The Quilietti Family

The story of a Scots Italian family

DEMARCO Richard’s recollections

Transcripts of his early life British Library spoken transcripts 2005

Richard Demarco [RD] b. 1930 Edinburgh’s West End. Parents’ business venture setting up ‘thé dansant’ called: The Trocadero in West Princes St., inspired by institution in Portobello called: Maison Demarco. Explains why Trocadero failed.

Demarco family arrived in Edinburgh via Paris, many employed as artists’ models end of 19th century, originally from Province of Frosinone, Italy. About mountain village communities where both paternal and maternal sides of family originated, about Medieval architecture in Italy, the ‘cicioria’ culture relating to land where Cicero built his villa. Little known about paternal family origins.

His father’s parents came from village of Picinisco, father’s name: Carmino Demarco, spoke fluent Italian, brother of Cristina (known as Tini) 22 years older, she ran Demarco empire, describes her relationship with father. Richard’s perception of her as unsympathetic to his hopes for secondary education. About father’s hard work as business manager for Tini; Tini’s husband: Gabriel Demarco. Description of Maison Demarco, its atmosphere, interior design, materials used, built on lines of Parisian cafâe: La Coupole. Cont. about parents’ Trocadero venture, about RD’s mother’s birth pangs at the Trocadero. Father in charge of catering services, explains his contacts with large Edinburgh Railway hotels. Description of Maison Demarco’s ice-cream factory. Mentions father’s brother: Uncle Fred. Mentions first trip to Paris with school in 1949, then with father 1950. Detailed description of Portobello in 1930s.

 How RD lived mostly in houses close to Maison Demarco, perception of father struggling to improve life as it became harder.

Mother’s name: Elizabeth Valentina Fusco, maternal grandfather: Giovanni Fusco son of an adventurer (also Giovanni) who’d fought in Papal army against Garibaldi. Fusco’s family origins in Picinisco and Frosinone region around Montecassino, also from northern Tuscany, township of Barga. Explains how most Italian migrants to West Coast Scotland came from region around Barga, most migrants to East Coast came from Picinisco. Maternal grandmother: Maria Brattisani, her husband’s father.

Giovanni the adventurer, married Irish widow: Elizabeth MaGuinness, explains about these Irish origins. About where Giovanni and Elizabeth met, describes Giovanni as real dandy and risk taker. Maternal grandparents: Maria and Giovanni met in Edinburgh, describes how Italians inevitably established communities in different parts of Britain, whereabouts in Edinburgh Italians settled, how Maria and Giovanni left Ireland for Ulster to set up shop in Bangor, County Down, second child was Richard’s mother: Elizabeth.

About living with maternal grandparents at 9 Bath St., memory of terrifying recurring nightmares. About deep unhappiness in family, fundamental personality differences between parents. Description of mother’s character and looks, b. 1900. Description of father’s personality and looks, what naturally attracted the one to the other. Parents both died in their seventies. Demarco empire big success in contrast to small Fusco family business consisting of British style Marine Café, describes how they catered for two Rowing Clubs on Portobello Promenade. Description of grandfather Giovanni Fusco on his deathbed.

Mother’s instabilities, father’s sociability, mother’s devotion to sons. Brother Michael b. 1932, brother Louis b. 1934. Explains Tini never accepted RD’s family, ways she privileged her son Umberto over RD’s father. Realisation he’d never see Demarcos and Fuscos amicably together, understanding of Demarco family’s control over economic survival of RD’s family unit, how this fed his anxieties and insecurities. About moving house many times, father away working, memory of him teaching Richard to draw imaginary crowns of Kings and Queens.

