On November 18th, 2021 an extraordinary event occurred in Ireland, one that everyone who loves pipes, and especially Peterson pipes, should know about. For perhaps the first time in Irish history, Charles Peterson and his Patent pipes were mentioned in the Oireachtas or Irish legislature.
Mark Daly, the Cathaoirleach (Chair) of the Seanad Éireann (Upper house of the Oireachtas), began the day’s business with a wonderful tribute to the people of Latvia and Latvians living in Ireland (who now number about 20,000) by marking Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia:
“It is proper that we acknowledge the national day of one of our EU colleagues. Latvia declared independence on 18 November 1918, after centuries of a turmoiled history. As two small European countries that have struggled for independence in those early years of the 20th century, we always share a historical connection. The Latvian-born Charles Peterson and his nephew Conrad Peterson were active participants in the struggle for independence. The office of the first President of Ireland in 1921 was, for a time, located in the family home of Charles Peterson. His famous pipes, patented by Charles Peterson, are still manufactured in Ireland and known all over the world.
This year is a particularly special year in the relationship between Ireland and Latvia. Ireland had never recognised Soviet power in Latvia. Thirty years ago this year, on 27 August 1991, Ireland along with our fellow European Community, EC, members, recognised the restoration of independence in Latvia. On 9 October that year, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gerard Collins, visited Latvia to formally establish diplomatic relationships between our two countries for the first time. There are 30,000 Latvians living in Ireland. The Latvian diaspora in Ireland is active and well integrated. Ireland and Latvia share a view that language is a treasure and that safeguarding language is hard and never-ending work. On 18 November, today, one of Dublin’s symbols, the Samuel Beckett Bridge will be illuminated in the colours of Latvia, red, white and red, in celebration of Latvian national day. Today, we celebrate those growing links and look forward to our future together as part of the European family. To Ambassador Jnis Slis and to all Latvians, including those living in Ireland, happy Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia. Saules mžu Latvijai. I hope that was a good pronunciation.”*
At the Latvian Embassy in Dublin’s Book Launch
So how did this happen? I can tell you. Sandra Bondarevka, the Latvian journalist living in Dublin who helped Gary Malmberg and myself with a great deal of historical documentation on the earliest years of Kapp & Peterson as well as the life of Charles Peterson, published the Latvian-language biography Petersons in Ireland just weeks after Gary and I launched our own K&P book at the Chicago pipe show. Her book was a cause of much celebration for Latvians in Ireland as well as in Latvia, so much so that when we went to Ireland not long after, we were invited to the Latvian Embassy to meet with her there.
As Sandra explains it, her biography in due course made its way to the Irish embassy in Latvia, and when the bilinguals there read it, they forwarded the information about one of the very first Latvians immigrating to Dublin—Charles Peterson.
Riga wasn’t too far from Charles Peterson’s village in Latvia.
Peterson was always very proud of his Latvian roots, and while the Irish in his day considered him Russian, he thought of himself as Latvian. He went back home to visit several times, including his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. His wife and children also loved Latvia, visiting thier relatives by marriage themselves many times after his death. I suspect he bought the amber for K&P’s pipes in Riga, which was then and still is the European hub for this precious resin used in many high-grade Peterson pipes until the early 1920s.
The Samuel Beckett Bridge in the background, November 18, 2021
I thought it was wonderful that the Samuel Beckett bridge in Dublin was lighted with the colors of the Latvian flag. How cool is it that that the bridge is named after Beckett and Beckett refers to a Kapp & Peterson pipe in what for me and many others is one of the greatest plays of all time, Waiting for Godot!
Sandra and I are working on the English translation of her biography and expect it to see print in the next year or two. It’s got some great anecdotes about Charles, his wives Sarah and Annie, Charles and Annie’s involvement in the Easter Rising and about he and Annie’s daughter Isolde, his brother John and cousin Conrad, who both worked at the factory.
*You can watch Senator Daly deliver his remarks in the Irish senate here.