The Hermit's Cave Complex is a collection of rock shelters and rock overhangs (several of which have been modified by Ricetti to create cave-like enclosures) with elaborate stoneworks and earthworks created by Ricetti, all of which are located along a long, narrow ridge top site outside Griffith. Ricetti's work is over more than one kilometre along the south-eastern face of Scenic Hill which is a 200 metre high escarpment on the southern-most part of the McPherson Range. Scenic Hill is now adjacent to the western edge of the Collina residential suburb. The southern and northern edges of the site are defined by Ricetti's hide-outs constructed in rocky outcrops. The western perimeter is currently defined by the road reserve boundary of Scenic Drive although there are possibly remnants of other constructions west and north-west of this road. The area of the nominated site comprises 16.16 ha with a length of 1150 m and varying widths of approximately 120 to 190m.
The archaeological remains of the site are located in discrete areas along the length of the site across a distance of over one kilometre. From south-east to north-west these remains are grouped as follows:
1) FAR SOUTH ROCK SHELTER (possible main western hide-out)
- 40-step stone stair;
- hide-out with open rock shelter with three large stone blocks placed in a row;
- small, natural shelter with a narrow passage leading into a small chamber containing natural stone blocks that form a window opening.
2) SOUTH ROCK SHELTER (possible first dwelling)
Rock shelter containing:
- 18-step stone stair;
- dwelling with partly intact stone enclosure walls;
- remnant stonework (remains of the wall and another stone stair).
The small size of the shelter and absence of rock inscriptions and rock murals suggests this was a short-term dwelling used by Ricetti before he constructed and moved into the second, more substantial dwelling.
3) SOUTHERN GARDEN AND ROCK SHELTER (possible second dwelling)
This dwelling is associated with two gardens, three cisterns, a rock shelter popularly known as 'La Scala' (Opera House) and its inscriptions. It is recorded in historical photographs and is remembered to have been built and occupied before the third dwelling.
A) ROCK SHELTER containing:
- east stone stair leading to the garden;
- bottom stone stair from the east, leading to a narrow passage between two boulders with a low wall into the dwelling;
- dwelling, being a rock shelter overhang that was walled off, containing a stonework window;
- top stone stair rising from the rock shelter overhang;
- west stone stair into a narrow passage between two boulders leading to a second, small chamber that contains a large flattish stone). This chamber is thought to have been a cistern.
- holes (chiselled out) that were used to support timber trellis structures.
The largest and most complex zone of the site being 60 metres long and 35 metres wide. Located along the base of a cliff face below the ridge top with a drop in level of 10 metres.
i) UPPER GARDEN. Designed as three terraces with cisterns, connecting stairs, paths and a dwelling. Its remnant features are earthwork terraces with stone retaining walls; metal materials (steel sheet, wire) for shoring terraces and construction; remnant fig plantings; remnant yucca plantings and yucca plantings that have invaded the surrounding area.
ii) LOWER GARDEN. Contains the best -constructed and best-preserved example of Ricetti's stonework. It comprises an earth-filled stone retaining wall forming an elevated walkway.
i) UPPERMOST CISTERN. Situated in the top terrace and fed by moisture from the cliff face.
ii) SECOND CISTERN. Situated outside the north-eastern retaining walls of the garden at the middle terrace level and fed by moisture from the cliff face and surface run-off.
iii) LOWER CISTERN. Adjacent to and below the lower garden and fed by surface run-off from the gardens and possibly the top cistern.
