In August 2013 members of Cape Farewell's "Sea Change" project explored the landscapes, history and future of the Orkneys whilst sailing on board The Swan, a beautifully restored Shetland Fifie. The group consisting of artists, musicians, writers, scientists and filmmakers visited sites across the islands.
On Friday 23rd August they arrived at the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm. The story behind the chapel is a testament to the power of faith, creativity, and peaceful reconciliation
In 1942, more than 1300 Italian prisoners of war were captured in North Africa and taken to Orkney, where they remained until early 1945. 550 were taken to Camp 60, where they were put to work building the Churchill Barriers, four causeways created to block access to Scapa Flow.
In 1943, Major T P Buckland, the Camp 60's new commandant, and Father Giacombazzi, the Camp's priest agreed that a place of worship was required. Two Nissen huts were joined together to form a makeshift chapel. The prisoners, under the leadership of prisoner Domenico Chiocchetti, did all of the work to transform a simple corrugated iron structure into a work of beauty. The chapel was lined with plasterwork and an altar was made out of concrete. Chiocchetti painted the sanctuary end of the chapel. The beauty that he created led to the prisoners decorating the entire interior and creating a front facade out of concrete that concealed the shape of the hut and made the building look like a church.
Since the prisoners' departure, several residents of Camp 60, including Chiocchetti, have made return visits to the chapel they created. In 1996 a declaration was jointly signed by officials in Orkney and Chiocchetti's hometown of Moena, reinforcing the ties between the two places. The building has been lovingly preserved and is still used as a chapel.
During the group's visit, Karine Polwart gave this powerful solo performance of the anthemic "Freedom Come All Ye". The song was written in 1960 by Hamish Henderson, a passionate proponent of peace and international cooperation. Henderson was a leader of the post war Folk revival, and founder of The People's Festival (the forerunner of the Edinburgh Fringe) he was also a fluent Italian speaker.
Thanks to all present, the sailors on the beautiful Swan, and Creative Scotland.....without whom none of us would have been there!