148. The “Rocky” History of the Donegal Line
I recently acquired for study an amazing NOS (new/old stock) Donegal Rocky 01s with its box, sleeve and brochure. Hallmarked with a Celtic lower-case n for 1979, it’s a first-year release of this marvelous ‘short dutch’ bowl shape and convenient reason to take a look back at the long history of Peterson’s iconic “Donegal Rocky” line.
The “Donegal Rocky” (in quotation marks), released in 1945 or so, was Kapp & Peterson’s first rusticated line. Not that K&P hadn’t rusticated pipes previously, they just that they hadn’t devoted an entire line to rustication. And they were apparently proud of it, because they gave it a sterling mount along with a black finish and white-stamped P on the mouthpiece.
It was part of K&P’s “Product Line,” what I call gateway pipes and others might call an entry-level pipe, as you can see in this shape chart from the 1945 catalog. Like the Shamrock (European version) and “K,” it was originally a fishtail line.
For nearly thirty years, from 1947 until 1975, the line continued uninterrupted, black rusticated finish with fishtail mouthpiece and sterling band.
from the 1976 Associated Imports Point-of-Sale Brochure
Then in 1976, just a year out from their Centennial celebration, Peterson (in an expansive mood) pushed the Donegal up a notch, giving the line a P-Lip. The 1976 engraving doesn’t show it, but you can just glimpse a new, deeper rustication in the (still black) 1978 Associated Imports chart:
This rustication was done by a carver in Dublin, Paddy Larrigan told me this past June in Sallynoggin. The artisan did all of Peterson’s fantastic rustications from the period: the classic “Pebble Rustics,” the early Sherlock Holmes rustics, the Bond Street of Oxford Premier Systems, and the sterling-band P-Lip Donegals.
And that’s where this 1979 01s comes in handy, because we can see with much greater clarity the rustication as well as the details of a “Donegal Rocky” at its pinnacle of engineering and finish:
It’s worth remarking concerning the removable stinger. This spike-ended aluminum tube is easily removed, leaving the P-Lip mouthpiece strictly a graduated-bore regulation affair.
If I were more dedicated, I’d smoke this pipe a few dozen times with and without the stinger and give you a report on what purpose it serves. I wonder if the craftsmen at the factory installed the stinger to approximate the effect of the older bone tenon extensions routinely attached to Classic Range Dublin & London, Classic and Premier lines? With or without the stinger, the pipe smoker should enjoy the benefits of the “Sub-System,” which I talk about at length in The Peterson Pipe. As it is, I’ll leave that to someone else, and happily report their findings.*
Here’s the COM stamp, showing Peterson’s love of quotation marks (seen also in the “SPORTS” line) as well as a closer look at the stain and rustication technique:
Sometime between 1978 and 1980 the sterling band was dropped to a nickel band and the P-Lip abandoned in favor of the Donegal’s traditional fishtail, all of which may (or may not) indicate a lessening in the quality of the rustication.
Seen above from the 1981 Mark Twain brochure, the sterling band resurfaced, this time with the line’s first change in stain color to what some of us have in our rotations or remember: the contrast brown over black (seen in the dutch 339 hallmarked for ’81 below). The catalogs indicate some fluctuation from sterling to nickel bands on through the Late Republic era (1969-90) into the Dublin era (1991-2018), with the sterling being used (as happens so often with Peterson lines) in conjunction with a P-Lip in the 1997 catalog, but also in that year available with a nickel band and fishtail.
The dublin 120 seen above is from ’94, and as you can see, while the rustication technique is nearly identical to that of the ’81 dutch billiard, the stain color has changed for a third time to burgundy-over-black, which seems to have been the standard during most of the early Dublin era.
Sometime near the beginning of this century the Donegal was down-graded again to its original “Product” or gateway status by a nickel band and fishtail mouthpiece as seen in this B7, and while the stain remains the same, it looks less craggy:
Things would grow steadily worse in the following years, however, as the gawdawful pineapple rustication took hold, so that by around 2010 the Donegal was reduced to the etchings seen on this B39:
With the return of in-house rustication earlier this year, things are looking up for the Donegal, at least just a little, as you can see in this current 80s:
The finish and the rustication are, so nearly as I can tell, identical with that used on current rusticated SH pipes, so that’s something, right? I don’t think I’d call it a Rocky anymore, but at least it still has a vulcanite mouthpiece, a plus.
As for the future of the line—or the name—I couldn’t hazard any guesses. In the ideal Peterson of my imagination, the line would assume the craggiest crags, sharp textures and brilliant obsidian finish of the last batch of Rosslare Rusticated pipes, along with—of course—a vulcanite P-Lip. In the meantime, just to have it around, as one of the bedrock Peterson lines for almost 75 years, will do.
*The pipe is available this week on eBay here.
Fellow Pete Freek Todd Becker, selling on eBay at deadmanspipes, just sent me photos of this rare 3000-series billiard. Stamped “Dublin 3,” it’s an Éire-era (1937-48) pipe with the nickel-mount marks. I think he’s asking $200 for it, but you should check with him:
It measures 6 1/8″ long, with a bowl 1 5/8″ tall, 3/4″ chamber width, 1 3/8″ chamber depth. Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.