D) NATURAL AMPHITHEATRE-SHAPED ROCK SHELTER featuring:
- stone retaining wall to form a bridge;
- stone staircase remnants;
- location of a bush timber ladder that was used to provide access to a rock shelf;
- rock inscriptions at the base of the cliff with a mixture of Christian and other motifs.
i) Rock shelter popularly known as 'LA SCALA '(or the 'OPERA HOUSE')
- a place of suitable acoustics where Ricetti used to stand and call out. His voice could sometimes be heard as far away as the town
ii) ROCK INSCRIPTIONS at 'La Scala':
Rock inscriptions occur in three areas.
a) The lower rock gallery is at the base of the cliff and contains a mixture of Christian and other symbols:
- a court jester's face and hat, with three crucifixes representing the hill of Calvary;
- three fishes (an early Christian symbol) intertwined;
- apocalyptic message, incomplete, in back to front lettering in a combination of Latin and Italian: 'paratus nun qua no...'('be prepared').
b) Partly up the rock face, near the stone stair to the 'La Scala' rock shelf, is the date 1918 and initials RV ( Valerio Ricetti's, back to front). This date predates Ricetti's known arrival in the area.
c) Inscription on a rock floor of later date is circa 1923 (also predates Ricetti's arrival).
E) TWO STONE STAIRS
- upper stone stair built with low risers (possibly for carrying rocks from the quarry);
- hidden stone stair, winding down through a passage between boulders.
4) CENTRAL 'HIDE-OUTS'
- stone stair on contour forming part of the main track linking the gardens with the 'Main Cave';
- natural chamber formed by two boulders with stone blocks at the entrance (the lower hide-out);
- small natural rock shelter with no stonework (the upper hide-out).
5) MAIN CAVE (possible third dwelling)
This dwelling is the best-known and best-maintained of Ricetti's works. It is associated with other structures that are popularly known as 'Kitchen', 'Gun Post', 'Art Gallery', 'Chapel', stone stair and 'The Cliffs Cave' inscription.
A) ROCK SHELTER containing:
- stone-walled sleeping chamber with doorway;
- painted rock murals featuring flower and ship's anchor motifs;
- second chamber with fireplace, known as the 'Kitchen';
- remnant fig planting;
- remnant oleander planting;
- back-filled retaining walls separating the dwelling from the 'Gun Post'.
B) 'GUN POST'
A stone earthwork resembling a small fortification. Historical photographs show a gang plank bridge connecting it to the third dwelling. No evidence of a real defensive purpose has been found, but it appears to have been used by Ricetti to monitor his surroundings.
C) 'ART GALLERY'
A separate chamber connected to the third dwelling. This was remembered to contain a cinema poster of King Kong.
- natural rock amphitheatre with views to the east;
- earthwork terraces with stone retaining walls;
- various materials (steel, wire) still in place and visible, for shoring up and reinforcing the terraces;
- rock mural with cross and the initials VR to the left of the cross and RV to the right of it.
E) STONE STAIR
90-step remnant of stone stair constructed by Ricetti.
F) 'THE CLIFFS CAVE' INSCRIPTION
A historic inscription (predating Ricetti's occupation) reads 'H.M. Alf. Irv. Driver The Cliffs Born Nov. 21/-70'. Alf Driver was the pioneer selector of the local property, The Cliffs. The inscription is chiselled in elegant, cursive script into the floor of the rock shelter which is located near a hazardous rock ledge that is reached by a narrow passage between two boulders. From the rock shelter there is a magnificent 180 degree view of the Riverina Plain and the slopes of the hill below. The site clearly has a larger and previous history of use by settlers and travellers and probably an even older Aboriginal association.
6) NORTH ROCK SHELTER (1)
A narrow , rectangular shelter with two built walls, it is well concealed at the foot of a sheer rock face. Located about 100 metres north-east of the third dwelling, it is connected by pathways to the third dwelling, ridge top and North Rock Shelter (2).
7) NORTH ROCK SHELTER (2)
Defining the northern limits of the Hermit's Cave Complex, it is located about 100 metres north-east of North Rock Shelter (1):
- enclosed rock shelter, well concealed and out of sight from both the ridge top and from below;
- 30-step stone stair connecting the shelter to the ridge top and the bottom of the hill. The top section (10 steps) is steep and narrow, descending between two rock faces.
