Francesco D'Inverno

Francesco D'Inverno
Villa Latina

Alfonso Pacitti

April 2024

On 20 August 1940, the body of an unknown man was found by Sandy Ferguson a nine-year-old evacuee from Rutherglen, Glasgow, on the South Ayrshire coast. Two days later, the as yet unidentified individual was interred in a plain black coffin in an unmarked grave in Girvan's Doune Cemetery, in the presence of the local Catholic Parish Priest.

The man was found near the hamlet of Gamesloup, Carleton Bay just south of Lendalfoot. The body, wearing a life-jacket was later identified as Francesco D'Inverno from London. He had been onboard the Arandora Star when it was sunk off the coast of Ireland on July 2, 1940. His was the only body to be washed up on the coastline of mainland Scotland - all the others had been driven by the prevailing winds to the shorelines of the Western Isles.

It appears that the body was identified by some water-soaked papers found on the body. Francesco is one of the very few victims to have his death formally recorded in the Scottish death registers. A death certificate was issued on 9 October 1940 following information being made available by the local Procurator Fiscal. The certificate is available on ScotlandsPeople

Newspaper reports from that time in the Ayr Advertiser can be viewed here.

For reasons unknown, Francesco's family were not informed that his body had been recovered and buried. Up until very recently they believed that he had been lost at sea.

Francesco had been living in London during the 1930s. According to a marriage certificate unearthed by Michael Donnelly earlier this year, Francesco was married to widow Ginevera Tasselli on April 20, 1939 at St. Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell, London. The certificate indicates that he worked as a “head plateman,” at Selsdon Park Hotel in Croydon.

The couple, along with Ginevra's four children from a previous marriage, lived at 57 King’s Cross Road, London until he was arrested as an “enemy alien” shortly after Italy entered the war in June 1940.

In May 2023, South Ayrshire Provost Iain Campbell, received an email from Michael Donnelly, a member of the Italian Garden Improvement Group (IGIG) based at St Andrew's Cathedral Glasgow), seeking his help to erect a plaque at Girvan's Doune Cemetery - in honour of Francesco. Provost Campbell contacted Ritchie and Lorna Conaghan of the Girvan and District Great War Project (GADGWP). Together with Ralph Gonnella (also from IGIG), they set out to solve this 83-year old story.

Ritchie and Lorna commenced their painstaking research at the cemetery. Beginning in the general location where they knew Francesco was buried, they built up a picture of where he could be. With the help of staff at the Masonhill Crematorium in Ayr, where the burial recordfs are kept, they were able to locate the precise location of the grave. They also discovered that although Francesco was buried in Common Ground, no-one else was buried in the same lair as he. This meant that rather than put up a simple plaque, a headstone could be erected to honour Francesco.

Armed with this information, and further details provided by Michael and Ralph, Ritchie was able to contact the descendants of Francesco to their great surprise and joy. They were able to provide a photo of Francesco and finally the full story was complete.

Sandy Ferguson, by now 92 years old, who had been trying in vain for many years to discover the identity of the man he had found, was now able to fill in the missing pieces and see a picture of Francesco. Sadly Sandy passed away shortly afterwards and was not able to attend the unveiling ceremony.

Francesco D'Inverno

This new headstone for Francesco was unveiled at a moving ceremony at Doune Cemetery, Girvan on 17 April 2024. Poignantly, this date, nearly 84 years after his death, was also the date of his birth some 123 years earlier.
The event was attended by over 150 people including around twenty of Francesco's family, now living in Kent. Among the dignitaries were the Lord-Lieutenant of Ayrshire and Arran, Sheriff Iona Sara McDonald and South Ayrshire Provost Iain Campbell. In addition
At the graveside, The Lord-Lieutenant, Lord Provost, Ritchie Conaghan and Ralph Gonella spoke and Charlotte Tasselli Arnold, from Southfleet, the great-granddaughter of Ginevra Tasselli, gave a fitting tribute to Francesco. The gravestone was consecrated by local priest Fr Benjamin Mkeri.

Link to some of the official photographs from the day courtesy Epic Sky Media.

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