Obituary: Edward Craig

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The Independent Online
All is not lost for those readers intrigued by the sound of Edward Craig's unfulfilled biography of his grandfather Gaetano Meo, writes Marie-Jaqueline Lancaster [further to the obituary by Tom Craig, 23 January].

On 25 November 1994 BBC Radio 3 broadcast a magical feature, Orpheus Ascending, produced by Piers Plowright. Here Carrick/Craig recounts the story of his young grandfather's epic walk in 1860 from "the instep" of Italy through France and on to London with only his harp and asses' skin cloak - no money, no baggage, few words of French and fewer English. Carrick acts out, with infectious enthusiasm, all the characters and their attendant noises - Gaetano, villagers, the brigands with whom he made friends, the Italian mammas who befriended him, the memorable captain of the ship at Boulogne who took him under his wing and smuggled him into London sans passport, while sundry Italians fill in the background with evocative songs and verses.

In London Gaetano had to find sympathetic Italian restaurants who would allow him to "ply" his harp in their back gardens, safe from the police who were out to catch itinerant musicians who might upset important - or sick - residents. When all his resources were no more, an Italian barber sent him to see Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who was enchanted by the boy and introduced him to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, as grinder of colours, model and student painter, until he made his own name with the mosaics in the great hall of Mr Debenham's grandiose house in Holland Park, and finally became naturalised, sponsored by William Morris.

Carrick ends with his recollected enjoyment of how he mended the family rift since his father Gordon Craig, already married, eloped with Gaetano's favourite daughter Elena. At the age of six his parents told him to approach this unknown grandparent in Italian. "Nonno, nonno," he cried out. Gaetano was captivated.

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