Description of Richard’s situation: neither at home in maternal or paternal extended families, nor in wider world of Edinburgh or Scotland. Detailed description of first memory aged about three: about rail journey, elegance of 1930s, mother and sunlight. Detailed description of second early memory aged about five. Richard’s early awareness of mother’s vulnerability, couldn’t really manage her children, always going to Nursing Homes. Richard often lived with mother’s younger sister: Minnie, describes her, married to Scottish soldier: Uncle Alec, Bugler in King’s Own Scottish Borderers, Berwick-on-Tweed. Describes their home, coastline there is place of second early memory. Importance of that part of East Coast, why these memories have sustained Richard throughout life.

Cont. about difficulties between parents. Describes descent from home in 1930s Craigentinny elegant bungalow to various rented accommodation. Memories of Craigentinny house with garden, his toys, first drawings there of battlefields. Memory of getting dressed up for thrilling treat: short flight in aeroplane taking off from Portobello Promenade.

Describes childhood hobbies. Memory of acting in Portobello town hall. Memory in 1939 watching Italian newsreel in Savoy Cinema, Leith Walk, he and father feeling discomfort at sight of Italian planes attacking tribesmen of Abyssinia. Explains how many in Italian community impressed by Mussolini’s achievements but father had visited Italy in 30s knew the reality, father not imprisoned during war. Memory of Italian community using Savoy cinema on Leith Walk, remembers being chauffeur driven in Buick car by Marco Demarco from Chicago. How Richard’s sense of insecurity compounded by fear of looming war. Detailed description of circumstances when he got rheumatic fever, how he tried to protect mother from knowing how ill he was, describes later experience of having tonsils removed. How mother always made sure her three sons were immaculately dressed. Starting school at St John’s Primary, the social mix of pupils, memory of walking to school holding hands with small girl under police protection from stone throwing Protestant Action groups who defined Pope as the Devil. Neither parents educated beyond age fourteen, whole Fusco family intensely religious, Demarco family much less so. About mother’s youngest brother: Giovanni Fusco who became a priest. Tini and Gabriel became Freemasons. Richard describes himself when he was Altar Boy, how he would accompany the priest to RC cemetery leading funeral procession, about the priest called: Canon Franklin. Memories of being in the choir.

Detailed description about being brought up in Roman Catholic faith, why it was bedrock of Richard’s childhood life. Its importance to him as a human being, quotes from poem by Hugh MacDiarmid. How he won religious knowledge prize aged seven, about Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Teologica like beautifully sculpted structure that defends our capacity to use reason. Importance of learning plainsong in Portobello choir, sings examples, about his singing voice, his father’s perfect pitch, how father sang Italian Neapolitan songs at home. Sublime music of Christian festivals and funerals hugely important to RD as child, took him beyond insecurities of home life, learning Latin catechism bedrock to his internationalism, Catholic means Universal. Memories of Mass at St. John’s Parish Church in Portobello, his grandmother Fusco giving him cards for his missal. Important way Christianity based on food, sense in which Catholic Mass is fantastic theatre, describes differences between Catholic and Protestant religious ceremonies.

About prayer cards grandmother gave Richard – importance of prayer in everyday life. Explains why supreme image for Richard is The Pieta. About how this links up with his understanding of modern art as a ‘cri de coeur’, example in work of Damien Hirst, story of meeting him and what Richard told him. About communion between living and dead through prayer, artists’ endeavours through the soul that links past, present and future, not about aesthetics but profound religious sense of sacred nature of all things. Argues vehemently against Stephen Hawking’s notion that one can know the mind of God, Richard’s fascination with ‘Big Bang’ theory, his gratitude to grandmother for gift of prayer, about impact in childhood of being at grandfather’s deathbed. Sense in which concept of The Trinity holds Europe together. Sundays during childhood. 1949 first journey to London and Paris. About 1950 journey with father and group of English pilgrims to Rome, describes attending Mass in St. Peter’s with father. About meeting German boy there who became pen friend, importance of common bond as Catholics, cherishes own religious roots, great interest in writings of Catholics and lapsed Catholics, read: G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Donne, Andrew Marvell. About important heritage of Declaration of Arbroath. About singing in choir from early teens into twenties. Story of how in 1943 almost had to succumb to family pressure to leave school and work in Maison Demarco, this fate avoided because of support from artist Betty Maxton, explains this.