- faded white diagonal lines painted on one internal rock face.
8) SITE OF WESTERN SHELTER
This site is known through archival photographs and supported by oral history although no physical evidence of the structure has been found. Its stone structures were probably dismantled for use in gardens. Its location has been given as 'just to the west of the track [Scenic Drive] about 100-200 yards in on the flat, north-north-west of the cave's old entrance, north of the look-out' (pers.comm. B&N Ceccato 2004, P. Ceccato 2004, J Bugno 2005, cited in Caillard 2005: Vol 1: 107). (This places it outside the nominated curtilage).
Archival photographs indicate a worked stone structure with large, smooth-finished rectangular blocks framing a wooden doorway with jambs and curved lintel of 'wilga timber'. The structure was a small room built around a hollow wilga tree at the base of which Ricetti had built a fireplace so that the tree could serve as a chimney. The door and a peephole allowed Ricetti to view the approaches from all sides. Ricetti used the structure as both a kitchen and a hide-out but abandoned it because of visitors or vandals (pers.comm N Ceccato, J Bicego, J Bugno, P Ceccato 2004, 2005; Fenwick 1981, cited in Caillard 2005: Vol 1: 108).
(Sources: Peter Kabaila, 'Hermit's Cave, Conservation Management Strategy for Griffith City Council', 2006; Bobby Caillard, 'Recovering the Lost Landscape of Valeri Ricetti: the archaeology of an individual', BA (Hons) thesis, University of Sydney, 2005).
The landscape has been modified on several occasions between the 1970s and 1990s. The most prominent modifications ( by Council) are the Sir Dudley de Chair look-out area above the 'Chapel' and a steel hand-rail along the stairs from the lookout to the 'Chapel' together with work undertaken by the Apex Club in the 1970s, being the construction of a 60-step stone stair from the lookout to the 'Chapel'. Apex have also attempted to reconstruct part of the 'Main Cave'. Apex, however, used cement mortar, which deviated from Ricetti's utilisation of clay-mortar and dry-stone techniques.
The gardens are in a fair condition, although erosion of clay mortar supporting the stone masonry work on the retaining walls is a concern. Erosion is equally a concern on the retaining walls to the 'Chapel'.
Graffiti is a concern, with graffiti damage to some of Ricetti's original rock art.
Some of the staircases are still in a pristine condition.
Taking into account the nature of the rudimentary construction, the site is remarkably intact.
The site has considerable archaeological potential.
There are possibly remnants of constructions to the west and north-west of Scenic Drive (outside the nominated curtilage) but their locations are unknown.
ABORIGINAL CULTURAL USE
Given the elevated nature of the rocky ridge top of Scenic Hill and its panoramic outlook there is a strong likelihood of prior Aboriginal cultural use.
Over the period from around 1929 to 1952 the hermit Valerio Ricetti fashioned an outcrop of rock shelters and rock overhangs on a ridge top site outside Griffith into his living quarters. The historical archaeological complex includes rock shelters (some modified into cave-like enclosures), dry-stone walling, stone stairways and paths, terraced gardens, water cisterns, remnant plantings, inscriptions and rock murals. Over more than two decades Ricetti developed, utilised and occupied structures along the one kilometre long site where he lived in isolated seclusion from 1929 to 1941. He continued to work on the site until 1952 when he returned to Italy where he died in the same year.
