Monday, December 26, 2011

A Kemble Cigar?

There is an English expression, particularly popular in the far western English county of Herefordshire, that the last pipe smoked on any occasion is called the "Kemble pipe" and the last drink had is called the "Kemble cup." The expression comes from the story of the martyrdom of a Roman catholic priest named John Kemble.

John Kemble was born in Rhydicar Farm, St. Weonard's in Herefordshire, England in 1599, son of John Kemble and Anne Morgan. He was ordained a priest at Douai College in 1625, and was sent back to England where he ministered the people of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire without event for 54 years. In his eightieth year, he was accused of participating in the concocted plot of Titus Oates, a rumored "Popish Plot" where the Protestant King Charles II was to be murdered to allow the installation for his Catholic brother James. This false accusation led to his arrest. He was charged with treason, though probably entirely innocent of the affair. In any event, though absolved of participation in the "Popish Plot," he was found guilty of treason for simply saying Mass and being a Catholic priest, but illegal at the time. He spent months in jail, first in Hereford Gaol, and the in Newgate Prison in London, before his execution by hanging. Prior to his execution, it is said that, after having engaged in his devotions, he calmly smoked a pipe and drank a cup of sack with the under-sheriff and the governor of the prison. This gave rise to the expressions "Kemble pipe" and "Kemble cup."

St. John Kemble was one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 25, 1970.

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