Pizza and Paolozzi

The National Library ofScotland has just launched a new archive on Scotland‘s thriving Italian community— now celebrating its 100th birthday. Carl Honore’ went to see the library‘s accompanying summer exhibition.

If it were not for the Italian community. Scotland might neyer haye discovered chip shops. let alone pizza parlours. But centuries before anyone had ever heard of a smoked-sausage supper. Italian diplomats. traders and artists were over here hobnobbing with the high and mighty. Later. roughly a hundred years ago. waves of families began arriying in Scotland from the depressed Italian countryside. putting down the roots of a community that has in lluenced Scottish life far beyond the pioneering of fast food.

Like so many migrations. the blossoming of an Italian diaspora in Scotland was partly accidental. Scotland was to be nothing more than a pitstop. a springboard to the New World: yet. once the first arriyals found work and began posting home glowing descriptions of (ilasgow'. Edinburgh and tow us as far-flung as Ayicmore or Wick. it was not long before struggling relatiyes came to join them.

The National Library’s exhibition is a testament to early Italian life in Scotland. its short historical text enliyened by an abundance of memorabilia. 'l‘hat the earliest Italian immigrants were on shaky ground is hinted at by the tattered old yisas and business licences mounted in the first document showcase for one new arriyal the only hope of entry and a fresh start was a scribbled letter of recornrnendation from a British MI). Yellow'ing black-and-w'hite family portraits and a plethora of family profiles peg faces and names on what would otherwise be a dry demographic phenomenon.

Any new immigrant community has to earn its stripes and exhibition-curator Alison Ilary'cy




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Gizzi ice cream on sale at a Glasgow street corner in 1937

generation simply cy‘aporatedoy'ernight. During

the war. Italians— like (icrmans born on Scottish

soil were registered as ‘enemy aliens‘ and many of the men were interned or deported.

’I'he sinking in July 19-10 of the .‘Il'tllH/(H'tl Star is a

woods explains that the Italians wasted no time in r lingcring and poignant memory for halo-Scots.

doing just that. ‘()ne tends to think of them as yery y

(‘arrying nearly four times its peacetime capacity.

romantic.‘ she says. ‘but in fact they are extremely the cruise-liner was transporting ‘cnemy aliens' to

practical' Scizing on a market crying out for ‘fast food'. they set up cafes. restaurants and shops that were soon doing a brisk trade all over the country.

But the line between social acceptance and ostracisrn was always a thin one. a grim truth that the outbreak of the Second World War brought home with a thud. Alongside colourful life-size replicas of a Valyona & (‘rolla storefront and an ice-cream cart are the sobering accounts of how in 1939 the trust and goodwill built up over a

an internment camp in Canada. 'l‘orpedoed off the coast of Ireland. the ship went down with 680 men. many of whom had been wrenched from Italian

; families all over Scotland. Sculptor Eduardo

I’aolozzi lost his father. two uncles and grandfather in the disaster. not long before he himself was interned in Barlinnie prison.

But after the War. I’aolozzi and many other Italo-Scots did not push off in search of greener pastures elsewhere. Scotland was their home and.

The Renucci battery's horse-drawn delivery vehicle- one at many records at ltalo-Scottish lite at the turn of the century

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Giovanni Conti's registration certiticate

accordingly. they set themselyes the task of earning a secure place in Scottish life. In the last lap of the exhibition. a Who's Who wall stands as a tribute to their success. As well as short biographies ol eyer'yone lr‘om eminent businesspeople to clergy men. there is an at ray of artisticcontributions. A small. hunched stattrette by I’aolozzi and paintings by artists Richard Demarco antl (‘laudia I’etretti as well as Iimilio (‘oia's‘ caricaturesof'l'om(‘onti. Bishop Mario (‘onti and others.

After generationsolsteatly integration. the Italo-Scottish community is right tocelebrate what makes it unique. 'l'his eyhibition is a marker for that.

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The List l2—25July' 199155