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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Highland

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Orkney's Italian Gift

The chapel was completed shortly before the war's end, but, just after its completion, the inmates were moved to Skipton in Yorkshire, in preparation for their journey home. However, the font was not completed and Chiocchetti stayed on beyond the end of the war to complete this final work. The Lord Lieutenant of Orkney, Mr PN Sutherland Graeme made a promise that the Orcadians would cherish the chapel that the Italians had left. True to their word, the Orcadians formed a preservation committee in 1958 as the condition of the building began to deteriorate.

Former prisoners visiting the chapel
The BBC South European department learned of the committee's work and, in 1959, broadcast a programme in Italy about the chapel. In 1960 the BBC paid the expenses to allow Domenico Chiocchetti to return to the little chapel and carry out repairs and restoration of the paintwork. On the final Sunday of Chiocchetti's visit, a service of rededication was held in the chapel, with the service being broadcast the following day on Italian radio.

The chapel still stands on the small island of Lamb Holm and stands as a testament to the good that can be found in man even in the depths of war.

Perhaps, though, the last words of the story should go to Signor Chiocchetti. Before he left for Moena after completing the repairs, he wrote an open letter to the people of Orkney where he told them: "the chapel is yours - for you to love and preserve. I take with me to Italy the remembrance of your kindness and wonderful hospitality. I shall remember you always, and my children shall learn from me to love you. I thank (you)....for having given me the joy of seeing again little chapel of Lamb Holm where I, in leaving, leave a part of my heart."

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