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Vincenzo Lunardi. Born in Lucca, Italy, arrived on British shores at

landmark. Within striking distance of the Fife coast, an unexpected

the age of twenty two, initially working as a clerk at the Neapolitan

Easterly wind took his balloon towards the West Fife villages of

Embassy in London. A self confessed ladies man, and adventurous

Kingseat and Townhill. It was above Townhill Woodland that the

with it, he soon became part of the aeronautical phenomenon

last sighting of the gallant Italian was recorded. Lunardi was found,

sweeping the country at the time. Lunardi became obsessed with the

two days after his heroic flight, in a field on the outskirts of the

hot air balloon and attempts to be the first man to embark on a long

woodland, dead. His body had been severely mutilated, with

distance flight.

evidence of buggery and a crudely executed tattoo of an ejaculating

This feat, Lunardi duly achieved, instantly becoming a household

penis covering his face. Later tests showed the ink used in the tattoo

name among the chattering classes of late Eighteenth Century

was derived from burnt shoe leather and urine. His companions on

Britan. An 18th century celebrity, Lunardi was on every invite to

the flight, Lady Sage, a cat, a dog, a pigeon and a bottle of wine,

society occasions, even spawning a range of ladies’ garments in his

were never recovered. The perpetrators of this awful crime were

name. The Lunardi Bonnet found it’s way in to the Robert burns

never caught, causing an embarrassing diplomatic incident for the

poem, To A Louse, such was his impact on arriving in North Britain.

British government and the relatively young Parliament of Great

In 1785, in his Union Jack balloon, he took off from Fettes in

Britain.

Edinburgh, bound for the Parish of Ceres, across the River Forth on

Locals in the village of Townhill maintain it was the doing of The

the North Fife coast. This journey would confirm Lunardi as the

Townhill Wood Headhunters, a notorious and elusive gang of feral

number one aeronaut of his era, eclipsing the short, unsuccessful

men, linked with the history of the woodland as far back as the

flight of his arch rival, the Scotsman, James Tytler.

Fourteenth Century.

Lunardi’s balloon was carried out over the Firth Of Forth, in favourable conditions, towards the Isle of May, his navigational

For more information on Townhill Wood and The Headhunters, contact Francis le Marie, head of the ‘Welcome to the Villages!’ heritage group on 01383 726702


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