A MYSTERY regarding a missing memorial to one of the worst shipping disasters of the Second World War has focused on Greenock.

The stone mosaic — which was created in memory of more than 800 people who perished in the sinking of the liner Arandora Star — was gifted to the town’s Italian club.

But the poignant piece, by artist James Selbie, has vanished and researcher Raffaello Gonnella is today appealing to Greenock Telegraph readers to help track it down.

Mr Gonnella — whose grandfather was among the victims of the 1940 tragedy — said: “Finding the plaque is very important to the Scottish Italian community.

“It is a very beautiful piece of artwork and marks a very great wartime tragedy.”

He added: “We know it was taken to the Italian club in Greenock, but it’s not there any more and no-one knows what has happened to it.”

However, enquiries made by the Telegraph suggest there is a possibility that the missing mosaic may be lying unnoticed within an Inverclyde church.

Italian club secretary George Canata says that it was passed to a place of worship within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paisley, which includes the district, around three years ago.

Mr Canata said: “A former president of the club, Rodolpho Benacci, who is now deceased, took it to one of the churches for some kind of ceremony in memory of the Arandora Star.

“That is all I know about the mosaic. It is not held by the club anymore.”
The Church’s Scottish media office is now making its own enquiries after being contacted by the Tele.

Mr Gonnella said: “It may well be and that someone somewhere is sitting on something, unaware of its significance.”

The Arandora Star — which was being used as a troop ship — was sunk by a torpedo fired from a German U-boat 75 miles off Ireland on July 2, 1940.

Many of those killed were civilians and among the dead were 96 Scottish Italian internees.

The disaster is marked with a cloister garden at St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow.

Now Mr Gonnella wants to locate the commemorative mosaic and give it pride of place in the garden as a further ‘fitting tribute’ to those who died.

He said: “If we could find it, it is hoped that a place could be found within the memorial garden in Glasgow.”

Mr Gonnella added: “For years it hung in the Italian Consulate, but when that building was closed and its functions moved to Edinburgh, it was decided that a new home would be needed.

“It was eventually gifted to the Greenock Italian Club but the trail has now gone cold.

“I am hoping that someone will be able to help find the mosaic.

“I am asking anyone who knows anything of the mosaic’s whereabouts or what has happened to it to please contact me.

If you have information which may assist Mr Gonnella in his search, you can email him at A1GON@aol.com

There is also an Arandora Star Facebook page.