A Tribute to Marconi

By Francis J. Kelly


Please pay attention and open your eyes,
Because today you will have a surprise.
I fear the members might start to dose,
If I give all of this lecture in prose.
Guglielmo’s life I will now rehearse
And  deliver most of this lecture in verse.

To this Catholic Academy meeting
I’m very happy to give my greeting.
At the behest of Bernard Ficarra
I’ve tried my best to survey the matter
About the invention of radio
By Marconi one hundred years ago.


Here at this time let us pause to review
Some of his dates and accomplishments too.
He achieved honors of many a size.
In Nineteen oh nine (1909) ‘twas the Nobel Prize.
And Italy’s Monarch in Nineteen Nine
Named him a Senator for the first time
And gladly gave, in nineteen twenty nine,
The title, Marchese, to him and his line.
I’m sure I might add so many more here
That I would still be talking next year.

Marconi’s Origins

Handsome Giuseppe, a rich landowner
Intrigued fair Ann, a distiller’s daughter.
From Ireland Ann had gone to Bologna
To study with the local symphonia.
This pretty colleen had a lovely voice.
When he beheld her he made her his choice.
‘Though Ann too loved her Italian man,
Her family delayed their first wedding plan.
But on attaining the age for marriage,
Young Ann ran off in horse drawn carriage,
Fled from her family, sailed to Boulogne,
Married Guiseppe and set up their home.
They sumered at the Villa Griffone--
A large estate with dogs and a pony.
With children soon they were heavenly blest.
Alfonso came first, he was the oldest.
And ten years later cam Guglielmo,
A thoughtful boy; as history will show.
But Papa and Ann had troubles that rent
The family apart--to England she went.
She brought her young sons, her family to see;
And  they stayed away for years, two or three.
Then she returned and listening to reason,
Dwelt at Griffone each summer season.
Ann and the kids wintered in Livorno,
Which means Leghorn in the English lingo!
Young Guglielmo--or Bill we’ll call him--
Was growing up pampered and rather thin.
But little Bill showed he had a kind heart.
--At fair Livorno He’d read to impart
Important knowledge of the world of your
To a telegrapher, who saw no more.
In thanks for the favor the blind old man
Instructed bill how to key well by hand
A telegraph and transmit by Morse code
A message complete.  This secret he showed
 to Guglielmo, who did not know then
How blest he was to’ve bee kind to this friend.

Formal Education

Because Billhad not learned proper diction
The boys at Florence gave him some friction.
Luigi Solari became a friend,
Who wrote his life story after its end.
At Livorno or Leghorn, whiche’re on picks--
Bill entered high school to study physics.
But try as he might and struggle in class
He found the exams were too hard to pass.
To help her dear son with his trials one day,
Ann Jameson Marconi entered the fray.
She went to Professor Righi’s fine home
And asked him to help Bill study alone.
“Ann,” said Righi, “I’m really quite ready
To help him to learn, I hope he’ll be steady.”
A Brilliant decision Prof. Righi made;
And Bill’s brilliance too will never fade.
For Guglielmo, the set-up was fine,
As a special student, ready to shine.

The Invention of Radio

In the summer of Eithtenn ninety four
While on vacation, the alps he’d explore.
In the tiny hamlet of Beilleze
He’d freely read whatever he’d please.
He read the story of Herr  Heinrich Hertz,
Whose Maxwellian wave experiments first
Demonstrated their fast propagation
To everyone and to each proud nation.
As a part of the electricity craze,
Bill thought that, maybe on of these days,
Whenever there might be a ship to save
They’d send a distress call using his wave.
In a bright flash without hesitation
He say their use for communication!

The Making of the First Radio Set

When he came home from the alps and the trees,
He hastened to get the pieces he’d need
To make a transmitter of Hertzian waves--
Some bottles and wires and plates that he’d saved.
His mother saw that her son was inspired.
His dad was quite grumpy and really was tired
Of useless experiments. The messes he’d make!
Some had exploded and others would break!
But Ann, his mother, arranged that he had
Two rooms upstairs in the house for a lab.
There during each day and into each night
Bill worked on his task  ’til it was just right.
Then when he knew that the code could be sent,
He called for his mom, and upstairs she went.
The lad then made the first demonstrations
Of radio, that thrilled all the nations.
These short initial radio programs
Delighted both his mom and his cousin!
Papa Guiseppe would soon approve it.
And gave some cash to help bill improve it.
First, it was just a small apparatus
To send a message for a short distance.
Soon, the farmhands at Villa Griffone
Were working in wireless telegraphy.
Quickly promoted from feeding chickens,
They were the first radio technicians.

