The Quilietti Family

Your Quilietti family heritage

DEMARCO, Richard

Richard Demarco,

Richard in Dunbar 2012

Ricardo Demarco was born on the 9th of July 1930 at 9 Grosvenor Street, Edinburgh.   His father was Carmino Demarco and his mother was Elizabeth Valentina Fusco.  His Grandparents were John Fusco and Maria Brattesani.

Richard’s recollections –

Richard’s Mum and Dad are standing behind the bride and groom

Elizabeth Fusco’s mother was Mary Brattisani, sister of Valentina Brattisani Quilietti.  He had two brothers Michael born in 1931 and Louis born in 1934.

Richard Demarco's family tree 4 generations

Richard Demarco’s family tree 4 generations


The following was extracted from Edinburgh Evening News on an interview given by Rikkie before his Eightieth birthday

I was a breach birth in a nursing home in Grosvenor Street. Then, when I grew up in Portobello, I would play on the beach with my brother. One night, when I was nine, we watched this burning plane coming towards us. It looked like a dragon. I could see the German pilots inside, it was so close.

“Then, suddenly, the sand was flying around us like little golden jewels, and we realised there was a Spitfire behind the plane, shooting it down. If we’d been hit that would have been it. For the tide was coming in too, so if a bullet hadn’t killed us, it would have been the water.

“I saw the news about the pilots’ deaths in the paper the next day and I asked my parents if I could go to the funeral. There are photographs from that day with a small child in among all the adults, and that is me.”

That perhaps is still Demarco. He has a boyish charm and a belief in la dolce vita which he cannot repress. Grey, Presbyterian, pre-Festival Edinburgh failed to quash it. The Scottish Arts Council, which at one point withdrew all his funding, claiming he “had dishonoured art”, failed to quell it. It is the Italian in him, no doubt.

His family came from the southern Italian village of Picinisco his father eventually pitching up in Portobello, where like many immigrants from his native land, he opened an ice-cream parlour.

Similarly, it meant that when war was declared in 1939, the Demarcos were, like all other Italian families, regarded as foreign nationals and interred.

“I’ll be at a memorial mass in St Mary’s on Saturday to remember all those lost on the Andorra Star,” he says. “It was a terrible time, a time I realised it wasn’t good to be Italian in Scotland. I didn’t go to school the day Italy declared war – I would have been lynched. The windows of Italian families’ businesses were smashed in. People said there was blood running down Elm Row from Valvona and Crolla’s, but thankfully it was just red wine. I don’t think Churchill realised what he was doing. I do think, though, that the government now needs to apologise.”

He adds: “But without the war there would have been no Festival, no Traverse, no Demarco Gallery, no Iron Curtain, no Demarco archive. Art is the one language that links everything, it is a healing balm. Joseph Beuys – who was greater than Picasso – said that art is capital, that it is wealth, the commonwealth, for everyone.”

Born on 9 July, 1930, Demarco attended Holy Cross Academy, where he was a pupil when the first Edinburgh Festival was launched, opening his mind to music, theatre and art from foreign lands. “I saw the Vienna Philharmonic play German music in 1947. Can you imagine? It was very brave.”

He went on to study graphic design at Edinburgh College of Art, where he met life model Sean Connery working part-time as a receptionist in the Caledonian Hotel and welcoming such Hollywood luminaries as Richard Burton and Audrey Hepburn to Edinburgh.

On graduating he spent two years’ National Service with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, before re-entering civilian life as a teacher at Duns Scotus Academy in Corstorphine.

It was there that he realised he wanted to open the eyes and minds of the wider public too.

“I realised that I wanted an Edinburgh where the spirit of the Festival was there all the time. I wanted that internationalism. I didn’t want a locked down, inward-looking Edinburgh 11 months of the year.”

With the backing of his artist wife Anne, he and bookshop owner friend Jim Haynes launched the Traverse Theatre and Gallery at the foot of Victoria Street in 1963. “It broke new ground. It was about creating an atmosphere, a place where people could think differently, have that open mind that they did when the Festival came.”


Unsurprisingly he was soon thinking bigger and wanted to move. The Traverse trustees didn’t agree, and so in 1966 the Richard Demarco Gallery was opened in Melville Street. A year later he quit his teaching job and took up the post of director of contemporary visual arts exhibitions for the EIF. “The Festival director Peter Diamond said to me ‘you can have the job but you have to pay for it’ – so I raised £2.8 million over the 20 years. They were disturbing exhibitions, they asked big questions.”

In 1972 he also became director of Connery’s Scottish International Education Trust. “By that time I was going back and forth behind the Iron Curtain so often to bring artists here, that at one point I was asked to consider working for MI5. I said you don’t need me, you need the guy I’m working for, James Bond.”

It was in 1980, though, that he and the German artist Beuys hit the headlines. Beuys had struck a friendship with Barlinnie prisoner turned sculptor Jimmy Boyle, and when Boyle was moved to Saughton prison, where he was unable to continue with his art, he started a hunger strike and attempted to sue the Scottish Secretary for human rights abuses. At this point the Scottish Arts Council stepped in and said Demarco’s backing of Beuys meant they could no longer give him any funding.

Helen with Richard, second cousins

He is without doubt a remarkable man, an Italian Scot, an artist, a writer and a philosopher.   His work as a watercolourist is held in many international collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, the Government Collection and the National Gallery of Lithuania.

His contributions to contemporary art internationally have been recognised on numerous occasions , receiving the Polish Gold Order of Merit, the Cavaliere della Repubblica d’Italia, the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres de France and the Order of Commander of the British Empire.