Father’s struggle to be independent of Tini, short period worked for Forestry Commission in Ledburn, RD describes his upset seeing elegant father tackling manual work, then father’s work in Largs as manager of three storey building: The Moorings, describes difference from East coast, pleasures being beside the sea looking towards mountainous Isle of Arran, inspiring light in the West, loved watching all the boats sailing up and down the Clyde. Happy to escape from Portobello where suffered discrimination as Italian child, story of being beaten up in shower of Public Baths by 16 year old thugs. Description of The Mooring’s building, architect John Houston. Story of birthday present of ‘expensive’ toy yacht, how he sailed it on Largs pond with pals. About his love of boats, watching troop’s ships, theatre of war before his eyes. Description of family home in tenement abutting The Moorings, story of how family were first evicted as ‘aliens’, then taken in by kind landlady. Description of Catholic primary school in Largs with demented over-worked head teacher, total contrast to St. John’s in Portobello well run by Ursuline nuns. Memory of another fabulous present from parents: leather bound copy of: ‘Jane’s Fighting Ships’, describes it and model ships he made from illustrations, how and where he sailed them. Memory of walk with mother up ‘The Hilly Brae’, her fears, her delicate health, her agoraphobia, kindness of both parents but their inability to give him sense of security. Description of day trip to Millport by Paddle Steamer

Another voyage with mother to Kyles of Bute. Description of rail journey from Edinburgh to Largs. Story of finding older boy hit by car, realisation of human vulnerability. Story of seeing Largs hotel in flames. Extraordinary story behind reason why father unable to continue as manager of the Moorings. About competition in Largs between Castelvecchi and Nardini family businesses. Cont. about horror of the primary school in Largs, back in Portobello became dux at St. John’s Primary. September 1943 began in A1 class of Holy Cross Academy. Explanation and analysis of why down graded by fourth year, state of anxiety and insecurity caused by family environment: devastation of Italy during war, no Demarcos imprisoned but their business ruined, death of Tini and Gabriel, father struggling against the odds. RD’s feelings that difficult childhood good preparation for rough and tumble of the art world. Story of RD receiving Sacrament of Confirmation from Archbishop MacDonald. Memory of seeing Snow White and Seven Dwarfs at cinema. Memory of sacred choral music at Mass especially at funerals. About how and why he’d been happy in Largs. Cont. about watching ships on the Clyde, how he made model ships from scrap wood, all RD’s early art work has maritime subjects of sea, fishing, boats, harbours. Feels strong sense of loss today because all these Victorian Clydeside seaside resorts have been allowed to fall into state of neglect and sadness.

About RD’s brothers Michael and Louis. About first job whilst student: Clerk in St. Enoch’s Hotel Glasgow, second job: Kitchen Clerk in Caledonian Hotel Edinburgh, describes life in kitchen, following year in reception team, describes dress, other members of team. About John Curran, how he persuaded brother Michael to go into hotel work rather than train in architecture, about RD working to supplement grant. About Michael’s rise through hotel business to manager of Gleneagles and other important hotels, about Michael working abroad whilst RD student at Edinburgh College of Art [ECA]. About strain of being mother’s confidante, cont. about father’s sociability and failed business enterprises, how father should’ve been a singer, how eventually with brother Louis, RD’s father set up cafâe in William St. Cont. about demise of Maison Demarco. About Fusco’s cafâe. Cont. about times RD farmed out to grandparents’ home, his love of the house, the atmosphere, grandmother’s dumplings. About activities of uncles during war. About uncle Noel’s education, RD’s envy. RD captain of Holy Cross School, captain of rugby team, vice captain of cricket team, captain of Afton House, always trying to improve things especially school dress. About significance of Catholic education. Explanation of his membership of Edinburgh Schools Citizenship’s Association, RD’s own shyness, his desire to speak publicly but unsure of himself. Early days at ECA, describes sense in which exciting but anxious to acquire skills for useful employment, realisation hidden agenda to teach. About his indomitable drive to improve organisations he became involved with.

