The Italians started immigrating in numbers to Scotland from the mid to late 19th Century onwards. Many, such as the Capaldi’s of Glasgow of whom actor Peter Capaldi is descended, started out selling ice cream from handbarrows. In time they opened their own cafes, restaurants and chip shops and since then they have made a colourful and enriching contribution to the culture of the city. Glasgow is festooned with charming Vitrolite clad ice cream parlours and what could be finer than a traditional fish tea from one of these establishments?
However, it is sad to say that this immigrant group has not always been treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve. In 1940, during WWII, Italian males – some of whom had never set foot in Italy – were rounded up and interred as ‘enemy aliens’. Most were sent off to work camps on the Isle of Man, however, some were sent to Canada and on one such voyage the cruise liner S.S. Arandora Star was torpedoed by a German u-boat with the loss of 865 lives, many of whom were Italian.
In a spirit of reconciliation, St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral in 2011 created this beautiful cloister garden featuring the names of everyone who died along with biblical verses and quotes from the great Italian poets. Its mirrored monoliths along with a gentle fountain and accompanying stream provide a sanctuary of quiet contemplation whilst the 200 year old olive tree, transplanted from Tuscany, could fool you into thinking that your were standing in the land of passion and romance itself.
Well, on a sunny day perhaps.