Saturday, May 28, 2016

After Liverpool.

Click on photographs for best results
After Liverpool, with a strong breeze, we sailed up the coast towards Scotland and anchored off Staffa famous  for Mendelsson's composition Fingal's Cave.  When I saw photographs of the cave I had a deja vu  moment because it looked so much like the memorial sculpture honouring Sibelius which I had seen in Finland.  One of the reasons I would like to do this tour again is to visit the cave and Staffa.  We had freak weather here:  one side of the ship was brilliant sunshine and there was a snow storm on the other.

Nearing Scotland and the Orkneys

Not surprisingly the pools were empty.

Docking at Kirkwall with sunny skies we boarded a coach and drove round this beautiful place.

During the war Italians who had been captured during the North African campaign were sent to Orkney to work on the Churchill Barriers - a massive series of concrete causeways that seal the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow.  The channels were blocked with sunken ships and it was considered that attack from that direction by sea was impossible.  However, early in the war a German U-boat Commander took advantage of a gap in the defences and of an exceptionally high tide and sank the battleship Royal Oak where 800 men perished.  Churchill decided to lay massive barriers of stone and concrete on the sea bed from island to island.  From the coach we could see the great chunks of concrete.  More than a quarter of a million tons of stone and rock were laid on the sea-bed and on top of these were laid causeways. Above we are driving over them.

Some of the wrecked ships are still visible

Such peace and beauty where years back there had been such devastation.

This is the Miracle of Camp 60 - a beautiful Italian Chapel built by the Italian POWs from two Nissen Huts joined together.  an artistic prisoner Domenico Chiocchetti collected a small band of helpers including a cement worker, a smith, electricians and others.  The corrugated iron was hidden by plaster board - smooth above panelled below.  The altar, alar rail and holy water stoop were moulded in concrete.  Behind the altar reaching up to the sanctuary roof and buttressed by two windows of painted glass was Chiocchetti's masterpiece the Madonna and Child based on a holy picture he had carried with him throughout the war.  Now the interior made the outside of the chapel seem unsightly.  An impressive facade was erected to hide the ugly outline of the huts.  Windows of decorated glass added lightness and colour.  One of the prisoners moulded in red clay a head of Christ.  Through the years this has been marred by weather but the effect has been to make it even more touching

Chiocchetti fell in love with Barbara - an Orcadian but after the war he had to return to Italy.  He left this scarlet heart imbedded in the floor of the Chapel.  Both of them eventually married fellow country men but Chiocchetti and his wife named their first child Barbara.

Chiocchetti made this figure of St George  from a frame work of barbed wire covered in
The bond remains strong between the Orcadians and the surviving Italians and their families.


Kim Ayres said...

Did you wave on the way past SW Scotland? :)

kenju said...

Beautiful pics and an interesting story. Lovely chapel!!

Pat said...

Kim: not only waved but scoured the coastline for a glimpse of you.

Judy: with the brilliant sunshine and the beautiful scenery it was a special day.

Granny Annie said...

The embedded heart is so interesting. Love the aging chapel that just keeps looking better. Wish we could look better with aging too. LOL All the photos are wonderful.

Mage said...

A marvelous journey. From the cement blocks, sunken ship, to the beautiful chapel, this stop couldn't be beat. Wonderful.

Ms Scarlet said...

I would love to do this trip - the idea of it appeals. Wonderful pictures, Pat.

AndrewM said...

I spent a fair bit of my education inside Nissen huts, but none of them looked like that!

Pat said...

Granny Annie; the heart moved mine too. Yes it would be great to improve with age. I'm wracking my brains to think of a single thing.

Mage: yes it is great to find these things practically on one's doorstep - so to speak.

Scarlet: I'm sure you would enjoy it.

AndrewM: maybe you had to be a POW to be inspired to create it.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What a wonderful and moving trip, dear Pat. I LOVE your photo's and commentary---I wish I could go there, too. But being able to read your feelings and the description of these meaningful places is such a gift, my dear.

Sorry I have been so absent's just how life is these days.

Anonymous said...

Loving this bit of history


Pat said...

Naomi: always a pleasure to hear from you Naomi. I wonder if you ever went to Scotland on your travels.

Helen: turns out to be quite relevant this summer.

rashbre said...

Great narrative from your trip showing some of Orkney's tough history.

The chapel and environs adds a whole other layer. I was inspired by your write-up to look up Domenico Chiocchetti. There's a fascinating Independent article about him here:

Pat said...

Rashbre: than you so much for the link - it fills in all the gaps. I had bought a booklet giving much more info but too much to put in the blog so this link is very useful.
Interestingly there is no mention of 'Barbara' and my romantic heart makes me think he stayed on for her sake until he was forced to return to Italy.

Pat said...