VALERIO RICETTI'S HISTORY: AS TOLD BY OTHERS FROM OBSERVATIONS OF, OR CONVERSATIONS WITH, RICETTI
Valerio Ricetti was born in north Italy around 1897-98 in Sondalo, a small town in a valley in the Italian Alps, close to the border with Switzerland. In his home region he was apprenticed as a cement and stonemason and gained experience working on road and rail tunnel constructions. With the declining economic situation and impending war in Europe, his uncle encouraged him to migrate to Australia to seek better opportunities. Aged 16 or 17, Ricetti arrived at Port Pirie, South Australia, in October 1914. He worked at Port Pirie for a few months before heading off to Broken Hill where he stayed at the Ceccato boarding house (signed-on as being 18 years old) and obtained work in the mines with Valentino Ceccato and Francesco Bicego. During his time at Broken Hill Ricetti learned to speak English which he spoke well although he retained an accent. Later, Ceccato and Bicego left Broken Hill and came to Griffith. Ricetti continued to work in the mines until 1918 when he left Broken Hill, heartbroken from being spurned by a barmaid he intended to marry. This love affair devastated him and scarred him for the rest of his life. (P Ceccato 2001:15,43, pers.comm. 2004; B Ceccato pers.comm. 2004; J Bicego pers. comm. 2004; J Bugno n.d: 1, cited in Caillard 2005: 28-29).
Ricetti travelled to South Australia where he worked at various jobs for several years. His life experiences fed his disillusionment with humanity. With a year's timber-cutting wages in his pocket he departed for Adelaide where he visited a brothel. On leaving he found that he had left his wallet behind, but the bouncer would not allow him back in. He hurled a rock through a window, was chased and ended up in Adelaide Gaol. On release he left for Victoria. In Melbourne he intended to pawn his one remaining possession, a coat. But a passer-by who offered to pawn it for him never returned. He moved on to Burrinjuck, NSW, in 1928. In the decade since he left Broken Hill Ricetti had befriended many people but few of these friendships had lasted long. Leaving Burrinjuck, he set out on his own. For the next twelve months or so Ricetti followed the Murrumbidgee River downstream to the Lachlan River then upstream to Hillston, NSW.
Griffith's newspaper, 'The Area News', reported in 1977 that 'He finally found work on a riverboat of the period. He later explained that he had been a sailor on the Murray and that his "ship" had been the Mary Anne. The Mary Anne was one of the many boats that steamed the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Lachlan, and it would appear that Ricetti was to learn more about life during the period he spent on board her; perhaps something about love, unrequited. On the walls of his cave he etched a brief, pathetic epitaph to those days - two hearts and an anchor ' (Fenwick 1977: 8 ).
Ricetti walked along the railway line to Griffith, with no idea of where he was heading. He was searching for a location where he could be on his own. That did not eventuate and he reached in Griffith in 1929.
Arriving on the outskirts of Griffith, a sudden rainstorm drove him to seek shelter on Scenic Hill. Next day he explored the area. About a quarter of the way down from the hilltop, he found a huge overhanging rock which was dry underneath. Close by he saw two reservoirs full of water and fruit and vegetable farms at the foot of the hill. To the west was the town rubbish dump which teemed with rabbits.
Tired of travelling, and with no money left, he later recalled saying to himself 'I have found the Garden of Eden'. Ricetti decided to construct a private utopia, by making the cave his permanent home. He scavenged the rubbish dump where he found a half-worn out shovel, a pick head and an axe head. He felled tree branches to make handles for them. He believed himself to be the only Italian in the area and kept entirely to himself. In reality, his old compatriots Ceccato and Bicego from Broken Hill had settled nearby and increasing numbers of Italian migrants were settling the area.
Ricetti cleared and decorated the caves, creating massive stone galleries and pathways, cliff-side gardens and floral painted rock walls. He worked at night and early in the morning, to remain unseen, eventually moving hundreds of tonnes of rock. Digging under the huge rock, the earth that he threw out rolled down the steep hillside. So he set about building a stone retaining wall. As it was gradually back-filled, he increased the retaining wall height and length. Finally it reached 9 metres long and 2.4 metres high. This gave him a level surface of 2.7 to 3.7 metres outside the cave. Portions on either side of the rock were closed off with stones and clay mortar leaving an opening just over 1 metre wide and 2 metres high to enter the cave.
