Tag Archives: Francesco Pintabona

A Beautiful Lesson of Life

The emotionally moving story of Frank and Ian is a special story of a friendship between an Italian POW and an Aussie toddler that spans over seven decades.  Not only has Ian’s grandson proudly presented a power point presentation to his school class about Frank, a distant relative of Frank’s, has visited Ian and renewed contact between the two families.


 Francesco Pintabona, Ian Harsant and Salvatore Mensile or Vincenzo Nocca

(from the collection of Ian Harsant)


Ian Harsant’s life-long friendship with Francesco Pintabona, an Italian POW stationed at Boonah is a beautiful story of a little boy’s memory of his Italian friend and his search to find him in the post war chaos. Letters were exchanged but rarely received and contact was lost. By the time Harsant found any news of Pintabona, he had passed away 20 years previous.

Francesco Pintabona of Taviano, Lecce was captured in Bardia.  He came to the Harsant farm, Warrill View Boonah 4th August 1944. Records indicate that he was evacuated to 67 ACH 8th December 1945 and then moved to Gaythorne 27 December 1945, which is probably the reason why Harsant has no memory of saying ‘goodbye’ to his friend.

Ian Harsant as a toddler called him Hank, short for Frank and many childhood photos are of Frank and Ian. Photos taken by Ian’s mother capture  memories of a day’s work on a farm and a lifelong bond.  Frank and Ian’s friendship was special as Di Morris wrote: “Little careful acts were noticed, like putting his (Frank) own handkerchief over the boy’s face when the flies were bad.  Once he even rushed him back to the farmhouse for a nappy change when it became obvious he had soiled his pants…There was another language they shared; the language of lollies, cordial and biscuits which Frank obtained with his little friend in mind when he patronised the visiting truck from Boonah with his small POW wage”. (Morris, 2015) 

Ian reflects that the Italians were non-Fascist, fit and healthy. Not one to wax lyrically, Ian recalls an incident between his dad and Santo Murano, who had been transferred from Frank Sweeney’s farm to Warrill View. Roderick Harsant was a firmer boss than Sweeney.  The incident involved a lot of shouting and a threatening lifting of a shovel toward the farmer.  Mr Collins, the officer in charge of the Boonah centre was called. On Santo’s record in June 1945, is the awarding of 28 days detention: conduct prejudicial to good order, no doubt for this incident.  There were other Italians who worked on the farm but they were a good mob. Domenico Masciulli was billeted with Ian’s uncle Cecil Rackley but then went to Warril View when Rackley died toward the end of 1945. Salvatore Mensile and Vincenzo Nocca worked for Wallace Roderick another relative who lived a couple of mile away and either visited Frank or also worked on the Harsant farm.

Memories of music are paired with this time in Ian’s life. The Italians were musical.  Domenico had a mandolin and Sundays, their day of rest, was the time you would hear them singing and the mandolin being played. Sunday was the day the Italians from the farms around would get together.

Ian Harsant’s journey to find Frank, culminated in being in contact with Fausto Pintabona, a relative of Frank.  Fausto summed up Ian and Frank’s friendship as ‘a beautiful lesson in life’.

Watch the video to hear more about Ian and Frank.

Written and produced by Billy Jack Harsant

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.