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 toddlandonbecker@gmail.com.

 

 

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Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
1 year ago

The ‘pineapple’ rustication has never appealed to me and I’ve recently seen a lovely spigot for sale with perfect shape and stem curve but with that unappealing finish; I’m afraid I will not be buying as a result. I wonder if it was an economic means of creating the surface effect, but whatever the reason, it has always put me off. Beautiful models in the photographs and here’s hoping that the turnaround in style will continue for the better…
Thanks again. S.

Al Jones
Al Jones
1 year ago

Great job detailing the lineage of this finish! I definitely appreciate the earlier style.

Jack Gillespie
1 year ago

The only Donegal Rocky I have is an 80s that I bought in the mid 00’s. The hallmark is a W in the box with the corners cut, so I think it’s from 2007. I thought I bought it sooner than that but I guess not.

Anyway, I don’t like the … what’d you call it? … the “gawdawful pineapple rustication”? Yeah, I completely agree — it’s “gawdawful” indeed! The rustication on my Donegal 80s is spectacular!

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
1 year ago

I am happy to say that I do not own one of those ” gawdawful ” pipes. The only Donegal Rocky I have is a xl 264 bought in the 90ties, silver band and p lip. The rustication is nothing to write home about, although craggy.
Otherwise with my rustic House Pipe, some Sherlocks and a 1890 – 1990 straight pipe. You can see that work has been done on those.
My NAP pipe is also rustic, not bad – I like it.

Earl McGee
Earl McGee
1 year ago

Have only 1 old Donegal Rocky, luckily the rare shape 495. It, of course, had a rustication worthy of the name rocky. Current rustication of Petes is getting there but it has a ways to go to reach the levels of rustication done then or the late 80’s. My 1989 Deerstalker is wonderfully rusticated.

Jack Gillespie
1 year ago

Mark,

Do you know if or when Peterson will release a new Hallmark guide? The latest one I’ve seen only goes to 2010.

Thanks for all of your work on our beloved Peterson pipes!

Jack Gillespie
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Thanks, Mark! I plan on getting the book very soon! If the 2010 chart is wrong, does the W on my Donegal 80s really mean 2007?

Janez
Janez
1 year ago

Hi Mark,

as there is no possibility to comment the newest entry id like ask you if its possible to get the new Basil Rathbone book in Germany. unfortunately amazon won’t send it to my home address.

Greetings Janez

dario
dario
8 months ago

Dear Mark, first of all thanks for your great work on Peterson pipes. I have some of them in my pipes collection and all are great smokers! among them i’ve also one of my granddad pipes that finally i received back with a new stem since the original one was broken. This pipe is a sterling silver rocky Donegal 120F coming with a fishtail stem with stinger and it’s one of the lightest pipe I have and smoking it is a pleasure. I’d like to ask you some questions on this pipe. First of all what does the F stays… Read more »