Sunday, 30 November 2014

Harry Vaughan Davies 1916 - 2014

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Great War, when the so-called civilised world was plunged into darkness from which it only reawakened four years later. It was during this period of madness that on 6 October 1916 my father, Harry Vaughan Davies, came into the world. The largest and perhaps bloodiest encounter of the conflict, the Battle of the Somme, was still raging at the time and it would be another two years before the world finally came to its senses. But they were uneasy times: in his formative years my father would have lived through the Irish War of Independence, the Great Depression and the rise of communism and fascism.
Despite all this, my father was born into an ordered and privileged world. His father, Harry Hayward Davies, worked as a salesman for S & J Watts, a major textile business in Manchester, which occupied the warehouse that is one of the city’s stand-out architectural features today. Harry Hayward's parents had been publicans in Salford and he first met my grandmother Rachel when she was working as a servant in their hostelry, the ‘Craven Heifer’. They moved into Eskdale, a house on Mayfield Road in the Victorian estate of Whalley Range in South Manchester, which had been built as a desirable neighbourhood for ‘gentlemen and their families’ at a time when Manchester was said to do things which the rest of the world only did tomorrow. By the time my father was born, King George V was on the throne and the toll gates to the estate had been dismantled and electric trams now ran along its perimeters.
My father went to William Hulme’s, an independent grammar school, and every week he would attend Sunday services at St Edmund’s church on Alexandra Road, along with his three siblings, Bessy, Tom and John. They were fine parents, my father would recollect, and he had a happy childhood. Often he would tell us about the tricks that he and his brothers would play (on sometimes unsuspecting victims) in Mayfield Road. Holidays were part of that world and every year, the family would pack their trunks, board the train at Manchester Exchange and spend their summers at Colwyn Bay on the North Wales coast, a place which they all grew to love and one that would later become a firm favourite with future generations. As a young man, one of my father’s greatest pastimes was playing the clarinet in a band with friends, at a time when the great dance bands were all the rage.
When he finished school, he started a career in insurance but after a few years this was rudely interrupted by the Second World War. My father was called up and joined the Royal Artillery and it was during those turbulent years - working on the anti-aircraft defences in Oxford - that he met Olive, a Scarborough girl, with whom he fell in love. On 5 September 1947, after having been demobbed, they got married at St Mary’s church in Scarborough. Their betrothal marked the start of 65 years of happy marriage.
Back in civvies, my father reassumed his career in insurance and the young couple moved to a semi-detached house in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, the next suburb on to Whalley Range in South Manchester. By the time I was born ten years later, my father was already in his forties and Harry and Olive had already brought two sons, Francis and Jonathan, into the world.
When I came along in 1957 the world was changing rapidly. It was an age of post-war reconciliation, mass consumption and increasing prosperity. Dad bought a car in the Sixties (even though he didn’t have a driving licence at the time). This new-found mobility enabled us to go on undreamed-of trips and holidays further afield (notably the Scottish Highlands), as hitherto we would have had to take a train or coach to holiday destinations like Scarborough and Colwyn Bay. The car opened up new horizons for my mum and dad and they would eventually travel abroad , still uncommon in the Sixties and Seventies.
Dad continued to work at Sun Life, but he was shrewd enough (and well-off enough) to retire when he was 59 (when I was still at school). In 1984, when we had all left home, my parents decided to move to Thornton-le-Dale on the edge of the North Yorks Moors, which was a favourite spot my parents visited on trips to Scarborough. It was here, where they played an active part in village life, that they spent their happiest years. He was able resume pastimes he had enjoyed as a young man, such as walking and playing instruments, such as the clarinet, saxophone and trombone. He also became quite prolific at painting and drawing: oils, acrylics, charcoal and pencil - you name it - he tried it. Every week mum and dad would go on weekly outings to Scarborough or York. But what they enjoyed most of all were the visits from their 5 grandchildren.