While working this way, Bill found with surprise
That clicks improved as the antenna’s rise.
Instead of a spark gap so weak and small
He made big antennas both high and tall.
With these wires and plates as large as a tree
He’d reach quite far with the waves that he’d free.
His distances soon were ever so good
He’d cover a mile and be understood.
Now his proud papa and mama with glee
Considered how best to make some money.
So the Marconis sent Rome a letter
Which said that soon Italy had better
Help Youn Bill to improve his invention
Which would be useful beyond contention.
But “No, No” wa the official reply,
“Please don’t bother us, Caio, caio and bye-bye.”
“Well,” said the papa and mama and Bill,
“Then we’ll go to England --our pockets to fill--
With money from this new apparatus.
Marconi’ll be a name of great status.”
Off they did go, did Bill and his mother
Leaving home papa and Bill’s older brother.

Guglielmo and Mom in England

In London they met a fine engineer’
Named Davis who was Ann’ cousin so dear.
He sent young Bill to the Office of Post,
Whose engineer thought that this was the most
Useful idea that had ever come by
And to improve it was willing to try.
(That chief engineer was Sir William Preece.
His name should be given some notice, at least.)
Balloons and kites lifted wires and panels,
So Bill could work across plains and channels.
After success on the Salisbury plain
Guglielmo gladly returned home again
At a seaport of Italy, so green,
Marconi met with the King and the Queen.

Commercial Development

With great persistence and much energy
Young Bill continued to work like a bee.
In eighteen ninety seven, Marconi
Would form his Wireless Telegraph company.
In the company he had plenty of stock
Which other owned too--odd lots or a block.
The price would go up and it would go down
Moved by storms and wrecks and luck in the Town.

Transatlantic Adventure

Soon the range from each tall broadcast tower
Reached thousands of miles by increase of power.
Marconi, in nineteen hundred and one,
Accomplished the greatest work he’d begun.

Transmissions from Poldhu, cornwasll ,England
Were heard on Signal Hill in Newfoundland.
--In Poldhu his staff an “es” did transmit
In st. Johns Bill could just hear “dit-dit-dit.”
This was an accomplishment gigantic.
The first wireless was sent transatlantic!

Bill’s Wedding and Family

An Irish lass with a figure so fine
Was Bill’s sweet daring--Beatrice O’Brien.
She was the Protestant daughter so fair
Of Lord Inchiquin of County Clare.
‘Though her family pedigree was first rate,
Their ready money was not very great.
In the fair year nineteen hundred and five,
Our Bill took young Beatrice as a wife
Their first child, Lucia, passed sadly away
Short weeks after seeing the bright light of day.
Degna, Giulio and Gioia lived long
To marry and write and tell right from wrong.

The Marconi Scandal

For research bill wanted time to make free
And looked for head for his company.
In Nineteen either he decided to pick
A talented man nemed Godfrey Isaac.
Godfrey had av ery fine family too
And Bill didn’t mind that he was a Jes.
In the Isaac clan, Rufus, his brother
Was a politician who, like many another,
Had friends and enemies ranked by the score.
He was quite careful his place to ensure.
But for many men the family feeling
Has dulled good sense and sent their minds reeling.
This happened to Rufus and Godfrey too
They made and investment and nearly blew
Away the government in Nineteen twelve
Lloyd George and Asquith would say it was hell!
And Winston Churchill, the young politician,
Was not immune to the greatest suspicion.

The scandal stemmed from an opportunity
For risklessly amassing much money.
Some shares of American Marconi
Were bough by three government ministers
Secretly in a way most sinister.
Sir Rufus Isaacs, Attorney general,
Had bought Marconi stock--incredible!
Lloyd George, chancellor of he Exchequer,
In Marconi’s was a speculator.
And Lord Murray, the Elibank’s master,
To Bogota fled to escape the disaster.
This was before Parliament. in fact,
Had passed the Imperial chain contract,
Which increased the price of Marconi shares
So much that a tidy profit was snared
By sharp investors who purchased the stock
From godfrey Isaacs before it was docked
To the broad public, who’d soon discover
The good news about the Marconi tender.
About this scheme rumors soon came out
And many investors started to pout.
Then Cecil Chesterton, G. K.’s brother
Published some stories about this matter.
Another who wrothe concerning this stock
Was the catholic man, Hillaire Belloc.
Key information came to L. J. Maxse
Who heard about the American stock facts.
All kinds of thoughts wer thought by the public
Because the accused were too reticent.
They told the facts to Prime Minister Asquith
Who very soon was taken to task with
This scandal by the dread opposition
Of the conservative politicians.
Asquith decided not to remove them
And even pretended that he approved them.
For should they resign, his party would fall--
A dire result, he did not want at all!
For eighteen long month the English newspapers
Were filled with tales of financial capers.
And every time the mentioned the scandal
Marconi’s was the name they would handle.
So Guglielmo became quite upset
To have had his name enmired in this net.