Denis, Rikki and Helen

He also brought visual arts from other parts of the world, and Eastern Europe, long before other people were interested.  He inspired us to take extraordinary journeys in the mind, journeys across Europe, journeys that he calls The Road to Meikle Seggie.

“I often wonder why I, with the Latin temperament of all my forebears, should now be so completely at home in a city whose character is so essentially northern; surely the classicism of the Latin mind would be in conflict with the romanticism of the Scot?  When younger, I deeply resented this conflict and longed for a southern way of life; but this conflict can be a source of real artistic energy.  I know now that I am completely at home in Edinburgh in a way I could never be in any Itality city, but part of my pride in her is rooted in the fact that I know it can rank beside those great cities of Italy to which all the world pays homage.  This is my City.”

He is one of the founders of the Edinburgh Festival. He was there from the beginning of the Festival in 1947.   Rikki’s passion for international arts has been one of the constants which allows the Fringe to lay claim to genuine avant-garde status and world-wide acclaim.  He is among the founders of The Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and also the founder and director of the theatre’s art gallery.   In the year 2007 he was awarded Poland’s ‘ Gloria Artis’,medal for his services to the Polish-British cultural dialogue.   The same year he was appointed a Commander of the British Empire for his work as an artist, art patron and teacher.

The same year saw the Scottish National Portrait Gallery exhibit his whole commitment to the Fringe and to the performing arts.    Richard  give many events where he  discussed his personal experience of 60 Edinburgh Festivals.

He writes about himself:-

  • “I regard my personal experience of each and every Edinburgh Festival as a great blessing.   However it also imposes a great responsibility upon me to share that experience with all those who are committed to celebrating the Festival’s sixtieth anniversary.   I have the task of presenting an exhibition entitled ‘Demarco’s Festival’ a title suggested by James Holloway as Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, who has most generously given me the support and welcome advice I have needed in order to present the exitibion so that it makes good use of the Gallery’s permanent collection.
  • I see these sculptural portraits as an integral part of my exhibition because they provide proof that the Festival has been enriched by the creative energy of the likes of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Lord Cockburn and James Watt and by the general spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment which transformed Edinburgh from an overcrowded medieval cityscape into becoming Scotland’s equivalent of Bath, in the shape of Edinburgh’s New Town as The Modern Athens.”Rikki Demardo

In August 1966 the Richard Demarco Gallery opened in Edinburgh’s Melville Crescent, in the New Town, with the ambitious aim of internationalising the Scottish contemporary art scent, a task it has pursued relentlessly for forty years.   In 1970 the gallery moved to temporary premises in Great King Street.   Then in 1975 it moved to the Historic Royal Mile, to a building known as Monteith House, neatly wedged between Carruber’s Close and John Knox’s House.

Here it remained for a decade until circumstances in the early 80s left the Scottish Arts to cease their grants.   The Gallery now depended on help from its ‘Friends’ to support it through these hard times.   With the help of 750  Friends of the Arts  and the Arts Council  £40,000 was eventually found.   The Gallery moved to No. 10 Jeffrey Street, just around the corner which property was rented from the Council.  It remained her for six years from 1982 to 1987 when by a most generous decision of Edinburgh District Council the Gallery was given the right to buy a splendid four storey building in Blackfriars Street for a nominal amount of £10,000.

With the restoration of this building Richard was able to concentrate once again on his theatre programme and it hosted over the year many memorable productions.  These productions were to host many Italian, Dutch,  Polish and generally European artists whose performances went on to be famous

Today   The Demarco Archive is a comprehensive record of these activities.  It consists of artworks and close to a million photographs of artistic events.   There are now some sixteen thousand of these images available online.  If you visit you will find the most wonderful testament to this our most famous cousin.

He is passionately committed to this city of his birth but also passionate about Picinisco, the village from where his family emigrated in the latter part of the 1800s.

PICINISCO painted by Richard Demarco

PICINISCO painted by Richard Demarco

His love for Italy continues and he goes there frequently and captures his images like Picinisco, his ancestral home.

Richard married Anna  Carol Muckle in the year 1956

Below are some wonderful articles that Richard has written about being Scottish, about his pal Sean Connery and also about Ian Hamilton Findlay.  Enjoy…..



Richaard Demarco 1967 outside his Melville Street Gallery

4 Responses to “DEMARCO, Richard”

  1. Anna valente says:

    Hi Helen, if I have the right name and person not written to you for a while, I just recently found out that I’m, related to Richard Demarco an Italian lady told me he told my friend that he was a cousin to my granma,s sister Auntie Aunnie Who married Ernest Demarco and my grand was Gerado Demarco, I did wonde if we were related I have never met him I paint and draw too , so he is my mum,s Cousin Anita Claudina Demarco I have the Album and tree almost done, but still a bit to go go , hope all U.S. well with you and you don,t mind me writing to you Anna Valente

  2. paul ford says:

    Hi Helen,

    Do you have anything in your archive about Richard Demarco’s fathers brother (his uncle).

    I am looking into a family connection.

    Kind regards,

  3. Helen says:

    Thanks for leaving your comment Paul. Domenico or Thomas married Maria Carmella Demarco. She was the daughter of Andrea Demarco and Carmelia Demaraco. Thomas and Maria lived in Glasgow. I only have one daughter for them Norma born 1930. There was another brother Alfredo but I have no information at all on this line.

  4. Charmian Griffiths (Chimpy) says:

    Hiw exciting for Ricky to find new relatives at this late stage!

    I met him in April 1972 & this has been a precious friendship.

    Imagine – he will be 90 very soon but still has such vast energy

Leave a Reply