Dad has a lot to answer for.  
He had a huge array of interests ranging from motor racing to cricket, classical music, jazz music, playing the clarinet and the saxophone, hymn-writing, walking, mountains, Welsh rugby and the Welsh language, steam trains, liners and many others, so I suppose some of it was bound to rub off on us.
On holiday, my father and mother would take us on long walks. It certainly had an effect on me: my mother used to call me the ‘mountain goat’ and I can never recall a time that walking long distances has been a chore.
When I was a young, he took us to test matches at the local cricket ground. Australia, West Indies, India, we saw them all. In my teens I became a junior member of Lancashire County Cricket Club, and come rain or shine, after school my friends and I would stroll down to Old Trafford to watch the proceedings. 50 years later I now find myself running my own cricket team in Holland.
And as long as I can remember, my dad had a photograph of the Matterhorn above the fireplace in the living room. I was fascinated by the legendary feats surrounding its first ascent and later in life I made my own pilgrimage to the mountain.
He was always engrossed in something or other. It was one of his endearing features. From that point of view, I don’t think we couldn’t really have wished for a better dad.

It’s so long ago, it’s difficult to remember dad as a working man. Quite often, while mum was getting tea ready in Badminton Road, as kids we would happily skip to the bus stop on Wilbraham Road, impatient to meet him after work. And when mum took on a part-time job and had to catch the early bus to work every day, he took on the task of getting us ready for school with gusto.
Holidays were always the best time with dad. We would have a whale of a time. He was able to relax and – except when the car broke down, as it frequently seemed to do - he was able to have quality time with the family. Fun was guaranteed! 
He was both a gentleman and a gentle man. The vast majority of the time, dad was good-humoured and if he did get cross, it was invariably with himself (a trait I can reliably say he has passed on to the next generation). But woe betide if, on one of the very rare occasions, he did get angry with us as kids, it meant we really had done something wrong!  

Paradoxically, he was able to devote more of his free time to his five grandchildren in his 38 years of retirement, than he could offer us as a working father. They had a whale of a time with grandpa. He would invariably end up doing silly things with them - playing games, composing rhymes and making up songs. He even went as far as to write verses for our dog!

I could write a lot more about my dad, suffice to say he was a great husband, father and grandfather. Everyone who knew him has their own fond memories of him and he meant a lot to many people. 
Dad has been with us so long, I can hardly imagine life without him. It was tough making him comfortable in the latter years. I spent two weeks with him this July and life was taking its toll, but despite the grumbling and grouching that accompanied old age, he was still very much the dad I knew and loved. Whenever I came to stay, he was overjoyed when I arrived and tearful when I left. I always tried to make light of it, in the hope that there would never be a last time, but sadly there was. He probably loved us more than we could imagine.
It will be hard without him and I shall miss him terribly.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

On the trig-point trail

Trig point on Shining Tor

Bryn Euryn is a limestone outcrop, not much more than 400 feet in height, that lies above the seaside settlement of Rhos-on-Sea on the North Wales coast. Its summit was once occupied by a hill fort which was supposedly a stronghold of Cynlas Goch, a Welsh king who held sway over these parts in the early sixth century. For me, spending many happy holidays on this coastline, the hill held an allure that appealed to the imagination of a small boy. However, it wasn’t the Dark Age fortress that left me spellbound, it was something else that stood on its summit.
For generations, Bryn Euryn had been a popular outing with my father’s side of the family who holidayed in Colwyn Bay, this tradition being continued during my own childhood, so that climbing the hill could almost be considered a rite of passage. When I was old enough to clamber to the top with my dad, I was confronted with a concrete pillar standing around 4 feet tall, which marked its summit. I can still remember the exhilarating feeling when my father held me aloft and sat me down on top of the column so I could marvel at the view. It was my first ever encounter with a trig point.

If you’re the outdoors type and you enjoy roaming the open spaces of the British mainland like I do, you’ll be familiar with these edifices that adorn prominent elevations around the country. As I grew up and scaled ever higher hills, these pillars generally marked the apogee of a walk, and the arrival at the summit would be accompanied by the same ritual of standing on its top, just large enough to take one person. Having one’s photograph taken was (and still is) all part of the proceedings. All the major (and minor) peaks I climbed had them: Bleaklow Hill, Kinder Scout, Snowdon and Ben Nevis. In that respect, these trig points symbolised the culmination of a long and arduous hike. 
There are over 6000 of these pillars in England, Wales and Scotland. Built in the 1930s and constructed in concrete, they are best described as truncated square pyramids which taper towards the top. On the top is a brass mounting designed for holding surveying equipment. They are commonly known as trig points, sometimes just ‘trigs’, but they are more correctly defined as ‘triangulation stations’. This network of stations was used, as part of a massive ‘retriangulation’ scheme, to measure the country more precisely and so render more accurate mapping for the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain (OS).

