A Girvan man’s music during a daring World War II operation was honoured by two Italian journalists in a special Sunday afternoon ceremony.
Matteo Incerti and Valentina Ruozi travelled to Girvan from northern Italy to present bagpiper David Kirkpatrick with an honorary citizenship of the town of Albinea after his music filled the air on the night of Operation Tombola, an attack by British SAS and a number of local resistance fighters on two German headquarters in the town.
His music provided a sign of hope for the townsfolk that they would make it to the end of the war and saved hundreds of lives from a bloody consequence from the remaining Germans.
German law in Italy at the time of the attack in 1945 decreed that for every one German soldier or officer killed by a resistance fighter, ten civilians would be killed.
But David played Highland Laddie throughout the assault, which led the Germans to believe it was a British attack when, in actual fact, there were only 30 SAS operatives involved and the bulk of the attack team was made up the 70 resistance fighters.
The tale of the ‘Magic Bagpiper’ is fondly remembered today in Albinea, especially by Valentina, who fully believes that David’s music is the reason why she is alive today.
She said: “There are many people in the town who still remember the music of David. A lot of people saw him drop from the sky and thought he was a woman in a skirt jumping, but now they know it was a kilt he wore.
“I am from Albinea and my parents are too. If it wasn’t for David’s magic bagpipes I might not be here today.
“It was a great group effort to save our country, but we will always remember David.
“All the children in Albinea were very scared at the time of the attack. The air was filled with gunfire and screaming but David’s music could still be heard. It was magical for them.”
Valentina and Matteo both had a keen interest in the history of Operation Tombola and of Italy during World War II and began to work together after meeting.
Both were tracking down the origins of a silver bracelet that two SAS soldiers gave to the locals when they began to work together. And their investigations have seen them piece together a timeline of events and background of the soldiers involved in the story.
However, it is David and his story that they are both are enchanted with. His music and also his gift of his parachute to Albertina Magliani have captured their imaginations.
The parachute was used to make Albertina’s wedding dress and underwear for the day. David was also presented with the underwear as thank you as well.
Reminiscing of that time, David said: “I had to ask permission from my boss, Major Roy Farran, to give my parachute to the family I was living with.
“The night before we set off I played my bagpipes for the officers and the others. Major Farran let me play what I wanted that night as I walked around the tables.”
Matteo explained the book is not just about the fighting of Operation Tombola and said: “This is a book not just about David and the battle but also of life and romance. David is just one part of the story, but a very important part of the story. It has been a pleasure to meet and speak with and visit Scotland.” Valentina and Matteo are still working to have the book translated into English and hope to have that done very soon.
After telling their story, they presented David with a framed picture of himself in the war and also a little parachute made with some of his own, before handing over his honorary citizenship to him.
There was also a personal message written by the mayor of Albinea to David that Valentina read out for him.
David was clearly taken aback by the high regard which he is held by Matteo and Valentina.
He told them: “Thank you very, very much for your kindness, I can’t thank the people enough.”
David gave the intrepid Italian duo a quick lesson in the bagpipes along with his son Lee before playing Highland Laddie for Matteo and Valentina.
Finally, David said: “I’m not a hero, I was only doing my job.”
But David’s job that night saved the lives of hundreds.
And for that he will always be remembered as a hero to the people of Albinea.