad, graduating from Depot in November 1950. The dubious honour of being one of the youngest graduates resulted in Paddy’s inaugural posting being the not-so-glamorous duties as a guard. In February of 1951 Paddy hit the street as a full-fledged policeman in a place called Bally Ronan, in the county of Londonderry, Northern Ireland. From the first day he donned his uniform and strode out of the station onto his beat, Paddy was home. Known for his savvy as a street cop, Paddy struck fear into crooks and culprits on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether it be a high risk crisis situation on the streets of Belfast requiring the RUC Riot Troop, of which Paddy became a member as a constable in 1952, or as an Inspector on the streets of Edmonton in 1992 few criminals were likely to forget an encounter with Paddy Bawn.
Paddy’s commitment as a family man was galvanized on March 4th, 1953 when he married Alicia Robinson in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. One year later their daughter Lesley was born with the future Edmonton Police Service Traffic Section *Sergeant Langford Bawn coming into the world ten years later. Paddy’s commitment to his family was an unwavering influence in the lives of his wife and children. It was Paddy’s commitment to family values which delayed his immigration to Canada, postponing it from 1952 to 1956. In 1952 Paddy, and 3 of his mates, had been recruited and offered a position with the Edmonton Police Department which was in Ireland recruiting at that time. The news that his father was gravely ill prompted Paddy to cancel his move to Canada in order to stay with his family in Ireland. In 1955 he contacted the Edmonton Police Department to enquire about employment but was given no assurances. He was invited to apply and take the testing but was not guaranteed employment as he had been in 1952. Never one to shy away from a challenge, on February 23, 1956 Paddy Bawn steamed out of Liverpool harbour on an Atlantic crossing to Canada. He reached Edmonton on March 7th and reported for his first day work with the Edmonton Police Department two days later having passed his testing and been hired the day after he arrived.
The legend that is Paddy Bawn would not be complete without mention of his greatest non-familial legacy. From his first parade as Drum Major in 1964 until his last in 1998 Paddy Bawn was the iconic figurehead of the Pipes and Drums of the Edmonton Police Service. Paddy was a charter member of the band in its fledgling years and those who chose to march under his banner of leadership did so with pride and dignity. Paddy demonstrated the tenets of foundational leadership long before people like Stephen Covey began authoring volumes on the topic, or young entrepreneurs were paying thousands of dollars to attend retreats in an effort to attain ‘it’. He built this band, which has performed for everyone from the Royal Family to the candy chasing kids at K Days, from the ground up and maintained its high level of integrity and esprit-de-corps with his patented “Little Brother” manner.
On January 28, 1999 we lost Paddy after a battle with cancer, and so ended the earthly existence of the legend that was Paddy Bawn. However, one doesn’t have to go too far or for too long before they hear his name followed by a storyteller’s best attempt at a creaky Irish brogue as they tell you a tale of a man which makes you believe, “Now that is what being a father, a friend, and a policeman, is all about!”
*web master note – Langford Bawn is now a the Corps. Sgt. Major for the Edmonton Police Service and is a piper with the Pipes and Drums of the EPS.