As a method of calculating distances, triangulation has been known about since ancient times. It is founded on the mathematical principle that the exact position of point C on a triangle can be calculated if the distance from A to B (the baseline) on the same triangle is known and the angle in relation to C can be determined from each end of the baseline. The branch of mathematics which studies such relationships between the lengths and angles of a triangle is known as trigonometry.
Triangulation was used in the ancient Greek, Arab and Chinese cultures to measure heights, slopes and angles and was even used for basic mapping. It wasn’t until the late eighteenth century however, that triangulation came into use on a large scale for mapping purposes. It was an age of scientific discoveries and, against the background of this technical progress, rulers of the day were starting to demand that the true extent of their realms be ascertained. 

Under the patronage of the King Louis XIV of France, Giovanni Domenico Cassini - an Italian surveyor known for his work on waterworks and fortifications - was commissioned in 1669 to produce more detailed maps of France, which would give a much more accurate portrayal of features such as mountains, rivers, cities, roads, political boundaries and other man-made elements. In the first instance, astronomical data was applied to find out the latitude and longitude of any given location and, in combination with triangulation methods, calculations were used to establish the meridian line north and south of Paris. Cassini died in 1712 and was succeeded as general surveyor by his son, Jacques, who was later assisted by one of his own offspring, Cesar Francois. By 1733, fairly accurate charts of France had been plotted and triangulation techniques (using smaller triangles) were then deployed to fill in the details. By 1740 France had been comprehensively surveyed using a network of 400 triangles. Never before had a country been so accurately mapped.

Over time methods of triangulation improved and ever more sophisticated surveying equipment was developed. As the United States expanded westwards, larger and more inhospitable expanses of land needed mapping. This was no less true for colonial powers as they began to explore the hinterlands of their newly acquired possessions. 
Whilst few people would fail in naming the world’s highest peak, the vast majority would probably be oblivious to the fact that the mountain was named after the greatest practitioner of triangulation of his day. George Everest was responsible for completing the Great Arc of the Meridian, which measured the Indian sub-continent from top to toe over a period of 50 years. With instrumentation weighing half a ton, the progress of his team of surveyors was often hampered by hill and jungle, flood and fever, and tigers and scorpions, yet the 1600-mile survey was more or less inch-perfect and resulted in the first accurate measurements of the Himalayas.

As already alluded to, cartography was an occupation that was reserved almost exclusively for the military and it is no coincidence that Britain’s mapping agency is still known as the Ordnance Survey. (George Everest, for example, was a colonel and up until 1974, the post of general director of the OS was always held by a military commander). Things were no different in other countries. 
In Japan, triangulation even became a matter of prestige for its army. By 1900, apart from its very highest mountains, triangulation of the country was all but complete. Only the Tatayame mountain chain had eluded the efforts of its army surveyors. No one had yet scaled the range’s highest peak, Tsurugidake and it was a prime objective of the country’s mappers to put a triangulation station on its summit so that the remote mountain terrain could be accurately charted. It was at a time when mountaineering had emerged as a sport in Japan, and this original goal was soon eclipsed by an even more important objective: who would be the first to scale this hitherto unconquered peak? In 1904, Shibasaki Yoshitaro, the surveyor in charge of mapping the Tsurugi area, was given strict orders by the Imperial Army to make the first ascent before the amateurs of the Japan Alpine Club could do so. Under this pressure and operating with limited financial resources and inadequate mountaineering gear, Shibasaki and his 6 assistants set off to climb Tsurugidake, often having to resist the deep superstitions of the locals. With supreme effort - often having to risk hardship, and not least life and limb on the way - they finally reached the summit on 13 July 1907 and subsequently set up a triangulation station that helped fill in the final pieces of the mapping jigsaw. There was a final twist however: ancient relics from the Middle Ages, namely a rusty iron sword and a sceptre made of tin were found on its summit, so it turned out that an unknown monk had made the undocumented ascent several hundred years before. The story was later made into a novel in 1977 and subsequently into an award-winning film in 2009: Tsurugidake - Ten no Ki, or ‘Chronicle of Stones’. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the beauty of the Japanese mountain landscape should watch this stunning film and it has a great story-line too.

