LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #6

The continuing search for author, artist & historian Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90)

For a number of years I’ve researched the life of Baron Avro Manhattan, who I first came across in 2012, he spent his last years in a terraced house in my hometown of South Shields. ‘Secrets & Lies’ documentary was produced in 2018, a link is at the end of the post.

Avro’s original name was Theophile Lucifer Gardini, the name change is looked at in post #2. This post focuses on Avro and the Second World War and includes research used to script a second documentary about this fascinating character.

In 1938 Gardini was in the UK listed as a Landscape painter living in Machynllech, Wales, and exhibiting his art in galleries including Bloomsbury Gallery in Mayfair, London.

On 10 June 1940 Italy declared war on Britain resulting in thousands of resident Italians being interned, and in Wales, the Aberystwyth police caught up with Gardini. Added to the prisoners of war, another 4,000 Italians were known to be members of the Fascist Party and this increase led to a problem within the UK.

Following offers from Canadian and Australian governments, more than 7,500 internees were shipped overseas aboard SS Ettrick, Duchess of York, Dunera and Arandora Star. Gardini left port on 3 July 1940 onboard the Ettrick bound for an internment camp in Canada.

Record of transfers overseas of aliens and prisoners of war.

Eight month after arriving he suddenly returned to the UK aboard the S.S. Georgic, then two month after that in May 1941 he was released as a ‘special case without restrictions’. A number of questions arise about this period.

Why did he return to the UK from Canada, where was he for the two month before release and why was an Italian who was looked upon as an enemy deemed ‘a special case’ four years before the war ended ?

There is a report that Gardini worked with British intelligence during the Second World War – was he recruited in the internment camp in Canada ? Was this the ‘special case without restrictions’?

Previously Gardini was imprisoned in Italy for refusing to swear to the Fascist oath, I imagine he would have rejected his Italian citizenship and was in hiding from any fascists still living in the UK, we can only speculate until concrete evidence turns up for this period.

During research there has been reports that have been misleading, especially the number of titles on his gravestone. But one he received was confirmed by a reputable organisation.

Listed on his headstone is the title Knight of Malta, reported to be awarded by the British Government for work during the war. To check whether he received this title, I got in touch with Debretts of London – if you’ve got a gong, you will be listed with them.

Friday 7 August 2015 email from Debretts.

I’ve been able to find very little about Baron Manhattan with only the Maltese decoration accredited and recorded – quite rightly too, given his admirable behaviour during WW2. Other than that I’m sorry not to be more help – I was hoping to discover something far more mysterious about him!’  

Debretts, 16 Charles Street, Mayfair, London.

After the war Avro didn’t return to Italy, he settled in the UK and on 3 October 1949 took an oath of allegiance and became a British National. The certificate read – Teofilo Lucifero Gardini, also added was Avro Manhattan, born in Milan, Italy, 6th April 1910 – although on his death certificate in 1990 he was 76. It wasn’t until December 1953 when he was living in Wimbledon, London that he officially changed his name by Deed Poll.

If you have information about Italian born artist, author & historian Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Link to film:

South Shields, Italian born Baron Avro Manhattan – SECRETS & LIES – doc.film (Alikivi,12 mins 2018). – YouTube

Check the other posts about Baron Avro Manhattan :

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #3 – Art for Sale. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #2 – Ciao, Avro. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER – The continuing search for author & artist, Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  April 2021 & update April 2022

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #5

The continuing search for author, artist & historian Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90)

For a number of years I’ve researched the life of Baron Manhattan, who I first came across in 2012, he spent his last years living in a terraced house in my hometown of South Shields. ‘Secrets & Lies’ documentary was produced in 2018, a link is at the end of the post.

Avro was originally named Theophile Lucifer Gardini, the name change is looked at in post #2. Looking for Lucifer #5 includes extracts from diary entries and notes taken when talking to his friends and neighbours which helped script the first documentary.