 Describes seminal experience seeing La Comedie Française production: ‘L’Ecole des Femmes’ at Lyceum theatre in first year of Edinburgh Festival [EF] 1947. About work during following year in Patrick Geddes Outlook Tower, how he met actor Duncan Macrae [DM], through him got to see rehearsals: ‘The Threi Estaites’, fell in love with theatre. Work in Caledonian Hotel meant meeting people like T.S. Eliot, Clare Bloom, Richard Burton. About schooling, describes English teacher Mr Hugh Toner, RD’s love of essays by pupil: John Scolan. Description of how teacher might’ve seen RD at that time. Description of art teacher: Miss Teresa Clarke, story of how she made RD sit at desk previously occupied by Eduardo Paolozzi [EP], about EP’s drawings. Other big support for RD: Mrs Betty Henderson-Blyth, temporary French teacher married to artist Robert Henderson-Blyth [RHB]. Story of how and why RD failed English exams, knew he would go to art school, explains other possibilities he would’ve liked. ECA 1948 – 1953, about fact his Diploma in Art signified ‘DA’ (damn all), had to undergo horrors of Moray House Teacher’s Training 1954. Story about mercifully failing interview to teach at St Columbas school in Cowdenbeath, how wife Anne got the job. About his wife, how they met, her family background, her schooling, RD’s first serious girl friend. About reading, favourite book Captain Marriot’s:’Mr Midshipman Easy’, loved books about public schools, offered more than he’d encountered in his life. About growing love for rugby and cricket whilst at school, reasons why soccer didn’t appeal.

Story about how RD discovered more sophisticated standards for sport in public schools, his own efforts to improve standards of dress in Holy Cross School’s teams. RD’s love of books about public schools by Gunby Hadeth, illustrated by brothers: C.E. and C. M. Brock, also P.G. Wodehouse’s: ‘Psmith’. About how seriously he took cricket, first loss of faith in adults if they didn’t want something better for school, story of playing forty four cricket matches in one season, how he helped establish first ever RC Parish Cricket Club: St. John’s Cricket Club, describes atmosphere, explains commitment involved. Realisation that he could also achieve similar environment in world of art, describes how later he formed another kind of club gathered around Edinburgh’s Laigh Coffee House and own home at: 29, Frederick St. in 50s, describes types of gatherings and people. Detailed description of trip to London and Paris, just nineteen years old, experience of seeing: Les Ballets des Champs Elysâees’ production of ‘Carmen’ starring Zizi Jeanmaire, Roland Petit, Leslie Carron. First mention of Jim Haynes [JH], parties at his Doune Terrace basement flat. About JH converting old antique shop in Charles St. into world dedicated to paperback books, how it attracted John Calder [JC] and world of international writers. Story of how RD first met JH. About RD’s and wife Anne’s first rented home, how they bought top floor flat in Frederick St., realisation they created a cafâe society as opposed to a pub society. Reasons why stuttered as child, about overwhelming fear of speaking in public, how he managed to cure himself of that. Description of himself as child, his continuing difficulties with writing, how he tackles painting, way he uses language, the teacher inside himself, importance of silence, living life amazed by each day. Cont. about reading during teenage years. Cont. story of obtaining better uniforms for rugby team from headmaster, explains why he loved team games. Describes huge impact, aged eighteen, of film: ‘Hamlet’ with Lawrence Olivier in lead role and Alexander Korda’s film version of J.B. Priestley’s novel: ‘Things to Come’.

