Staplegrove Local History Society

ON Monday November 28, John Porter gave a talk about how his initial research into Andrew Crosse of Fyne Court led to him uncovering the fascinating life of Andrew’s grand-daughter, Cornelia Crosse, who was always known as Yoi.

This came about purely by chance as he was intrigued to discover in the 1891 Census that she was born in Hungary. From this discovery he conducted wide-ranging research for more than ten years tapping into resources from the internet, local historians, the British Library, the British Institute in Florence and Harvard University.

Yoi’s own letters, memoirs and writings for various periodicals also were invaluable.

Yoi was born in Hungary in 1877, where her father grew vines for wine production. She lived there for twelve years until her father moved to South Africa to try mining for gold.

However, instead of moving to South Africa with her parents and siblings, Yoi went to live with relatives in London.

In 1896, Yoi married the wealthy Captain James Buckley of Llanelli and had two children. In 1909 she left her husband and children and eloped with the young – aged 23 – Sir Coleridge (Roy) Kennard, an attache in the Foreign Office.

Roy was posted to Rome and then Tehran (at the request of Roy’s mother, who did not approve of the affair). After following Roy Coleridge to Tehran she had to accept that he had tired of her, and she returned to Rome.

Here she met another young man – the rising sculptor Antonio Mariani – and became his model. The couple moved to Florence and in 1914 were married.

They had two sons (one born in 1913) and were a successful if unconventional couple.

However, when the Germans occupied Florence in WW2, Yoi was in danger, as she was still a British subject, and was due to be deported to Germany.

She was, though, able to avoid this by being given shelter in a convent and classified as “sick”. In August 1944, Florence was liberated but Yoi died two months later in her garden, aged 67.

What kind of person was Yoi? She was undoubtedly an intelligent, determined and industrious woman.

Her numerous letters, articles for periodicals and memoirs sometimes give glimpses. In one of her letters she writes about the death by drowning of her son Ifor by her first marriage. It was probably an accident but she states that it was suicide, as he was missing his mother.

This may suggest guilt and/or egocentricity? And what can one glean from her article for the London weekly, the Saturday Review when in a very complimentary article, A Talk with Mussolini, she writes, “It is difficult to talk about the diverse qualities of this wonderful man”?

Yoi’s grand-daughter, Dacia Maraini is a very successful writer in Italy, and she recently has been in correspondence with John. Her advice to him was “write it up”!

The next meeting of the Staplegrove Local History Society will be on Monday, January 23 (AGM and members’ afternoon) and on Monday, February 27, when John Burgess will give a talk about the importance of oral history.

For further information please contact Janet Woodburn, secretary on 01823 284522 or