As I started carving pipes, being a good Catholic, I started to research saints and tobacco. Pier Giorgio Frassati is the saint best known for smoking a pipe. But I came across several others, including St. John Kemble. He caught my eye because the pipe is not just a part of his life but a part of his martyrdom.
The brief story of his life is posted under the Kemble Pipe crest. What impressed me was the hour of his death. When he had finished his duties to his prayers, which as a priest he had promised to his superior to do faithfully each day, he enjoyed his last drink and his last pipe with the under-sheriff and the governor. These were the men under whom he had been sentenced to death. I would have liked to have heard that conversation. I imagine it might have gone something like this:
St. John: Well this is quite a good tobac'. And the whiskey, cheap but enjoyable.
Under-sheriff: Well I'm glad you approve of our accommodations. This whiskey is the same I take at home. Can't afford anything too nice on my allowance.
Governor: We can't afford much for you damned papist priests. Your constantly sapping our money and resources.
St. John: Don't you mean, us damned papists and our priests, You only stopped being a papists when your father died. Your career, I believe, had something to do with your decision. Keep with the faith and keep paying the fines, always uncertain of what would come next, slowly having to sell your land, one fine at a time. Instead you made your choice, security of land, position, title, ah yes, Governor.
Governor: And I spared you an extra thirty minutes so you could lecture me. Do you know how hard it is to be in constant rebellion to your King.
Under-sheriff: (laughing) What did you just say govn'r? To be in constant rebellion to the King. He's been a priest here, what, at least forty, no fifty years. There's few who've been in more constant rebellion than him.
Governor: Oh, your on his side too I see. And didn't I tell you not to call me govn'r.
St. John: I apologize, I did not intend to lecture. It is not every day one gets to enjoy a pipe and cup with the men who have decided I no longer fit for this earthly tobac' and have taken upon themselves the duty of sending me to where the angels have pipes fit for incense and the whiskey to be drunk by God himself. Why I imagine I shall have a fine time with dear St. Bridget tending to her lake of Beer.
Governor: Is that mockery I hear? How you bloody papists ramble, it is the same with all your hocus pocus.
St. John: Oh dear me, your latin is in shambles, it's "Hoc est corpus meum". And the bloody part is "Hic est Sanguinis Mei" A man of learning like yourself should surely know that. Ah, well, it seems I have come to the end of my pipe and cup is quite empty. Gentleman, the time has come for us to go. Thank you both for these thirty minutes, I will pray for you when I am enjoying heaven.