cinema as refuge during childhood, describes his first colour movie: ‘Trail of the Lonesome Pine’, impact of several other films. Cont. about: ‘Things to Come’ designed by Moholy-Nagy, RD excited and frightened by modern world, about love for ‘art deco’. Reasons why studied war machines as child, games and collections he made, how he created own worlds with plasticine. Cont. impact of different films, importance of humour, about Cameo Cinema where saw Italian films with cousins, his longing to be part of larger world beyond Scotland. Explains how this longing became source of his passion to create exotic world of theatre in Scotland. First play at Traverse: ‘Huis Clos’ by J.P. Sartre, how he supported the Gateway Theatre Company owned by Church of Scotland, about Sadie Aitken the doyenne of theatre world in Scotland. Cont. hatred of Moray House training and teaching practice. National Service for two years, soldier in the Infantry, training in Barracks at Berwick: the King’s Own Scottish Border’s Barracks. Describes sudden shock after art school and home life, surprise to be sent into 25th regiment, mainly among farmer’s sons, about witnessing destructive nature of power in action. Story about being given boots for two left feet without metal tips, describes consequences. Description of Passing Out Parade, being on guard duty, describes terrible diet. Mentions future wife Anne’s family living near barracks, able to escape and visit them. About getting attention of a Second Lieutenant because RD played rugby, earmarked for Royal Army Educational Corps.

Learning to use bayonet, graduated as sergeant in Royal Education Army Corps, taught one and half years in royal army ordinance main depot store at Bicester nr Oxford, about people he taught, the pay, hitching back to Edinburgh many weekends. Attended RC Masses at Chaplaincy of Dominican Priory, Oxford, through this met RD’s first patron: John Thompson [JT], describes him, his background, his heroism during war. About getting to know Oxford and London. About collaboration with JT, sense in which JT wonderful mentor, about JT’s two adopted children: Mateus Labor and Sebastian Litmann, how they came to study in Edinburgh for a while, RD and wife Anne looked after them, what became of them, how they died. Mentions his German pen friend: Peter Jansen, first met in 1950 when RD travelled to Rome with father. What JT gave RD: intellectual rigour, the desire to be an artist connected with science, and boosted his feelings of being part of large family of RC church, a part of Europe and part of defeated Germany. RD went into army September 1954, out of it September 1956, quotes his number by heart: 23065548. About JT’s upbringing, describes his funeral, mentions JT’s biography being written by Dr Paul Weindling. Description of RD’s and Anne’s wedding. About Anne’s parents, how British and Protestant they were but not big problem for RD’s family. Cont. Anne got teaching job RD applied for, how RD got work in newly established Irish Christian Brothers school: Duns Scotus Academy in Corstorphine. 

Great affection between RD’s mother and Anne, cont. about Anne’s parents and sister Elizabeth, family from Berwick-on-Tweed, how Elizabeth became Hotel Receptionist, met and married Thai medical student Sert Sukhum, story of how they lived in Bangkok, sent their children to school in Edinburgh, RD and Anne looked after them. Explains feelings about marriage. Description of flat at 29, Frederick St., mentions some of famous people who came there such as: Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Johnny Dankworth, how supportive Anne was, describes how they entertained. Description of murals of Mediterranean scenes RD painted on dining room wall. Describes first commission from Arts Council to paint: ‘Spirit of Repertory Theatre’ Descending upon City of Dundee, largest canvas ever known in Scotland, subject chosen by Richard Buckle RD’s second patron. Mentions work done for friends John Martin , Douglas Soeder at Forth Studios. Amusing story connected to RD’s illustrations for BBC history booklet publication for schools, also mentions illustrations in 1970s for BBC Radio for Schools: ‘Songs of London’ booklet. Teaching at Duns Scotus success story for pupils entering art school, led to RD teaching some evening classes at ECA. Story of how he improved student attendance with his teaching methods, put on exhibition of their work, heavily criticised by certain members of Design School staff, RD removed from ECA 1962 despite support from John Kingsley Cook, Head of Design. Description of how he began helping with establishment of Traverse Theatre in building in Lawnmarket.