But, I’m getting carried away. This blog was supposed to be about the triangulation pillars like the one at the top Bryn Euyrn which kindled in me a fascination for this omnipresent feature of the British landscape, so perhaps a little more background is required.
The network of pillars that cover Britain from the Shetlands to the Scilly Isles was conceived as part of a retriangulation plan in the 1930s. One outcome of an increasingly industrialised and urbanised society was the emergence of town and country planning as an applied discipline. With organised planning came a need for more accurate mapping. The original triangulation of Britain had started in 1784 and continued until 1803, but this had been largely piecemeal and local in character with major deviations between different parts of the country. Retriangulation was part of a master plan to survey the country even more faithfully. 100 locations were identified for the primary stations, partly based on the site of the original triangulation in the 19th century, located about 30 miles apart, where pillars - within view of each other - would be erected. Later, secondary triangles would to be inserted into the primary network, this time each side of the triangle being 5 or so miles long.
Primary pillars were placed almost exclusively on high tops in remote areas, often necessitating the use of packhorses and brute manpower for carrying construction materials uphill. The base needed 3 feet of foundations, otherwise the pillar might topple over on unstable ground, so it is a testament to the integrity of the builders that the overwhelming majority of these pillars stand firm to this day. (Of the 6,500 that were built around 5,500 are still standing.) The war intervened to put a temporary halt to the primary triangulation, but after 1945, secondary and tertiary triangulation - which created an even finer mesh of triangles - was completed and observations concluded in 1952. The results of the retriangulation were used to create the national grid which became the basis of the Ordnance Survey's new maps. This generated a co-ordinate system which is still used today and allows plotting of the entire country with a relative accuracy of just less than 20 metres from north to south.

In the 1990s, with the advance of satellite mapping using GPS technology, it was decided to ‘retire’ the vast majority of triangulation pillars from service. (Some pillars were kept on and incorporated into the GPS network, having signals in their base to keep the satellite system working.) This decision meant that the OS would relinquish responsibility for their upkeep. However, even though they had only been in existence for a relatively short time span (60 years at the most), the trig point had become part and parcel of the British landscape and there was a considerable backlash about this wanton abandonment by the UK's national mapping agency. Questions were even asked in parliament and eventually the OS came up with the idea of a trig point adoption scheme. This meant that private individuals (or clubs) could apply to adopt their own pillar and maintain it on a regular basis, for example, with a fresh coat of white paint. Of course, trig points on popular high-points were quickly snapped up, but those hidden away in hedgerows and on flat, featureless land simply became neglected.

In 2005 I found myself at the top of The Calf, the highest point on the Howgill Fells, a distinctive range of hills that lies between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. From its pristine white triangulation pillar on the summit (626 metres), the extensive panorama takes in the Lakeland skyline and the Yorkshire Three Peaks. My visit to this memorable trig point location prompted me to investigate the subject more closely on internet and I stumbled across, the definitive site for trig points and ‘trig-bagging’. The site lists every single triangulation pillar in Great Britain and it’s possible to log visits to individual locations. In fact, trigpointing has become quite a sport and the site has over 2500 registered users, including myself. In the time that has elapsed since my ascent of The Calf, I've managed to bag over 60 pillars – that’s six a year: no mean achievement when you consider I don’t even live in the country. And even though I hold a respectable 400th position on the all-time rankings, I’m small fry when you realise that someone has actually copped them all!

As it happens, I’m quite happy to keep my trig-bagging exploits to manageable proportions. Many trig points, like the one in the low-lying field 500 yards from where my father lives, are situated in unexceptional locations and only exist because they occupy the highest point in what would otherwise be an unremarkable landscape. Mostly however, these iconic structures stand on isolated tops which afford outstanding views (after all, that’s what they were originally built for), so they invariably provide rewarding destinations for an outdoor excursion. Just like my outing to the top of Bryn Euryn over 50 years ago.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Vetta d'Italia