Avro & Ann Manhattan November 1986.

Friday 12 June 2015

I asked an auld fella who was walking near the house where Avro last lived in South Shields “You didn’t know The Baron did you”? He turned as he was shutting his gate, “Yes, Avro”. I introduced myself and told him what I was doing.

Mr H told me “We regularly talked with him. He was a good talker, friendly, interesting in conversation. We think he had money in Russia, he couldn’t bring it into Britain so spent it there, Ann came back with all these fur coats and hat’s. When he died he left money to put students through college in U.S.A.”

In the photo of Avro and Anne’s wedding in November 1986 at Kensington & Chelsea Registry Office, Anne is wearing furs – are these from Russia as Mr H said ?

After checking the American college link there was a Bob Jones University in Greenville where four scholarships in history, humanities or political science were available at $2,500 paid by the Baron Avro Manhattan Trust Fund.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Mr & Mrs M were Avro’s neighbours, they talked about how the couple loved entertaining and had champagne cocktails at their parties and barbecues.

“He was interested in what you were saying and would never try to belittle you. He wasn’t a name dropper, a gentleman through and through. He spoke good English with a little Italian accent, didn’t drink much, had a little wine, he did like the Broon Ale though” said Mr M.

Mrs M added “We think he liked it here because he could concentrate on work, go for walk’s and relax. But sadly he died in their home. We went to the funeral at St Aiden’s, there was a Princess there, she looked like Jackie Onassis, very glamourous.”

Lord Weymouth opening an art exhibition in South Shields by Avro Manhattan in 1983.

Saturday 27 June 2015

A phone call back from Mr C (who I contacted earlier in the week) he said he and his parents got to know him through various social gatherings.

“We got to know them around the 1980’s, they were an eccentric couple, she was well dressed and he always wore his suit and bow tie. We always enjoyed each other’s company, I found him very charming, charismatic and witty”.

Mr C recalls the death of Avro “He died in the passageway of the house, just dropped down with a heart attack. Although after reading some articles about his book about the underhand dealings of the Vatican I’m not sure”.

Mr C had a few calls from an Englishman living in France who was investigating Avro.

“He was very persistent, obsessed. This was after his book ‘The Vatican’s Billions’ was released, and apparently the Baron was going to release more revealing information about the Catholic Church. He was implying that there was a conspiracy against him. It was all very weird”.

Avro Manhattan & Northern Ireland’s loyalist politician Ian Paisley.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Mrs A, 91 years old, kindly gave me one of Avro’s paintings she had. The signed artwork is titled ‘Chelsea Embankment’. Mr and Mrs A knew the Manhattan’s socially. She recalls that Avro corresponded with Lord Weymouth and Ian Paisley from Northern Ireland

He didn’t brag about it, he was fairly modest really, but he was very anti-establishment”.

In 1983 Viscount Weymouth of Longleat opened an art exhibition by Avro at the Metal Art Precinct in South Shields, Ian Paisley and Avro had their photograph taken after discussing ‘Terror in Ireland’ authored by Manhattan in 1970.

Sadly Mrs A was at the Manhattan’s house the night he died, 26 November 1990, and added that sometime before this Avro had a stroke. “It’s like being imprisoned in your own body” he told her.

If you have information about Italian born artist & author Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Link to film:

South Shields, Italian born Baron Avro Manhattan – SECRETS & LIES – doc.film (Alikivi,12 mins 2018). – YouTube

Check the other posts about Baron Avro Manhattan :

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #3 – Art for Sale. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #2 – Ciao, Avro. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER – The continuing search for author & artist, Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  April 2021 & update April 2022

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LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #4 – The Scientist Marie Stopes & continuing search for Italian born author, artist & historian Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90)

For a number of years I’ve researched the life of Baron Manhattan, who I first came across in 2012, he spent his last years living in a terraced house in my hometown of South Shields. ‘Secrets & Lies’ documentary was produced in 2018, a link is at the end of the post.