Outside he planted flowers on both sides of a path that led to the top of the retaining wall. Turning right, he then followed along the top of the wall for about 6 metres where he had made a pathway a little over half a metre wide that led to and from the cave.
Under the lookout, some 36 metres to the right, is a formation of three high rocks in a half circle. The centre one is fashioned by nature as a dome. In front of these rocks he built a stone retaining wall about 1.5 metres high and 4.5 metres long. This he filled with earth to level it, and then he planted more flowers. He called it his 'shrine'.
Further west he found an area that was partly surrounded by a sheer wall of rocks jutting out from the sloping hill. He made flower beds with pathways leading from one bed to another. On the sloping side he built small stone retaining walls. Near a corner of this complex were four large rocks, joined together front and back, with one either side forming a central open space about 3 metres in diameter. The top was open. On the garden side was a hole about a metre deep that he had to crawl through to get inside. Ricetti dug down in front of the hole to make it large enough to walk through, but just over half a metre down he found rock. At this level he dug inwards, carrying the soil up and forming more flowerbeds. At the centre of this 'room' was a rock a little over half a metre high and too large to move. So with stone and clay mortar he shaped it into a table. At the entrance he made a stairway so he could walk down to the cave. For the top he laid thin poles across like a lattice, planting grapevines and wisteria to form a canopy.
Close to these gardens he had a couple of places to hide when people came. These places were not developed in any prominent way. But over the other side of the hill, some 180 metres from the main cave, he built a stone walled circular cave amongst shrubs, around a large tree with a peephole which afforded him another place to hide when people appeared.
In 1935 Ricetti fell off some rocks, breaking his leg and badly bruising his ribs. A passing swagman found him and notified an ambulance that took Ricetti to hospital where the Government Medical Officer, Dr E.W. Burrell, attended to him. He became a celebrity when the enormity of his work on Scenic Hill was discovered. During Ricetti's hospitalisation Wade Shire Council came to his assistance, resolving 'to attend to and maintain the gardens during the hermit's indisposition. Councillor Lenehan stated that the recluse, by vast labour, had added considerably to the interest of Griffith outlook and it was up to the Council to do something for him.'
After leaving hospital Ricetti returned to his reclusive existence. Anxious to pay Dr Burrell for his treatment, however, Ricetti slipped into town at night and worked in the doctor's garden. After a few visits the doctor caught him and explained to Ricetti that payment was made to him by the Government. A friendship grew between the two, which Ricetti valued greatly. Dr Burrell would visit Ricetti regularly at the cave and leave boxes with useful items such as clothes and shoes.
In 1937 a Mr Agostini wandered up the hill one night and came face to face with Ricetti. In conversation the names Ceccato and Bicego came up and Ricetti commented that he had worked at Broken Hill with people of those names. Agostini informed Ceccato of his contact with Ricetti and the acquaintance between Ceccato, Bicego and Ricetti was renewed.
On weekends they would pick up Ricetti, and take him to places where he met many people. They would try to coax him to come and live among them, but the hill remained his home. By now Ricetti had become more socialised and did not shy away from people.
During World War II Ricetti was interned as an enemy alien. He had allegedly lined one of his caves with newspapers that included reports of Hitler with the swastika prominently displayed (Fenwick 1977: 9 ). He was put to work building roads and instructed his captors on how to improve their road-building methods. After four months he was assessed, declared a deranged person and moved to a mental institution at Orange, NSW. Six months later he was released and sent back to Griffith where the police met him and told him to get a job, find accommodation and not go back to the hill. Asked if he could name someone he gave Valentino Ceccato's name, who agreed to take him in.
