We think a lot about provenance at 1718. For instance, we want to know where the wood that we work with comes from, and we value the artisan suppliers that we partner up with. We’re also passionate about the provenance of design, often working to original drawings from the great masters, such as Thomas Chippendale and Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Inevitably, that leads us to also think about our personal provenance – where we come from, where we belong, and the culture influences that shape us. This has been on my mind a lot over the past month, as I feel a very strong connection to my Italian heritage. My heart goes out to my English friends after last night’s Euro 2020 final, and the related violence and racism of so-called supporters was appalling. But although I was born in Ayrshire, and am passionate about Scotland, I couldn’t help but feel a huge surge of pride as Italy lifted the trophy.
My great-grandfather Antonio Mancini arrived in London in 1890, aged just six. His parents were so poor that they sent him across with relatives, hoping he would enjoy opportunities they had never had. And in many ways, the hard-working Antonio did. He settled in Ayr, on Scotland’s west coast, and married Maddalena Tamburra, who also came from his home town of Atina, in the Lazio region.
They opened a café in 1913, and brought up a large family. However, when World War Two broke out, Antonio was interred by the British authorities, along with 100 other Scots-Italians. They were then transferred onto a ship called the Arandora Star, along with other Italians who had been rounded up around Britain, and German Prisoners of War, before setting sail for Canada. On 2 July 1940, the boat was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the Irish Coast. Antonio perished at the age of 55, along with 485 of his countrymen. A memorial remembrance garden for the Scottish Italian victims can be found at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow.
What an awful moment that would have been for the family, who are pictured above left, with Antonio and Maddalena in the centre. My grandfather Michele is top right of the family pic – and he is also the man seen standing outside the family restaurant. I hope Antonio would have been proud of how his children and grandchildren built on the opportunities he provided them with. My Dad was actually a very talented footballer who left Ayr at the aged of just 16 to sign for Chelsea. Maybe he could have played for Scotland or Italy one day, but the distractions of the Kings Road proved a bit too much for him! He returned to Ayr, settled down with my Mum and, like so many Italian families built a business around ice cream and fish & chips.
I’m very proud of them but that wasn’t for me – from an early age, all I wanted to do was design and create furniture. I found great inspiration from the likes of Thomas Chippendale and Sir Edwin Lutyens (both Englishmen), as well as traditional Celtic and Scottish design. And cherishing my roots as I do, I like to think that myself and the 1718 team craft our furniture with a similar finesse to the mighty Azzurri!
Congratulations to England for deservedly reaching the Final, and to Scotland – it was so good to see the other boys in blue back in a major tournament too.