Avro was originally named Theophile Lucifer Gardini, the name change is looked at in post #2 (June 2021). Looking for Lucifer #4 includes research used to script a second documentary about this fascinating character.

Lately I’ve come across some of his books and art being sold on EBay, Jonathan Frost Rare Books Limited of Liverpool had a book for sale ‘The Dollar & The Vatican’, inside it’s inscribed by the scientist Marie Stopes:

‘To Harry Stopes-Roe with love from his mother, Marie C. Stopes. To be published in September 1956’.

Rare Books added a description of the sale:

‘Marie Stopes formed a close friendship with Avro Manhattan during the last years of her life, and he scattered her ashes with Harry her son after she died in 1958. Tucked into the book is a promotional leaflet, a copy of ‘The Vigilant’ from December 1956, which contains a review of the book which has been annotated by Stopes, and a two page draft letter from Avro Manhattan to ‘The Editor of The Times’ on the subject of the U.S.A.’s military and colonial ambitions, which has also been corrected and annotated by Stopes’. 

Author/Artist Avro Manhattan & the scientist Marie Stopes

Avro met Stopes in 1952 at an exhibition of his paintings in London and they got on well with strong rumours of a love affair. At the time Avro was thirty nine, Stopes was 72.

She wrote in her book…

“Truly I was afraid to see your pictures but the reality was so glorious. I’m looking forward to making a bonfire and dancing with you, could you arrive prepared for staying the night and for dancing in the house. My heart is still beating extra hard with the joyous excitement of all the beauty you showed me……you are a genius…..dearest, most precious one, all the gods and angels guard you”.

I contacted Rare Books on Merseyside and asked if they had more information to add about the sale of the book. Jonathan Frost replied…

‘He’s quite an elusive character. Stopes and Manhattan were close for quite some years I believe, which makes sense, there was plenty of crossover in their interests’.

If you have information about Italian born artist & author Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Link to film:

South Shields, Italian born Baron Avro Manhattan – SECRETS & LIES – doc.film (Alikivi,12 mins 2018). – YouTube

Check the other posts about Baron Avro Manhattan :

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #3 – Art for Sale. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #2 – Ciao, Avro. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER – The continuing search for author & artist, Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  April 2021 & updated April 2022

MUSIC SURPRISES FROM UDO, PAT & ALF

Music can spring unexpected surprises when it pulls you in and holds your breath. It was the early ‘80s when I hired out albums from the local library and sampled songs from bands I’d only read about in Sounds music weekly. There were stacks of misses but big hitters like the first time hearing the sublime poetic lyrics of Leonard Cohen.

‘When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. Don’t turn on the lights you can read their address by the moon’.

Or Pete Murphy spitting out white hot haunting claustrophobic tunes from post punk band Bauhaus ‘Yin and yang lumber punch, go taste a tart, then eat my lunch. And force my slender, thin and lean, in this solemn place of fill-wetting dreams’.

Live gig’s also brought surprises, I remember in November 1981 self-proclaimed UK Metal Gods Judas Priest were at Newcastle City Hall primed to deliver the goods. Before the big boys played with their bigger toys the support band are usually given 40 minutes to say their piece, unfortunately some crumble in front of the headliners crowd, but word shot around ‘the openers are supposed to be canny’.

It was a cold night outside as winter closed in and in the warmth of the ‘Haal’ the lights went down and a few shouts went out. From the balcony I looked down to see the short, stocky blond haired vocalist plant himself at the front of the stage. Udo Dirkschneider. The leader of the pack.

Sounding like they’ve brought the Panza division with them, the twin guitar attack of German metallers Accept announced their arrival in Newcastle and rock ‘n’ rolled thunder till the end. In the wings Priest looked on, sharpened their set and Rob Halford screamed for vengeance.

My ticket stub from Judas Priest & Accept, Newcastle City Hall 17 November 1981.

