The resurrection of Alfred Dunhill


This was something I wrote a few years ago and posted on a Usenet group known as alt.smokers.pipes (yes, I am an ardent pipe smoker, have I mentioned that yet?) The idea was to lampoon the Dunhill brand, whose adherents border on the fanatical in their loyalty to this brand.

Nowadays Dunhill is more well known to the general public for its lines clothing and fashion accessories, so that many people don’t realize that Dunhill was begun as a tobacconist (what most people nowadays call a “smokeshop”) back in 1910 by a man named Alfred Dunhill. Their pipes were for many years considered the standard against which all others were judged, and even today, while some argue that the quality is not as good as before, their pipes are still eagerly sought after by collectors.

But as I said, some Dunhill aficionados are quite fanatical about this brand, and can get rather obnoxious if someone dares to impugn the reputation of their beloved Alfred, especially on a Newsgroup such as A.S.P. And so I wrote a fictional “news” post about how Alfred Dunhill had been exhumed and put on display in the shop. A lot of people liked it. The Dunhill fanatics hated it.

They would.

Dunhill Displays Alfred’s Remains

The remarkably well preserved remains of Alfred Dunhill were recently exhumed and put on display at the Dunhill Shop in Duke St, London, as part of a publicity stunt aimed at increasing foot traffic into the store. The company claimed that Alfred had actually come back to life and was ready, willing, and eager to once again serve his customers “after the time honored Dunhill traditions of superior products and really, really, extravagant pricing structures”.

At first, this seemingly misbegotten scheme worked astonishingly well. Dunhill’s customers were amazed and delighted at the idea of old Alfred come back to life, and engaged him in several fascinating conversation on such diverse topics as the afterlife, the Conservative Party, and just what the hell was he thinking when he created Royal Yacht. The manager, smelling a marketing coup in the making, even hinted that it was the wonderful restorative properties of Dunhill tobaccos that had something to do with Alfred’s sudden miraculous resurrection.

By tea time, however, customers began to be suspicious of Alfred’s return from the hereafter on account of two rather inconvenient and difficult to explain facts:

1. Alfred would become strangely uncommunicative, downright sullen really, whenever the manager nipped out to the water closet or took a sip of his tea. People were at first inclined to attribute this to his being unused to the company of the living after having been dead for so long, until the next inconvenient fact manifested itself:2. A rather peculiar smell began to emanate from Alfie’s corner of the room that could not be attributed to anything else in the store, not even the open tin of Royal Yacht.

Smelling a rat, among other things, customers loudly insisted on more solid proof of Alfred’s rejuvenation, perhaps answer some questions while the manager drank a whole cup of tea.

The ensuing row was overheard by none other than Graham Chapman, the pipe smoking member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, who happened to be in the shop that day, and who immortalized it in his “Dead Dunhill” sketch. Sadly, Dunhill got wind of this, and to avoid a lawsuit, Chapman, while leaving the dialogue almost entirely intact, changed a few minor details to hide the true inspiration for the sketch, and so the the “Dead Parrot” sketch was born.

The “Dead Parrot” sketch, of course, went on to become one of the troops most famous bits of lunacy. Most people are naturally unaware that the shopkeeper’s famous line, “He’s not dead, he’s stunned” was actually taken verbatim from the ensuing argument Chapman had with the Dunhill manager after Chapman blew a cloud of Royal Yacht smoke directly into Alfred’s face in an attempt to provoke some reaction from the supposedly resurrected founder.

4 Responses to “The resurrection of Alfred Dunhill”

  1. September 18, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    Sorry buddy but you lost me on this one. Being a woman it may be hard for me to appreciate the subtle humor of pipesmokers. Maybe you could adapt the piece for women, say with the idiot frenchman who invented the brasierre. Could increase your female readership. LOL. I’m just saying…
    (I hope you know I’m kidding you.)

  2. 2 Rich Rachlin
    September 23, 2006 at 11:50 pm

    Out of my maybe 50 pipes, over 40 years’ worth, about ten or so are Dunnys. They rank amongst the very best, right along with my (Missouri) Meerschaums.

  3. August 31, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Oh come now, Royal Yacht is not thaaaaat bad. It actually has a pleasant aroma – not anything even remotely resembling tobacco, or even smokable hay, but very pleasant (put it in sachets in your sock-drawer, as it keeps away the moths).

    At present I own three Dunhills. But I own six Charatans, and well over twenty old Comoys. Which should tell you exactly where Dunhill pipes are in my estimation.

    I’ve got an opened tin of Royal Yacht lying around somewhere. I’ll send it to you if you wish. I do not have a sock-drawer.

  4. April 24, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    My Father smoked a pipe after he gave up cigarettes at the age of ten.He lived until he was ninety one.
    He had a great collection, Dunhills, Charatans,Petersons and some Italian pipes beginning with S. We threw them out when he died.
    I didn’t realise they were collectable!!!

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