THE story of four Italians who left their sunny hillsides to emigrate to Scotland at the beginning of the 20th century will be brought alive at Johnshaven Village Hall on June 16.
Italia ‘n’ Caledonia by Mike Maran and Philip Contini tells the story of their grandparents and how these Italian families carved a niche for themselves in the Scottish community opening cafes all over Scotland.
By the time of the Second World War there was an ice cream café or fish and chip shop run by an Italian family in nearly every town and village in Scotland – a door opening onto a southern Mediterranean culture in almost every Scottish High Street.
This cheerful success story came to an abrupt end on June 10 1940 when Mussolini declared war on Britain. Overnight the Italians became ‘enemy aliens’ and were interned or deported for the duration of the war. Those who were deported on the Arandora Star lost their lives when that ship taking them to Canada was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in the Atlantic Ocean. Most Italian families in Scotland lost a father or husband. Philip Contini’s grandfather, Alfonso Crolla, the founder and owner of Valvona & Crolla in Edinburgh was among those who perished.
The post-war years were a time of reconciliation and reconstruction as the Italians renewed their place in the Scottish community and Scots and Italians resumed their friendship.
Those early immigrants are the ancestors of today’s ‘Scottish–Italians’. Some of them still make excellent ice cream but more are found working in the health service, in high tech industries, or, like Mike Maran, in the arts.
Italia ‘n’ Caledonia is a celebration of the contribution the Scottish Italians bring to the politics, economics and cultural life of their new Scottish homeland.
The production includes priceless colour movies of the Italians gathering for their ‘big picnics’ in the 1930s, songs especially written for the production by Mike Maran, and David Vernon brings a splash of Italian colour to the production on the accordion from his wide repertoire of Italian music.
Italia ‘n’ Caledonia is coming to Johnshaven Village Hall on Thursday June 16. Tickets (£9 full, £7 concession) can be purchased at Johnshaven Stores, online at www.neatshows.org.uk or by calling 01561 361956.