YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — The York Factory Whistle put on its annual concert on Christmas Eve. The unique sound is known for signaling Christmas Day.
“This is the 68th year that we’ll be doing it. It’s not like playing any other instrument, everybody hears you practice,” said Donald Ryan, the man behind the world-famous York Factory Whistle.
The York Factory Whistle isn’t your typical instrument.
“It’s not a musical instrument. It is a factory whistle,” said Donald Ryan. “Whistles were played all over the United State back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Every company had a whistle and that was their thing for starting the workday, lunchtime, the end of the workday.”
The New York Wire Company in York was no different, where is where the whistle originated back in 1889.
“My neighbor knew my dad was into music and he worked at the Wire Cloth Company. He knew that the Wire Cloth Company was looking for someone to play the whistle, so he got a hold of my dad, and we went over then to see this whistle,” said Donald Ryan. “People back then wanted to play the whistle, but my dad said he’ll do it for nothing. That’s basically how we got started. So, he started back in ’55. We started playing this thing. I was 12-years-old at the time.”
Donald Ryan and his father played for about two decades, until he had a son of his own.
“I started coming to the practices very early in my life,” said Donald Ryan’s son, Scott Ryan.
“And then there was three generations playing the whistle, he would hold the valve open, or I would hold the valve open, he would point after the music, while my dad played the whistle,” said Donald Ryan.
After all these years, from steam to air and a new building, a lot has changed. Even Donald Ryan’s wardrobe.
“I went from a hard hat, trench coat… to a tuxedo,” said Donald Ryan.
Donald and Scott Ryan are on a mission to keep the Christmas tradition alive in York.
“We feel responsible that we need to continue this, and the legacy, it’s beyond just our family. It’s just a legacy of having something in York that’s kind of unique. If it wouldn’t be for the community, we wouldn’t be doing this,” said Scott Ryan.