141. The B.P.L. (Briar Pipes Limited) – Peterson Connection
“Not every Irish pipe is a Peterson” writes a Ukrainian dealer known as Very Keen on Pipes. Can it be so? I chanced on a B.P.L. bent rhodesian not long ago which got me wondering about possible connections the company might have had with Peterson, especially since the pipe seemed a dead ringer for Peterson’s own 80s:
The measurements are, for all intents and purposes, identical. Renia Carsillo, who used to write for Tobaccopipes.com, wrote that “In the 1970s and early 1980s, a small company called BPL (Briar Pipes Limited) were sold primarily at airport duty-free shops. It is a common misconception that these tobacco pipes are actually Peterson pipes, since Peterson did sell pipes labeled ‘Shannon’ at the Shannon Airport during this time. However, BPL pipes are not Peterson’s, despite what you might see on eBay.”
But her article seems to have derived much of its substance from Pipedia:
“B.P.L., which stood for Briar Pipes Limited, was a Dublin company selling pipes primarily in airport duty free shops in the 1970s and 1980s, including a line stamped “Shannon Airport”. Because Peterson had a line of “Shannon” pipes also sold at the airport carrying the name “Shannon”, this brand is often suspected to be a subbrand of that company. There is no evidence, however, supporting such a claim, and Briar Pipes Limited appears to be a wholly separate company. Among other lines, B.P.L. sold a Killarney pipe.”
Mystifying photos like this one of an unsmoked Peterson lovat from the first decade of the Early Republic era (1949-58), sold a while back on eBay, only compound the confusion:
How did the BPL bag get in the Peterson box?
The Ukrainian dealer I quoted above also posted a Dublin that looks remarkable like Peterson’s own shape 120:
I asked Yiorgos Manesis, the manager at James Fox in Dublin, if he remembered anything about the company, and he in turn asked David McGrane, who worked in James Fox for 46 years, 20 of them as manager. David wrote back:
“I do remember the factory; it was called Briar Pipes Limited. It was situated as part of Tobacco Distributors at Magennis Place, and was run by a guy known as Mr. Peacock. I don’t think they actually turned pipes, but Peacock was very proud of his staining. They used the logo B.P.L in white on the stem.
I believe, that whilst there was a good number of tobacconists in Dublin to be supplied, most of their pipes were sent to Shannon Airport. Any time we tried to purchase their pipes we were told, ‘’you cannot have them they are for the export market.’’ At that time, they did a very fine range of pipes which were black sandblast with shamrocks engraved on the bowl. B.P.L ceased to exist when Mr Peacock ceased to exist. I think that was around the late 70’s or early 80’s.”
Yiorgos, himself a wealth of pipe, cigar and tobacco knowledge, rooted around in the fantastic rooms beneath James Fox and came a few days later with these photos of a black sandblast B.P.L. which David was talking about, which is a dead ringer for Peterson’s 106:
David also mentions the engraved shamrocks, and as I spotted another B.P.L. (Peterson’s shape 69) with engraved shamrocks, I thought I ought to document the shank stamps on the bent Rhodesian seen at top:
I also found photos floating around of a B.P.L. Shannon Airport squat bulldog, suspiciously like Peterson’s 493S:
But there was also a photo of a striking dublin bell saddle, unlike any shape I’ve seen in the Peterson chart, of a B.P.L. “Tally Ho”:
And that brings me to the end of my questions. So know we know, for sure: there was another Irish pipe maker, at least in a manner of speaking.
I’ve sent the B.P.L. 80s off to Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes to restore the stem, which was far beyond my skill set, and will repost his work soon. For now, take a look at these parting shots–carving is as good as any I’ve seen from Peterson, maybe better:
Thanks to Yiorgos Manesis and David McGrane
of PipeDivan and James Fox.ie