‘80s live music show The Tube had something and someone new and fresh every week. Big Country, The Alarm, The Cult, they all made a big, beautiful noise, and a surprise on the programme was Pat Benatar – the little American lady with a huge, huge voice.

On one show a duo delivered power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady.

The stage was bare – with no drums, no Marshall stacks, no guitars, I was prepared for disappointment. I didn’t catch their name, with only a keyboard and microphone set up – how loud could a synth pop duo go ?

A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet who went on to sell millions of albums, a bucket load of top ten UK hits, a host of singer and songwriter awards, Live Aid, and more, and more, you get the picture – not bad for a dinner lady.

I’ve got a Dolly Parton greatest hits cd on the shelf which I pick out now and then, but recently I’ve been listening to more country & western. Yep the whole pluckin’ banjo hillbilly heartbreak songs – my neighbour even looks like Willie Nelson – here’s to music springing more surprises.

Alikivi   April 2022.

KEEP OFF THE GRASS with Orwell Society member Brian Thompson

Museum worker and book collector Brian from Kingston Park, Newcastle, first came across George OrwellWhen I read Animal Farm at Benfield Road Comprehensive school in the 1970s then in 1980 read Nineteen Eighty Four which were both great, then in 1997 I watched the film Keep the Aspidistra Flying which I loved, then I was hooked”.

“I then read all of Orwell’s novels back to back. I also had the privilege to meet briefly, the actor John Hurt at the North East premiere of the film Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984 at the Tyneside Cinema, and get his autograph which is now framed and on the wall”.

When did you first find out about The Orwell Society “Around six years ago I was reading Down & Out in Paris and London and a quick internet search took me to the Orwell Society. I liked the aims of the group so applied for membership and joined in 2017”.

George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair) was married to South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy who is buried in St Andrew’s Cemetery, Jesmond. When did you first come across Eileen’s grave ?

“I was reading a local history book about Tyneside when I saw it in a Did You Know section.

(Tyneside: A History of Newcastle and Gateshead from Earliest Times by Alistair Moffat and George Rosie, first published 2005).

So I visited in 2017 and it was remarkable how easy I found it. It was looking a bit shabby with overgrown weeds so I went to the shops and bought some flowers. Next day I brought along some long nosed decorating scissors and give the grass a good cut”.

“Through The Orwell Society I contacted Richard Blair (George Orwell’s son) and told him what I was doing, he asked me to plant a white rose along with bedding plants”.

Eileen Blair headstone & plaque St Andrews Cemetery, Jesmond (pic Alikivi collection)

Next to the modest headstone there is a plaque, how did this come about ?

“When I visited the grave people were asking me who was buried there so I contacted Richard again and ran the idea past him about putting up a plaque. He agreed it would be a great idea”.

“I got some flat grey Lakeland stone and attached a small plaque, it came out great, really proud of it”.

The Orwell Society at St Andrews Cemetery, Jesmond, Sunday 27/3/2022 (pic Alikivi collection)

Were you at the events for the 77th anniversary of Eileen’s death ?

“Yes along with the Orwell Society we watched the film Wildflower, the author Sylvia Topp was there and walks to locations where Eileen lived plus the blue plaque at South Shields – it was fantastic”.

Have you any events planned in the future ?

“I’d love to go to Barnhill where Orwelll wrote 1984 but for now I’ll continue to tend to Eileen’s grave, it’s a pleasure – like you I think we are under her spell” (laughs).

For more information & how to join the Orwell Society contact:

http://www.orwellsociety.com

Alikivi   April 2022

UNDER HER SPELL : Eileen O’Shaughnessy (1905-45)

Memories of events years ago can sometimes be sketchy but after checking my diaries and emails it was March 2012 when I was shown a South Shields birth certificate for Eileen O’Shaughnessy by the Local History Librarian Ann Sharp.

