Tina Soriani and her brother Aldo Petrucci talk about thier Italian heritage

Tina Soriani and her brother Aldo Petrucci interviewed by Julia Muir Watt, Stranraer, May 2013

Tina recalls how the arrival of her parents’ Italian Café in the 1930s was anticipated by one Whithorn resident. Her brother, Aldo recalls the absence of his father for a period during the early part of WWII.

  • Interviewed: 17 May 2013.
  • Ref: DG4/20/1/2.
  • © European Ethnological Research Centre.


JMW: And was it quite, quite an innovation in Whithorn to have a café? I mean was it something that people were quite excited about?

TS: I can remember a comment and, because my sister was doing a history of the family as well. And she went to, we were friendly with the vet – who used to be the vet in Whithorn, a Mr Edgar. Jim Edgar, he lived at Monreith. And we went to see him and Olga [her sister] was asking him about, ‘Can you remember when my mother and father came to Whithorn?’ ‘Oh’ he says ‘You know I was just a lump of a boy, but I do remember an old man sayin “Do you know who’s bought the Brunswick? An Italian. He’s comin to fry chips. Who the Hell wants chips in Whithorn!”’ [Laughter] He was very good – Mr Edgar. But anyway, so, I don’t know, yes they [her parents] had the brunt. We have to thank ma parents for their way of living. They gained the respect of the public [AP: Absolutely], we walked into it. But it was through them that we’ve got the respect and that they were respected. But, they were suspicious, ah mean …

AP: I remember coming home from school when Italy entered the War [WWII] against the Allies over here, eh, going home from school for lunch and my father wasn’t there. He’d been taken away [TS: Excuse me.]. He’d been given fifteen minutes to pack a case and, eh, fifteen minutes to pack a case and be taken down to the, down to the, prison. And from there he went to Newton Stewart, as far as I know and from Newton Stewart he was taken over to the Isle of Man.

And one incident that happened while he was in the Isle of Man: they were all up, the prisoners were all lined-up and, eh, a lot of them were going – ah think it was to Australia, they were going to be taken to Australia in a ship called, eh. What was the ship called? The name has escaped me just now. But, he was in the next line to be taken but the ship was full so he wasn’t taken. I think there would have been 800 prisoners. And when the ship was in the Irish Sea a German U-boat came up and sank it and a lot of them lost their lives. And most of these people had fought on the side of the British in the First World War, so sad. So it was really very unfair and it cost them their lives. But, on the other hand, my father was saying that on the Isle of Man everyone was very nice to them. They were no hardship – they were put-up in hotels had been taken-over and boarding houses, that’s where they were stationed. And, eh, the police were very good. And he was one of the very lucky ones, he wasn’t politically minded. And, eh, there was always a tribunal interviewing these people and if they thought they were harmless, they would be sent home. And of the ones that was sent home – quite early, after nine months – was my father. Some of them spent the whole War in the Isle of Man.