Gugliemo’s Infidelity

Since bill was famous and rich for his time
Ladies of dubious  virtue would try
To gain his affection and then to climb
Onto his yacht.  So Beatrice would cry.
Finally after one row and another
Young Bea and Bill decided to sever
Their nineteen year marriage in Fiume,
Which allowed divorce as a “free city.”
In the sad year of nineteen twenty four
Bill’s marriage to Beatrice was no more.
When Bea divorced Senatore Marconi,
She soon wed Marchese Marignoli!
So it continued that Bill’s family
Was marred by willful instability.

After Divorce

Now we might think that aloof and alone
Bill could pursue truth and the ocean roam.
But still he was a susceptible man,
Strong in science, but a prey to women.
Not taking much time to dilly-dally,
He wooed young Christina Bezzi-Scali,
A young Catholic girl of a family of note
That for years had bravely served for the Pope.
So, to attain his romantic fulfillment,
Bill had to get a marriage annulment.
Now such are the woes men find when they leave
A beautiful wife and cause her to grieve.
Someday the wife that they’ve left in the lurch
Can prevent their second wedding in Church.
But Bea was helpful, and she testified
When Bill told her of his plans for a bride.
So after a lot of testimony
About the first marriage of Marconi
The annulment declared that marriage phoney;
And Bill could enjoy his next matrimony.
So in the June of nineteen twenty seven,
His bride and Bill were in seventy heaven
With a happy new life none could besmirch,
For he’d lately rejoined the Catholic Church.
That year in the fall, Bill and Cristina
Sailed to U. S. of America.
But the strain of his new family start
May have been to taxing for Bill’s old heart.
Like many a man, whom I can state sure,
Bill could not fool his old Mother Nature.
Angina pectoris, was diagnosed.
Less work was prescribed; so bill then focused
On the Royal Academy, where Bill went
And was elected their first president.
Bill was a man known not to be lazy
About honors and was named a Marchese.
Next I will tell, for whatever it’s worth,
In Nineteen Thirty Cristina gave birth
To a blond baby they named Elettra,
Who was so pretty she couldn’t be better.
With two sets of kids, Bill earnestly tried
To share his money and yacht--but his bride
Seemed not too happy the other to see.
Then bill seemed to neglect his first family.
This distressed Bea, who thought that if she might
Release Bill’s letter to her (not for spite)
It would the annulment somehow confuse.
But then she gave up and said “What’s the use?”
With both of their parents remarried again
Degna, Giulio and Gioia felt pain.
Not quite abandoned, but they were dismayed--
They felt unwanted wherever they stayed.
In the winter of nineteen thirty six,
When degna was just about twenty eight,
She and her father talked ove the fix
That he had created and some peace they made.

Guglielmo and the Holy Fathers

When Bill had fully come back to the Church,
He was not likely his duty to shirk.
He saw that one of the problems great
Of Pope Pius was from his prison to break.
Since Massini’s time, our poor Pope had been
The holy captive in the Vatican.
So our enterprising  Guglielmo
Said “Holy Father, your blessing will go
From your small enclave in he Vatican
To every man in every land,
If you broadcast them out by radio,
My noble invention that we both know.
Then it will not only mariners save
From the dangers of a watery grave,
But the souls of many poor people as well,
It can prevent from going to hell.”
Then bill and Pacelli, the Cardinal,
Made the papal radio terminal.
With his Vatican radio station
Pope Pius talked to all of the nations.
This gallant gift was Bill’s greatest by far.
It even helped to decide the cold war.

The Death of Guglielmo

Nineteen thirty seven--Bill’s last observation
Was the cessation of his circulation.
He sensed the lack of his heart’s throbbing
In his artery--then there was sobbing
By all the people who idolized Bill
And who never knew of a greater thrill
Than their own radio to listen to;
And we all here mourn him too--Don’t you?

Concluding Prayer

So let us all pray for Guglielmo
Marconi, who brought us the radio.
And for Ann, his mom, who helped him to grow
And provided the lab, as we all know;
And father, Giussepe, who though strict
Permitted young Bill to study physics;
And for Bill’s wives, Beatrice and Tina,
And for the children, Lucia, Degna,
Giulio, Gioia and fair Elettra.
May they all joyously gather again
With the Popes Pius in heaven.