Village People: Roy Vicarri

Roy is a man full of stories! Born in Streatham in 1931, Roy Viccari was just a boy during the Blitz of the Second World War. He’s been a photographer, carpenter, hairdresser and is a prolific artist to this day. Roy moved to Cuckfield with his wife Rosemary in 1960 and has been involved in dozens of aspects of the community since then, not least starting Cuckfield Bowmen (now revived as Cuckfield Archers) in 1967.

By David Tingley

There are so many anecdotes to tell that Roy is in the process of writing a book. In the meantime, let me share just a few from the Cuckfield legend here…

Roy Viccari, as his name suggests, has strong Italian roots. His father’s family were big farmers in the Monte Cassino region of Italy and moved, with two of his brothers, to London in 1900 to make a new and more prosperous life. Together the three brothers built three hairdressing businesses that started small in Brixton, but Roy’s father, Pietro, went on to be based in Piccadilly and had an impressive clientele which included Agatha Christie, Prime Ministers’ wives and many other famous names of the 20s and 30s.

Pietro Viccari was arrested at his door as part of the controversial internment of nearly 19,000 Italians living in Britain in 1940. “A policeman was standing at the door,” Roy said, “and he simply asked for my father, saying he was being arrested! That was the last time we saw him.” It is thought he was taken to a camp in Bury, Lancashire, before boarding the ill-fated Arandora Star liner which was torpedoed, resulting in the deaths of half of the 1,500 passengers and crew.

Unbelievably, some years later a gentleman walked into the Piccadilly hair salon and returned Pietro’s wedding ring! Knowing he couldn’t swim, and fearing certain death, he had put it on the finger of a fellow Italian and asked him to return it to his family in London if he made it through the ordeal alive.

[Read the rest of the article on page 20 of July 2017's Cuckfield Life magazine]