‘The Flowers of the forest are all wede away’ *
So many events had been called off as a sign of respect for the death of Her Majesty the Queen that we thought even Barga’s Scottish weekend might also be cancelled.
We should not have been so concerned. The Queen loved her Scotland, and especially her pipers and country dancing when in residence at Balmoral. What could be more apt for us that to enjoy those activities in remembrance of the joyful aspects of her seventy years reign, her spry sense of humour and her devoted sense of duty and concern for her subjects? So on the day when Her Majesty’s coffin lay in state in Edinburgh we too enjoyed a memorable day in the streets of Italy’s most Scottish town, Barga.
Barga’s Scottish connection stems largely from the emigration of many of its citizens in search of work in Scotland which they amply found working first as figurinai (or statuette-makers) and then as restaurateurs, particularly in fish and chip shops. Those days of Barghigiana poverty have long since gone. Barga citizens who struck it lucky in Scotland returned to build elegant art nouveau villas in their birth-town (described in my post at A New Town at Barga – From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Three (wordpress.com) . Those who remained in Ultima Thule built up thriving businesses. We met one of them at Barga: someone who designed Italy’s own tartan!
Michael Lemetti is a 3rd generation Scots-Italian from Falkirk, in Central Scotland whose family has always been mainly involved in the retail and catering business. Michael researched the concept of an Italian Tartan – resulting in the first approved ethnic tartan in Scotland – The Italian National Tartan which was registered in 2004 with the Scottish Tartan Authorities and has also received the approval of the Italian Government. Sandra bought a lovely Italian tartan woollen scarf from Michael. After all she has the right to wear one, both her parents being Italian!
Sustenance for the afternoon was guaranteed by at least five different varieties of Scottish brew including a red beer at 8% proof, whiskeys galore and ..
The highlight of the afternoon was the entrance of two bagpipers in full regalia. I love the swirl of the pipes! And when the pipers intoned a pibroch in memory of Her late Majesty I absolutely melted. There can be nothing more evocative than to hear this haunting classical form of Highland music with its subtle ornamentations and complex variations spread not just through the land of heather and red deer but across the mediaeval streets of old Barga to the peaks of the Apuan mountains.
If this wasn’t enough to stir the emotions a display of Scottish dancing with invitations for the spectators to join in followed. Again, as with the pipers, there was a wonderful ethnic amalgam of Italian and Scottish participation for so many Scots in Barga have Italian blood in them and, conversely, so many Italians have ‘Albione’ coursing through their veins.
In these strange days marked by solemn ceremony and sombre grief at the passing of what may truly be described as perhaps the greatest monarch and most gracious Lady of our time I felt it was totally appropriate to enjoy dancing and piping and enter that uplifting atmosphere which the Queen greatly delighted in during her Balmoral summers especially as it was for her pleasure and freedom from the stiff formalities of Buckingham palace.
*Flowers of the Forest, or The Fluuers o the Forest is a Scottish folk tune and work of war poetry commemorating the defeat of the Scottish army, and the death of James IV, at the Battle of Flodden in September 1513.
It was played at the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901 which explains its subsequent popularity.