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Glasgow Italians

SCOTLAND has been home to a significant Italian population since time immemorial. Discounting the fact that the Romans were here for four centuries, and that Mary, Queen of Scots, lost her Italian counsellor in the most violent circumstances, those were by no means the influences which subsequently dominated the Italian presence in Scotland. Not even the Italian bankers who ruled the financial world in the Middle Ages (even holding the purse strings of a few poverty-stricken English monarchs) might account for the fact that there are many people in Glasgow today who would claim their descent from Italian immigrants, and who continue to maintain connections with their origins in places like Lucca, in the north of Italy. Early Italians in Glasgow tended to be street musicians or pedlars, whose apparently exotic appearance led to them being recorded for posterity in the pages of Glasgow histories. Some others were wig makers and/or hairdressers, while others were figurinai, makers of statuetes. They soon built up such a settled community that there was for a time an Italian newspaper; La Scozia, 1908. However, most of the Italians who came to Scotland in the 19th century, were, like many other immigrants, victims of circumstances. They predominantly came from the north of Italy at a time when population increases and scarce resources created such hardship that many were driven to seek a better life. As with the Irish and the Jews, those with some means managed to emigrate to America, but many chose to travel no further than Scotland, and in particular Glasgow. There they went into the ice cream or fish and chip trade and provided an essential service to the city’s population. In fact, so successful was this line of business that it began to make the city fathers nervous about the moral health of the young. Cafes stayed open late and they worried that their attraction would cause young people “to hang about and loaf”, presumably overdosing on pokey hats and chips.

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iScot Magazine February 2017 100 jam packed pages of the best craic in Scotland from the only truly independent pro Scottish magazine.