At an elevation of 2911 metres, the summit of Vetta d’Italia stands at the northernmost extremity of present-day Italy on its border with Austria. The mountain’s name – which translates into English as ‘Peak of Italy’ - has been in use since 1905, when it was christened thus by Ettore Tolomei, an Italian nationalist, who claimed to have made its first ascent. However, this was no mere peak-bagging exercise: Tolomei was standing on the great Alpine divide, extending a thousand and one hundred kilometres, from Nice in the west to Rijeka in the east, which marked what he believed were the limits of the Italian realm. Today, this might not seem entirely implausible: after all, the current boundaries of Italy follow this crescent-shaped watershed – more or less – all the way from the Ligurian to the Adriatic coast.
Significantly however, up until 1905 the mountain had never had an Italian name. It had always been known as Klockerkarkopf and lay at the centre of the County of Tyrol which extended 70 km northwards to Bavaria and 120 km southwards to Trentino. It was very much part of the German-speaking world and formed part of the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire. In fact, the very first ascent of the Klockerkarkopf was documented as having been achieved 9 years previously by two Austrian climbers, Franz Hofer and Fritz Kögl. At the turn of the 20th century, Italian linguistic and cultural influence in the region was almost non-existent: 90% of the population in that part of Tyrol south of the Alpine watershed was German-speaking, the remaining 10% being divided almost equally between Italian and Ladin speakers. 
Since the time that Italy became united in 1866, a movement known as Italian irredentism had evolved whose aim was to annex territories which were deemed to be ‘Italian’, however flimsy these claims may have been. The irredentists set their sights on areas such as the County of Nice, Corsica, Ticino, Dalmatia and Malta, but also all the territory that extended as far north as Vetta d’Italia and the continental divide. Tolomei was one of the most fervent advocates of this territorial expansion. 
When Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated in Sarajevo a hundred years ago, it sparked off a chain of events that led to the Great War of 1914-18 and ultimately to the break-up of the Hapsburg Empire. Initially, Italy entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire). As part of a strategy to get the Kingdom of Italy to change sides, in 1915 a secret pact known as the Treaty of London was signed by the Triple Entente (United Kingdom, France and Russia) which pledged that Italy would, on cessation of hostilities, “obtain Cisalpine Tyrol with its geographical and natural frontier (the Brenner frontier)”.  
In the intervening years between his ascent of the Klockerkarkopf and the start of the First World War, Tolomei had been hard at work developing arguments for the Italian annexation of the southern half of Tyrol. Even before 1915 Tolomei had conceived a plan to Italianise its place names. By 1916 he had published the Prontuario dei nomi locali dell'Alto Adige, a translation into Italian of over 10,000 names for villages, hamlets and geographical features in the region, the vast majority of which had hitherto had only German toponyms. But to add real substance to his pretensions for Italian expropriation of the region, he presented this list as the ‘re-Italianisation’ of names which, he claimed, had been Germanized not many generations before. Legend has it that Woodrow Wilson, the American president, was so convinced by these claims that this was one of the key determining factors in the future of the territory.
In 1919, after the war had ended, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was signed by the victorious Allies (including Italy) on the one hand, and by the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian powers on the other. Significant territorial losses were suffered by Austria, not least the southern German-speaking half of the County of Tyrol south of the Brenner Pass, known as South Tyrol (German: Süd-Tirol). The promises made in the Treaty of London had been kept.
When South Tyrol was ceded to Italy in 1919, self-determination and the preservation of linguistic and cultural institutions were still firmly on the agenda. In 1921, free and democratic elections were held, with the Deutscher Verband winning close to 90% of the votes in the newly formed Provincia di Venezia Tridentina. Nevertheless, events were overtaken in 1922 when the fascists came to power in Rome. One of the first actions of the new government was to withdraw the special privileges that had been given to the South Tyrolese and an Italianisation programme for the region was started in earnest by none other than Ettore Tolomei. This went much further than the ‘mere’ Italianisation of place names and included 32 measures, such as the introduction of Italian as the official language, dismissal of German-speaking officials, the use of Italian only in trials and courts and the establishment of Italian-only schools throughout the region. An assimilation programme was introduced by Mussolini who established an industrial zone on the outskirts of the capital of South Tyrol, Bozen/Bolzano, which led to the influx of thousands of Italians into the region. By 1939, their numbers had risen to 25% of the overall population.