From 1942 to 1952 Ricetti worked and lived at the Ceccato's, first on Valentino Ceccato's farm until 1948 and then on the farm of Valentino'a son and daughter-in-law, Bruno and Nora Ceccato. From 1943-47 Ricetti worked in the orchards and vineyards alongside Valentino's son, Peter Ceccato, to whom he told stories of his life (P. Ceccato 2001: 43, 45; B & N Ceccato pers. comm. 2004, cited in Caillard 2005: 29, 32-33). But Ricetti was always a loner, working away from others on the farm and sleeping in the pruning shed. He was troubled by visions and obsessed with his cave: 'Disturbing him also was an illusion - a "man and woman in the sky". Very real to him, they towered above him, demanding that he do more and more work.' By all accounts these visions stemmed from his disastrous love affair in Broken Hill (Ceccato 2001: 37; pers. comm. B & N Ceccato and P. Ceccato 2004, cited in Caillard 2005: 33). Ricetti spent as much time as possible at his cave where he stuffed his earnings from Ceccato into clefts in the rocks before Ceccato opened a bank account into which he paid Ricetti's wages direct (Fenwick 1977: 9 ).
In May 1952 Ricetti was in bad health and used the 1400 pounds he had amassed in wages to return to Italy and his brother, with whom he had lost contact. He clearly intended to return as he bought a return ticket and left his savings in the bank. But in November 1952 Bruno Ceccato received notice from the Municipality of Sondrio Vatellina that Ricetti had died (B&N Ceccato pers. comm. 2004; P Ceccato 2001: 47, cited in Caillard 2005: 34)
(Sources: Most information for this section is taken from: Peter Kabaila, 'Griffith Heritage', 2005: 105-108. Also consulted: W.H. Fenwick, 'The Area News', 3 February 1977, 8-9; Bobby Caillard, 'Recovering the Lost Landscape of Valeri Ricetti: the archaeology of an individual', BA (Hons) thesis, University of Sydney, 2005: Vol 1, 28-34).
VALERIO RICETTI'S HISTORY: AS DOCUMENTED
There is very little documentation on Valerio Ricetti's life in Australia and it is almost exclusively confined to records of his internment, dated 1942-45, held by National Archives Australia. Much of the information contained in these records is in the form of Ricetti's answers to a Military Police Questionnaire prior to his internment in 1942. But very little of this information provided by Ricetti can be substantiated by other documents.
Additionally, a photocopy of an employee record for BHP mines was obtained by both J Bicego and J Bugno.
Photocopies of most documents are reproduced in Bobby Caillard, 'Recovering the Lost Landscape of Valeri Ricetti: the archaeology of an individual', BA (Hons) thesis, University of Sydney, 2005: Vol 2, 1-30.
Additional enquiries were undertaken by the Heritage Office with National Archives Australia (NAA); State Record Offices in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales; Glenside Campus (formerly Parkside Lunatic Asylum), Adelaide and Griffith Base Hospital, NSW.
There is no record of Ricetti's date of birth. In 1942 it is recorded as 12 March 1897 (Caillard 2005: 7, 8, 11,12) and also as 12 March 1903 (http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp). The latter date is likely incorrect as Ricetti would have been only 11 or 12 years old on arrival in Australia.
Ricetti's arrival date and port of entry into Australia cannot be verified. In 1942 he reports that he arrived in 1914 at Adelaide, date and ship's name unknown, that he paid his own fare and that he had no family or friends in Australia on arrival (Caillard 2005: 7, 8, 11, 12). But there is no record of his entry into a South Australian port as either a passenger, crew member or ship's deserter over a wide date range around 1914. Neither is he recorded as a passenger entering through a port in Western Australia or Victoria over an equally wide date range. Passenger shipping arrivals into Sydney for this period are not indexed, therefore were not searched (Heritage Office pers. comm. 2006: NAA Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne; State Records SA, NSW; Public Record Office Victoria).
