When I was a wee lad, I always had a fascination with the Emerald Isle; I loved the culture, history, music, and spirits. As I entered my 20s and started taking up pipe smoking, I was certain the entire country of Ireland must be pipe smokers, but this was my imagination. Rough drafts of famous Irish writers like Shaw, Joyce, Swift, and Wilde, I thought, were undoubtedly ash-covered in their day. Amongst the pistols, ammunition, and prayer books, jammed in the coat pockets of Irish rebels of the early 1900s, I expected one would find a pipe. This romance of the pipe, in all aspects of early Irish culture, is undoubtedly what drove me to make my first pipe purchase: a Peterson Donegal Rocky.
To my surprise, the country has long abandoned its pipe culture. A member of the European Union and its aggressive antismoking legislation, I found pipe smoking quite unwelcomed in the Emerald Isle. On a recent trip, I asked repeatedly, do you know anyone our age (30s) smoking a pipe? The "no's" were shocking. To my further surprise, most were unaware of Ireland's position as one of the largest producers and exporters of pipes.
Having come to grips with the fact that I was of the minority in this land, I set out as a missionary to convert the Irish to the pipe. Although met with skepticism, I was able to share my trade and, at least, peak some interest. As conversations took place under a cloudy cloak, some of my friends took to telling stories, as the Irish do well; the smoke jarring loose fond memories of their fathers and grandfathers. Although I heard a few, I'll share my favorite:
Sean, a new friend, told me a story about his father and grandfather, who were both avid pipe smokers most of their lives. He expressed that the pipe was their bonding hobby and clearly a way of life for these two. Sean's grandfather passed away, and, with the reading of his last will and testament, they were met with specific instructions that he be buried with his favorite pipe. This is but a further testament to the connection we pipe smokers have with our briar.
As the story was related, everyone had their hands so full preparing for the funeral and fulfilling the dead man's wishes that the pipe was overlooked. A family member was sent to fetch the man's pipe from his home, but to the untrained eye, what is one pipe from another? In a hurry, the pipe that looked most used was grabbed — the most used would clearly have been his favorite. The pipe was placed in the coffin, the service completed, and the man and his pipe lowered to his final resting place.
After the service, Sean went to his grandfather's home with his father, to say one last goodbye in the place they would both grow to know their loved one. It was at this point that Sean's father reached for the table, where he had laid his pipe earlier that morning, and was surprised to find it missing. After an extensive search, and a short interrogation of family members, it was discovered that the wrong pipe was taken, and that his favorite now rests six feet beneath the surface of the earth, buried, by mistake, with the deceased. Tragedy amongst tragedy, the man muttered softly, "take me arm, but not me pipe."