Marconi anniversary prompts memories of Italian connections
The 100th anniversary of Guglielmo Marconi’s Nobel Prize in Physics has brought to mind memories of the D-Day Dodgers in Sicily and Italy in 1943 and 1944.
As a group of Canadian signallers, we were given the job of repairing telephone sets in Taormina, Sicily.
Along with a sergeant from our own signals, we were joined by an Italian gentleman, a former electrician on Marconi’s boat, the Elettra. Unfortunately, I was unable to converse with that gentleman because the officious sergeant advised us to “Be quiet and keep working.”
The Italians had suffered much from the German occupation; everything of value had been confiscated. On one occasion, while working beside the battery generator, I was approached by a young girl carrying a doll. The doll had no clothes, and when I inquired the reason for this she looked up at me with a shy smile and answered with: “ Tedesco portara touta via.” In English: “ The Germans have taken them all” – a humourous if usual reply in those days.
On another occasion, I noted a large mound of manure just outside a house. I realized that something of value had been hidden something in the pile. A few days later the manure was shovelled away and a wicker basket was mysteriously removed.
Marconi died in 1937. He was a remarkable man for his time and totally committed to his research. His mother, Anne, was an Irish woman who was totally devoted to her son’s work. Although his father initially had trouble, he later became supportive.
The Marconi family had two half-sisters, Degna and Elettra. The latter was Marconi’s daughter from his second wife, Cristina.
Marconi was well known in Cape Breton for his visits to the wireless station at Tablehead. He also had a house in Port Morien and liked to visit Mira and other areas. Angus Ferguson Sydney