Yesterday, the 15th of July, at the Circolo dei Forestieri, Bagni di Lucca’s most elegant restaurant, a very special guest celebrated his one hundredth birthday. Franklin Samuel Stych, known more familiarly as Sam, was seated at the head of a table surrounded by friends and neighbours.
Dressed suavely in a velvet jacket and trilby the professor looked particularly distinguished.
After one minute’s silence for the victims of the previous evening’s atrocity at Nice, which everyone eating at the Circolo observed, our celebrations began with the reading of birthday greetings cards.
Important preliminaries were having one’s wine glass filled with some excellent Chianti:
And then choosing from the extensive menu.
Sam’s choice for the first course was tortellini with cream and ham.
And for the second it was baked pork shank with potatoes.
The birthday lunch was naturally rounded off with a delicious cake decorated with the magic number one hundred!
In the centre was a flower’s pyrotechnic display. All our guests helped to blow out Sam’s candles.
Thanks are due to all those who assisted in helping Sam attend this very special day. In particular, to Rita, Angelo and the Croce Rossa volunteers who supplied the transport.
It may be of interest to know a little of Sam’s biography which was read out at the meal and which received his imprimatur as to its accuracy.
SPEECH FOR SAM’S HUNDREDTH BIRTHDAY
Sam, it gives us great pleasure to join you here at the Circolo dei Forestieri to celebrate your 100th birthday. Congratulations!
Dr Franklin Samuel Stych was born in a part of Birmingham, which was then in county of Worcestershire, now East Midlands, in 1916 when the First World War was raging in its second year. Sadly, Sam’s father died of his war wounds shortly afterwards and Sam was never able to get to know him. Sam’s mother never remarried.
Let us cast our mind back to the events which happened in the year, month and day Sam was born
• July 1 – November 18 – World War I – More than 1 million soldiers die during the Battle of the Somme, including 60,000 casualties for the British Commonwealth on the first day.
• July 2 – Battle of Erzincan: Russian forces defeat troops of the Ottoman Empire in Armenia.
• July 15 – In Seattle, Washington, William Boeing incorporates Pacific Aero Products (later renamed Boeing).
Sam himself saw active service in the Second World War in the Ordnance Corps of the army and was stationed in North Africa and Italy where his love for this country grew.
When Sam returned to the UK in 1946 he also returned to his great love of libraries and bibliography and became a senior member of staff of the municipal libraries. One of his mentors was the great Italian scholar Professor Whitfield of Birmingham University. Sam retired about forty-four years ago and, when given the chance to acquire a residence in Italy through his connection with Ian Greenlees the director of the British institute in Florence, made the move to Bagni di Lucca with gladness.
There are three significant works by Sam, which have greatly contributed to deeper understanding between Britain and Italy.
1. How to Find Out About Italy is an excellent introduction to the bibliography relating to this country and, although published over forty years ago, is in the opinion of many still highly relevant and useful.
2. Sam devoted twenty years of his retirement here in Bagni di Lucca to the creation of a comprehensive annotated bibliography of 2,242 items by Boccaccio, adapted from Boccaccio, or about Boccaccio. This seminal work still remains the most fundamental formidable tool for any research on Boccaccio.
Sam has also written an interesting study of, Pinocchio in Great Britain and Ireland.
Sam has received several honours in recognition of his work. Among these he is elected as a commendatore of the grand ducal house of Tuscany.
Throughout his time here Sam has become the last remaining Englishman to link the present generation of residents and newcomers in the area with the classic coterie of cultivated English gentlemen who included such names as Ian Greenlees, Robin Chanter and, last but not least, Harold Acton. He is important not just for his great bibliographic works, not just for Bagni di Lucca, not just for Italo-English relationships but also for his quality of character.
Indeed, in 2014, during a conference on his erstwhile friend and neighbour Ian Greenlees Sam was visited by Laura Chanter, who was Robin’s wife until his death in 2004. I remember fond memories being exchanged during that visit.
Sam is an example to us all of kindness, scholarliness, decency, hospitality, courtesy and warmth, qualities which are enduring and which, all too often, are sadly lacking in the age we live in now.
Sam, here’s to you with respect, love and friendship on your hundredth birthday. Evviva Sam. Complimenti e Buon Compleanno!
And here’s that acrostics for those who are into poetry. First is my English version:
Fine scholar, remarkable librarian,
Renowned person, faithful friend.
Acknowledged master of his art,
Never leaving any stone unturned.
Knowledgeable afar his subjects,
Learned beyond his books,
Inspiring students and teachers alike:
Now is the day come
Sempiternal in century’s fold;
A milestone in the hierarchy of muses
Meeting two worlds, two epochs,
Understanding arcane significance,
Explanation, beyond common time
Leaving behind something that will last
Something special, something unique
Transcendental in its inner light.
You, Sam, we celebrate on this auspicious day:
Centennial in years, eternal in memory
Here’s to you, with health and happiness from all of us.
And now, here’s Alexandra’s Italian version:
FRANKLIN SAMUEL STYCH – ACROSTICO
Fine studioso, notevole bibliotecario,
Rinomata persona, amico fedele.
Assoluto maestro della sua arte,
Non lasciando nulla di scoperto.
Cervello della sua arte,
Lambito oltre i suoi libri,
Ispirando i suoi studenti:
Nostro è questo tuo giorno
Sempiterno nel piego di un secolo;
Alta pietra miliare nella gerarchia delle muse
Meta di due mondi, due epoche,
Un significato arcano compreso –
Esplicazione, oltre il tempo comune –
Lasciandosi alle spalle qualcosa che durerà
Speciale, unico –
Trascendente nella sua luce interiore.
You, te, Sam, celebriamo questo giorno di buon auspicio:
Centennale negli anni, eterno nella memoria:
Hurrah! Ecco a te, con salute e felicità da tutti noi.
Diners from other parts of the British Isles who were dining at the Circolo joined our table for a rousing ‘Happy Birthday to Sam’.
But the cherry on the icing was certainly her Majesty the Queen’s greetings letter which Alexandra had time to frame with her photograph and royal tassel in a special frame from the Palace. When seeing H.M.’s picture Sam uttered, as a devout monarchist, ‘bless her’.
We are all so glad the birthday went so well for Sam and we all thoroughly enjoyed our time with Bagni di Lucca’s most distinguished English citizen.