about teaching at Duns Scotus Academy from 1956 to 1957, describes building, the children, his art classroom, his budget, also teaching rugby and religion, discovering his love for teaching, his methodology, how school run by Irish Christian Brothers, eventually closed for lack of funding. About brilliant music teachers: Miles Baster, Arthur Oldham, their backgrounds and careers. Cont. about RD’s teaching methods, how to educate ‘no-hopers’, everyone has creative potential. Cont. about teaching at Duns Scotus, memories of other teachers, sense of doing something worthwhile, importance of taking schoolboy’s art into public arena, exhibitions of their work at Gateway Theatre and Paperback Bookshop (opened 1959). During last years took them to his Gallery, how he wanted them to feel ‘at home’, how he presented music and theatre in gallery. Gallery had function and purpose of a school. Mention of beginning of his creation of Edinburgh Arts in 1972 inspired by Black Mountain College in America. Journey to America in 1959. First meeting JH 1957 EF. About books in bookshop. Mention of Hector MacIver, how he taught at Royal High School with same ideals as RD, how he brought Dylan Thomas to recite to school children. Both frustrated by limitations of teaching. About how RD’s energies went into creation of Traverse, sense in which both his home and Traverse were ‘Salons’, RD a ‘Master of Ceremonies’ an art form in itself. Lessons from his father: identity of a place is about the people in it. Deep questions about concept of a gallery. How RD enlisted Traverse Theatre Club members to participate in Traverse. Story of how on second night of first production actress Colette O’Neill stabbed by mistake. Story of replacement actress. About finances. How RD dealt with media, how he became salesman of art they exhibited. About first exhibition at Traverse; work of Anne Redpath’s son, David Michie. Mentions some subsequent exhibitions.

Next exhibition: ‘The Canadian 101’, took place in ECA, explains costs, explains how it came about. Three important artists: Michael Snow, Jack Bush, Les Levine, explains work of each. Story of ‘shock factor’ in artist Greg Curnoe’s work, how it caused strained relations between UK and Canadian governments. About RD’s visit to Canada to organise exhibition in mid winter 1968, what aspects RD found disappointing about exhibition, much more excited by Italian avant-garde exhibition he’d put on in 1967 collaborating with National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome. 1968 invited to Poland, then Romania. About jet lag. Canadian trip stark contrast to trips to Poland and Romania which were seminal experiences convincing him that his future work must be: creation of European perspective in Scotland.

Story of naming gallery. 1967 RD resigned part-time teaching. How RDG building bought and financed, no funds from Arts Council, reflections about this. Cont. about Traverse, NF not satisfied with premises, involvement of TM, his farming interests, honorary president responsible for Traverse, move to Grassmarket where twice the seating plus studio but never same atmosphere. What RD initiated during last months with Traverse, involvement of Max Stafford-Clark. RD’s view of Traverse today. Demarco European Art Foundation [DEAF] of today only artistic endeavour left with original spirit of Traverse. Cont. story of naming the gallery, how it became: The Richard Demarco Gallery [RDG]. Mentions his discovery in Krakow of Krzystofory Gallery with spirit of RD’s gallery. About lay-out in Melville Crescent building. Mentions some events in first years. Establishment of Association of Friends of The RDG enabled them to invite leading authorities to speak on art. Through ‘EA’s Summer Schools’ [EASS] RD turned Gallery into place of education. Mentions his fondness for theatre of Lindsay Kemp, how he introduced first women’s theatre: Jane Arden’s Feminist Theatre. About RD’s fascination with Cumbria, mentions many artists from the area, story of how Kurt Schwitters’ greatest masterpiece: the Mertzbarn was saved in 1961. About David Baxandall’s connections with Winifred and Ben Nicholson also from Cumberland, how Winifred supported Li Yuan Chia [LYC] in setting up his gallery in Brampton as the LYC Museum

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