We bumped into each other near South Shields Registry Office where I was going to collect a family research certificate. The Orwell connection peaked my interest but was more intrigued when I noticed her birth address was Park Terrace, now re-named Lawe Road – just two minutes from where I live.

I wasn’t a fan of Orwell’s writing then, I heard about him – who hasn’t? Over 20 year ago I went to see a theatre production of 1984 at Newcastle Playhouse, and have since read 1984, Homage to Catalonia, Down and Out in Paris and London plus selected essays and journalism but it was more from a local history angle that I first approached this story.

In May 2012, May being Local History month in South Tyneside, a display appeared in South Shields Library and an earlier blog from October 2018 mentions this –

There were three large boards. On the left was a birth certificate and census records. To the right was a photo of George Orwell and a picture of a cemetery in Newcastle. In the middle was a large black and white photograph with about a dozen men standing near sandbags and a machine gun at the front, obviously a war image. Then I noticed a dark haired woman crouching behind the machine gun. I looked closer and got goose bumps’.

Who was this woman who was born in South Shields married to one of the most controversial writers of the 20th century, buried in Newcastle and had a photo taken on the front line of a war ?

Ann mentioned that Eileen had been to the Spanish Civil War explaining the photograph, also “an American lady has been in she is researching for a book about Eileen”. That was Sylvia Topp and she left note looking for any help searching locations where Eileen lived.

Sylvia Topp outside The Customs House, South Shields 10 May 2012 (pic Alikivi collection)

We arranged to meet and I took Sylvia down to South Shields riverside and The Customs House where Eileen’s father worked as a Customs Collector, then into the town centre where he had an office then onto her childhood home in Beach Road.

Afterwards we had a meal in the Italian Restaurant on Winchester Street and left it where I would look into Eileen’s North East life. This proved difficult because there wasn’t much information out there about Eileen.

As the months passed the research grew and in the blog Oct. 2018 –

There wasn’t much information out there just a few bits and pieces that had been mentioned in Orwell books. So there was extensive research over the next year or so. Phone calls, letters, checking and re-checking details.

Interviews on camera were arranged around the country. One led to another, and another. It felt like being gently nudged along to find more about her. I never came across any obstacles, everybody asked wanted to be part of the documentary and were only too happy to help’.

I remember the time I was filming in Sunderland Church High School where Eileen was a pupil. I phoned reception who passed on my number to former Head of English, Sylvia Minto. Next day she rang and we arranged to meet at the school.

We filmed in the main hall where the walls were full of honours boards with names of pupils who went onto higher education. Eileen read English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford and her name was on a board. That same board is now in a room in my house.

A couple of years ago the school was closing down and the receptionist remembered me and got in touch – “of course I’ll have it” not realising the sheer weight and size of the board at 5ft x 3ft !

Someone else who was also captivated by Eileen was South Shields born Professor Robert Colls who had just published his book George Orwell – English Rebel.

pic courtesy of The Shields Gazette

Then teaching cultural history at De Montfort University, Leicester, Colls featured in an article in The Shields Gazette (25 October 2013) by local journalist Terry Kelly.

Colls said “One of the pleasures of writing about Orwell was not only getting to know him, but getting to know Eileen. The evidence is sparse but I really like her and Orwell’s spirit was lifted after meeting her. Her letters show great fun and sharp wit. Getting to know Eileen was an unexpected treat”.

In the October 2018 blog I finished off with –

‘Who knew that a library visit in 2012 would take me and my camera, from South Shields to Sunderland, Newcastle, Stockton, Warwickshire, Oxford, London and finally Barcelona. I remember I had the camera in my backpack walking through Barcelona Airport thinking how did I get here. It seemed so effortless, the whole process just fell into place’.

Link to a short edit of the film ‘Wildflower’  

George Orwell’s first wife, South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy (Alikivi, 11mins edit) – YouTube

To find out more information or how to join the Orwell Society check the official website:  www.orwellsociety.com

Alikivi  March 2022.