The Scottish presence in Italy
Around 1960, there was considerable publicityin Italian and foreign press concerning the origin of the people of Gurro, a small town on a hillside in a glen climbing out of the main valley of the River Cannobina. The pass trough which this river flows eastwards onto Lake Maggiore is one of the main routes over the Simplon Pass, which provides a roadway from Italy to Switzerland and Northern Europe. It was the route which was used by the Roman legions under Caesar.
When the parish priest of Gurro, Reverend Canon Don Giuseppe Piombi made known his view of the origin ofthe Gurro population, attention was drawn to the many Celtic words in the local dialect. It was pointed out by Professor Karl Huber of Zurich that the whole of the Alpine region is occupied by people of Celtic origin.
About 1000 BC, the Celtic migration started in the east and gradually covered most of Europe, the Iberian peninsula, and the British Isles, untilthey where absorbed by another migration of Germanic people, that gradually spread south trough Europe and into what is known as England today. The Celtic language and people survived in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Western Ireland, Wales, Brittany and a few other places. The same thing happenedon the southern side of the Alps where the Latin influence penetrated northward and absorbed the Celtic language and population.
All of this took place before the first century BC, long before any of today's countries existed, but it explains the presence of Celtic words in many European languages.
The kings of France, allies of the Scottish Kings, had used Scottish mercenaries as personal guards as early as the 1300's, and it was the same when Francis I became king of France in 1514. The Scottish Lifeguard was commanded by Lord Robert Stuart of Aubigny, he was created one of the four Marshals of France. In 1515 Francis I broke the power of the Swiss at the battle of Marignan, and gained control of the Duchy of Milan.
In 1519 Charles V inherited Spain and was elected Holy Roman Emperor, he controlled Spanish Italy (Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia), the Netherlands, and the Habsburg German and Austrian possessions. Thus the House of Habsburg started the drive and forced the French out of Milan.
In 1524 Francis I marched with 30000 troops and retook Milan. On the 25 of February 1525 Francis I was beaten at Pavia by the Spanish and taken prisoner. After the battle all ranks below those able to pay ransoms where released (about 20 000 men) and allowed to find their way home.
The remains of the Lifeguards where left to their own devices, amongst them men named Tenent, Dromont, Darumpul, Wismes, Semeton and Abernaty, this is known from the nominal roll in the Musée de l'Armé in Paris. After the battle the two companies that had fought with the kingdisappeared from the rolls. The authorities considered that they had ceased to exist. They remained missing until their names where discovered in the parish records of Gurro, a little town near the Swiss-Italian border, where their descendants had survived in isolation until a road was built up to their glen in the 1920's.
These facts are from a book, " The lost Clan: Sant' Andrea degli Scozzesi of Gurro, Novara, Italy", written by Lt.-Col. Robert Gayre, who collected all of the information from different sources, and with the help of the Italian government, created a memorial in Gurrro in 1974.
It is probable that Alice Lymburner who wrote the original manuscript that was later published in Susan Paquette's book would have read about the Scots in Gurro in the 60's. And this could have been the anchor for the story of the Italians mercers who where the original Lymburner's in Scotland. But one thing is sure, the Scottish Lifeguards where soldiers who had been in France for one or more generations, the settlement of Gurro was in 1525 when the soldiers on their way home to France, where probably stopped by snow, or lost, and turned of the main route, ending up in the glen, and decided to stay there after the snow melted.
The Lymburner name is in the written records of Scotland since the early 1300's, long before the war of 1525, so there is no way that Gurro can be the source of the Lymburner name, or that it played any role in the Lymburner name. And it is clear that the original Scots of Gurro who raided the countryside for women to take as wives, where isolated and did not venture far from their lands. As time passed they where assimilated by the Italian population around them, very little is left except a few words of Gaelic origins still used by the local population. (725 in 1974).