On arrival in Australia, Ricetti claims to have spent 'about one year in a mental hospital in South Australia, after which he went to Alice Springs and on to the Northern Territory' (Caillard 2005: 8). One month later Ricetti claims that he worked in the Broken Hill mines from 1914-17 and on the railways at Grafton, NSW, from 1917-21 after which he came to Griffith where he was employed by various Italian farmers for a few days at a time. The records from 1942 also note Ricetti's two court appearances in the period before his arrival in Griffith: at Adelaide on 7 October 1919 for a breach of the War Precautions Act (Aliens) (offence unspecified), fined five pounds or one month's hard labour and at Barham, NSW, on 14 October 1927 for stealing, fined ten pounds or two months hard labour. The same records note that Ricetti claimed to have left his passport at the Adelaide Police Station but that enquiries failed to confirm this and that examination of his finger prints revealed that Ricetti was also known in Adelaide as Frank Pullen and Frank Muler (Caillard 2005: 12, 14).
Of these claims, only Ricetti's employment at the Broken Hill mines in 1917, his 1927 fine for stealing and a possible gaol sentence in Adelaide in 1919 can be substantiated in the documentary record.
Records of the former Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Adelaide (the only such institution in South Australia at that time) for the period 1914-20 reveal no entries under various possible spellings of Valerio Ricetti or his two aliases (Caillard 2005: 41).
Ricetti's employment at Broken Hill mines can be verified for only 9 days, 17 to 26 May 1917, after which date he left. The record shows that he resided at Eyre St, South Broken Hill which was the Ceccato boarding house at 305 Eyre Street. He is recorded as Vito Ricetti and his age given as 22 years (instead of 20 years), his age probably falsified to gain employment (Caillard 2005: 3).
The Adelaide Register of Prisoners has no record for Valerio Ricetti but has two entries for Franz Recitti in 1919 and 1920. The related documents have not been sighted by the Heritage Office but these entries may tally with one of Ricetti's aliases and relate to either his 1919 breach of War Precautions or the Adelaide brothel offence related by Peter Ceccato (Ceccato 2001: 17-23) (Heritage Office pers. comm. 2006: State Records SA).
There is no record of Ricetti working on the railways at Grafton between 1917 and 1921 (Heritage Office pers. comm. 2006: NSW State Records).
The Police Charges and Summons Book, 1924-28 for Barham, NSW, (on the Murray River) records that Ricetti pleaded guilty on 14 October 1927 to stealing 40 dozen oranges for which he was fined 10 pounds in default of two months hard labour in Deniliquin Gaol (Charles Sturt University, NSW, Regional Archives).
During World War II, 'enemy aliens' resident in Australia were required to register under National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations, to report to the police station each week and to carry an identify card at all time to avoid arrest (Dalton & Polkinghorne 1990: 845). Ricetti's internment record (http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp) and associated documents held by the NAA (Caillard 2005: 16-25) confirm his internment as an enemy alien between May 1942 and December 1943. The documents also reveal the difference in assessment of Ricetti the individual by the local and state police services.
Ricetti was arrested by Griffith Police on 4 March 1942 for failing to register as an alien and to report to police . Ricetti's statement that he was unaware of the requirement to register was accepted by the local police. He was charged with 'being deemed insane and found wandering at large' but was discharged five days later following examination by Dr Burrell (who had attended him in Griffith Hospital in 1935) who pronounced him 'completely harmless and therefor (sic) not a subject for medical attention in an institution' (Caillard 2005: 8).
In his reports to the Commissioner of Police, Sydney, the Officer-in-Charge of Griffith Police noted that Ricetti spoke German, French and Italian quite fluently. He commented on Ricetti's residence on Scenic Hill, his 'considerable skill in stonework', and his work 'to beautify the hill' which Ricetti had asserted to him to be 'his mission in life' . The officer noted that Ricetti had 'long been regarded as an eccentric' and the 'difficulty is experienced in getting anything like a coherent story from him' . He concluded that Ricetti was a 'harmless mental deficient who lives the life of a hermit' and that it was not proposed to begin proceedings against him (Caillard 2005: 8, 11).
