Fa la ninna, fa la nanna

Boonah.Rackely Masciulli Pintabona

Domenico Masciulli and Francesco Pintabona Rosewood Christmas 1944

(from the collection of Judith Lane (nee Rackley)

My father was Cyril William Rackley and our farm was at Radford, on the Fassifern-Boonah Line.  We grew everything: watermelon, sorghum, potatoes, wheat, pumpkins, lucerne hay, corn, peanuts.  Our farm was what you would call a mixed farm as we also had dairy cows with the cream going to Harrisville and poultry hens for eggs. Daddy would get in labourers as pickers but I can’t recall us having any land army girls.

I would have been 7 or 8 years old when Domenico Masciulli entered our lives in August 1944. His record states 4.8.44 and he was with us until November 1945 when Daddy died.  Domenico was a nice guy.  He was short and stocky, the opposite of Francesco Pintabona who was at Uncle Roderick’s farm. Frank was tall and lean.  Mum treated Domenico like one of the family.  He ate all his meals with the family.

I have clear memories of Domenico singing lullabies to my baby sister.  She was born in January 1944 and he would carry her around and look after her when mum was busy.  He would sing a lullaby and this is how I remember it:  “anan nana biceleila, go to sleep”.

Domenico lived in a hut on the farm.  It had a bed, a duchess and a wash basin. Sunday was a rest day.  No manual work was done on Sunday, only the basic chores that needed to be done on a daily basis. Italian POWs from other farms would visit Domenico’s hut for morning tea, which I suppose mum made for them.  I remember a big fight or disagreement between some of them, but this was quashed and all was forgotten.

One Sunday, Domenico asked permission for he and Frank to cook our family lunch. They used the biggest saucepan mum had to cook the mince sauce on the stove. It cooked for what seemed like hours.  To cook up the spaghetti, they filled up the washing copper with water and boiled up the spaghetti. The copper was full of spaghetti.  The spaghetti came in a huge crate and the strands of spaghetti would have been 24 inches long.  Mum would slide this big box in a space under the kitchen sink cupboard.  Frank and Domenico served us a huge plate of spaghetti and we had to eat it all.  It was beautiful. The other food memory I have is of the cheese they would make. After a cow calved, Domenico would take the first milk of the cow and make a cheese with it.  It was more like a curd.  It was disgusting.

The canteen truck would come around with provisions and mail for the Italians.  Toiletries, shirts and socks and such were purchased from the canteen. I remember a wafer biscuit and lollies which Domenico would share with us.  Salvital was also something else he bought.

Daddy had throat cancer and Domenico took on all the work around the farm.  He was invaluable. To converse, he got by with a dictionary and I suppose he learnt basic English.  After the war Domenico wrote to mum as there had been talk of my family sponsoring him.  Mum couldn’t afford to bring him out and by then mum had moved us to Rosewood where her family lived.

Rosewood was where we celebrated Christmas in 1944.  Mum, Daddy, me, my two sisters and Domenico and Frank travelled to Rosewood.  The photo of Domenico and Frank was taken then.  Mum must have ironed Domenico’s clothes because his pants have a crisp crease down the centre of the legs.  Frank’s uniform hung off him.  While the uniforms consisted of a tunic jacket and tailored pants, they were red, the term used was magenta and they were made of wool.  Not really suited for farming during a hot Queensland summer.

I have fond memories of Domenico.  He had a banjo and would play it and sing Italian songs.  Then there was the fancy work and embroidery that he did.  We used to have a fancy work with a Madonna and Child that was embroidered by Domenico.  I think it was a skill taught when he was in India.

Judith Lane

March 2017


Fa la ninna, fa la nanna

Fa la ninna, fa la nanna
Nella braccia della mamma
Fa la ninna bel bambin,
Fa la nanna bambin bel,
Fa la ninna, fa la nanna
Nella braccia della mamma.

Go to Sleep, Go to Sleepy

Go to sleep, go to sleepy
In the arms of your mother,
Go to sleep, lovely child,
Go to sleepy, child so lovely,
Go to sleep, go to sleepy
In the arms of your mother.

1 thought on “Fa la ninna, fa la nanna

  1. Pingback: Buon Natale | Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland

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