Clay pipes, or “Dúidíns” as they were known, were once found in almost every house in the country and smoked by both men and women. They were popular throughout the country but especially in the rural communities of Ireland and were often associated with storytellers.
The clay pipe was also one of the most important parts of any wake or funeral and it was actually considered improper to be without them. As soon as a person died, relatives or friends would buy a number of items for the funeral and these typically included a half barrel of porter, a gallon of whiskey, snuff, tobacco, and of course clay pipes. Trays of tobacco filled pipes, Guinness and whiskey would be provided for the mourners and traditionally the shank of the clay pipe was dipped into some Guinness or Whiskey, which sealed the mouthpiece and imparted a good flavor to the clay.
Clay pipes were fragile so instead of tapping the pipe against a hard surface in order to dump tobacco out, the pipe was cleaned by placing it on the coals of a fire where all the residue would burn to ashes, at the same time making the pipe more durable.
For almost 300 years the village of Knockcroghery in Co. Roscommon was the center for production of these clay pipes. By the late 1800s seven different families were involved in the manufacture of the pipes, each having their own kiln. Unfortunately, in 1921 the village was burned down by the Black & Tans during the War of Independence causing production to cease.
Today, on the original site of Curley's clay-pipe factory, the craft of clay pipe production had been revived using the tools, moulds and methods dating back almost three centuries. Each pipe is hand-made using the same skills employed by artisans centuries ago.
Have you ever smoked a clay pipe? Let me know about your experience.