Military Police Intelligence, Sydney, however, thought otherwise. They required Ricetti's completion of a four page questionnaire and a search of his premises for 'literature of subversive or disloyal nature' or 'prohibited possessions'. The search carried out on 10 April 1942 by Griffith Police found nothing (Caillard 2005: 10, 13).
The questionnaire appears to have been completed in two stages with handwritten entries by Griffith Police and later, typed entries (that include Ricetti's court appearances) probably entered by Military Police Intelligence in Sydney. These typed entries give a more critical assessment of Ricetti. They comment that Ricetti resides 'in the highest and most secluded locality in the District ... about a mile from the various petrol depots, electricity substations and water channels in the Irrigation Area' and that he 'is known to wander about at night'. The entry continues that Ricetti 'is regarded with a good deal of suspicion' -- a statement that does not square with Griffith Police's assessment of Ricetti as 'harmless' and 'eccentric' -- and concludes 'We are of the opinion that this alien should be interned.' (Caillard 2005: 8, 12-15).
Ricetti was arrested on 3 May 1942 on Scenic Hall and removed to the Liverpool internment camp (south-west of Sydney) from where he was transferred to Cowra in July 1942. Records show he was released from Camp 12, Cowra on 16 December 1942 but also transferred from Cowra to Loveday internment camp, SA, on 21 April 1943 (Caillard 2005: 18, 23). One account suggests Ricetti was moved during his internment to a mental institution in Orange, NSW, for treatment (Ceccato 2001: 35 & 9). However there is no record for that period of Ricetti being admitted to Bloomfield Hospital, Orange (at that time the only mental institution in Orange) (Caillard 2005: 44).
Ricetti was released from Loveday on 5 December 1943 and taken to Sydney where he gave his new place of abode as Farm 219 Yoogali, Griffith (Valentino and Elizabeth Ceccato's farm). A year later (30 November 1944) Ricetti notified his change of abode from Farm 219 Yoogali to Scenic Hill, Griffith. This would indicate the earliest official acceptance of his occupation of this Crown Reserve as his place of abode, even though he is remembered as living on the Ceccato farm at that time.
Ricetti's departure from Sydney cannot be confirmed as NSW passenger shipping lists for 1952 are not indexed and therefore were not searched (Heritage Office pers. comm. 2006: NSW State Records).
The absence of documentary verification for much of Ricetti's story can be at least partly explained by the loss or destruction of many records over time.
EUROPEAN TRADITIONS OF HERMITISM AND NORTH ITALIAN CULTURAL INFLUENCES
Ricetti's experience aligns with European traditions of hermitism that are not essentially religious in origin whereby an individual makes a conscious (rather than an enforced) choice to remove himself or herself from society, often after a long period of solitary wandering (Ricetti trekked on foot for a decade from Adelaide through north Victoria and southern NSW to Griffith). Ricetti's choice of landscape conforms to many European hermit dwellings. Caves are frequently chosen, particularly those located on steep hillsides or in mountains. In this respect Ricetti would have drawn on his Italian upbringing in a mountain valley of north Italy in making his choice of dwelling on the 200 metre high escarpment of the southern edge of the McPherson Range -- a prominent ridge top location in the predominantly flat Riverina Plain. Spiritual iconography is common even among hermits living outside a recognised religious tradition.
North Italian cultural influences can be seen in Ricetti's use of :
(a) skilled stonemasonry with dry stone walling combined with backfilling to create terraces for cultivation on steep and rocky slopes. The use of stone for farmhouses and the skill of dry stone (with no mortar) constructions are prominent in this region as is the use of terracing for cultivation.
(b) planting of grape vines and fruit trees
(c) the 'Chapel' with its painted Christian iconography.
(Sources: http://www.hermitary.com; http://www.councilgrove.com/her_cave.htm; Bobby Caillard, 'Recovering the Lost Landscape of Valeri Ricetti: the archaeology of an individual', BA (Hons) thesis, University of Sydney, 2005: Vol 1: 134).