With the rise of the Third Reich and the annexation of Austria by Germany (Die Anschluss), Hitler surprisingly did nothing to assuage the concerns of the German-speaking population of South Tyrol and he made a pact with Mussolini in which they were given the “option” of either leaving their 1300-year homeland to resettle in the Reich, or staying and accepting complete assimilation (=Italianisation). And although 80% opted to leave, most of them returned at the end of the Second World War.   
The South Tyrolese had hoped that the borders would be redrawn at the end of the Second World War and the region returned to Austrian control, but this was heavily contested by Italy in the negotiations that followed. Ultimately, it was agreed that South Tyrol would be given much greater autonomy within Italy. Amongst other things German speakers were granted the right to elementary and secondary teaching in their mother-tongue. The degree of self-government was limited however, not least by the fact that South Tyrol became conjoined with Province of Trentino to the south to form the Region of Trentino-Alto-Adige, with Italian being the majority language of the combined provinces. With regard to education, for instance, German schools were obliged to make Italian-language teaching compulsory, but not the other way round. And Italian remained the de jure language of public office.   
In 1972 a new autonomy agreement was signed which virtually severed the administrative links between South Tyrol and Trentino. The province would be given a greater degree of self-determination within the region and Austria would not interfere in its internal affairs. Nowadays, South Tyrol - in terms of GDP per capita - is one of the richest provinces of Italy. The majority of its citizens are quite happy to enjoy the special status they have with Rome rather than waste their time demanding a return to Austria. An importnat bone of contention today remains the language however. Whilst 60% of the province's current population have German as their mother tongue, the vast majority of Italian speakers in the region are concentrated in the major urban centres such as Bozen/Bolzano and Meran/Merano. This means that cultural and linguistic fabric of South Tyrol is still overwhelmingly ‘German’.
Surprisingly however, the topographical names for settlements and geographical features which - to all intents and purposes - have been German for a thousand years or so are still not officially recognised, but simply ‘tolerated’. Only Italian place names are accepted by the authorities, this having been laid down in law by decrees in 1923 and 1940. For the greater part, these Italianised place names date only as far back as the time of Tolomei, the inventor of ‘Alto Adige’, whose contrived contention was that since the Italians were the direct descendants of the Romans who conquered the region in the first century BC, it was only right for Italian names to hold precedence. So today, the hundreds of thousands of tourists crossing the Brenner every summer might be forgiven for thinking that they had entered a truly ‘mixed’ language region.
Of course, sizeable settlements (such as Bozen/Bolzano, Brixen/Bressanone, Meran/Merano), major lines of communication (Eisacktal/Val d’Isarco, Pustertal/Val Pusteria), and prominent geographical features (Die Drei Zinnen/Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Rosengarten/Catinaccio) would have always had their Italian equivalents. The vast majority of Tolomei’s Italianised toponyms however, were simply made up or given a literal translation. Villages, isolated valleys and mountain peaks (including Vetta d’Italia) which had been untouched by Italian culture suddenly found themselves with an Italian name.
Take Bletterbach, for example. In Italian the name is Rio delle Foglie or ‘river of leaves’, since ‘leaves’ is a direct translation of Blätter, the German equivalent. However, Bletterbach has nothing to do with leaves: the hydronym (river name) comprises the Tyrolean verb ‘plettern’, which means to flow swiftly’. The example here is just one of countless which are highlighted on, a site which lays bare the illogicality of Tolomei’s Prontuario.
Since the mid-nineties there has been a movement in South Tyrol to redress the balance. The aim of the Arbeitsgruppe der Vereine für Ortsnamengebung – a mix of German-speaking community-based and cultural organisations – has been to repeal the decrees of 1923 and 1940 which stipulate that Tolomei’s Prontuario is the only valid register of place names in the province. What the Arbeitsgruppe wants is for toponyms to reflect the historical character of the places they represent. This means that place names should only be bilingual where there is a truly bilingual community with a significant linguistic minority. It is based on a internationally recognised system which is applied in bilingual regions throughout Europe, such as Catalonia, Wales, Belgium and Friesland.
Be that as it may, the movement has only met with limited success. One organisation that supports the initiative, the Alpenverein Südtirol (Alpine club), has been replacing waymarking signs for hikers in mountain areas to reflect the local and historic toponomy. But this has led to counter-protests, since Italian-only speakers - so the argument goes - might conceivably get lost in the hills because the names on the signposts no longer tally with the names on the topographic maps.
As it happens, Rome seems dead set against making any concessions. As far as the government is concerned, Tolomei’s Prontuario dei nomi locali dell'Alto Adige remains the toponymic be-all and end-all for South Tyrol and any challenge to demean Italian national integrity is likely to fall on deaf ears - at least for the time being.