- Contributed by
- BBC Radio Foyle
- People in story:
- John & Edera Logue
- Location of story:
- Venice Italy & Derry Northern Ireland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 15 November 2004
Edera Santin who married John Logue and came to live in Derry. a very special Italian Irish romance.
An Irish — Italian Romance
The Italian Connection
It is true to say that as a family we owe a debt of gratitude to both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, because without them our parents would never have met. Had there not been a Second World War my father John Logue of Campsie, County Derry would have lived oblivious to the existence of Edera Santin of Malamocco, Venice, Italy and vice versa.
My father had originally enlisted in the Enniskillen Fusiliers, but transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps as Driver T/6985009 John Logue and remained with the RASC until his discharge in 1947.
He served with the 1st Army in the North African campaign and as a DUKW (amphibious craft) driver with 239 company took part in the invasion of Sicily where he was wounded for the first time. He subsequently took part in the war for mainland Italy, serving at both Salerno and Anzio where he was wounded for a second time. He remained in active service until the war ended in 1945 when his commanding officer persuaded him much against his will to take a posting to Venice. He didn’t want to leave all his comrades in 239 company as they had been together from the outset, but he was assured that he would still be a part of the company and would still be on their payroll.
When he arrived in Venice he not only drove his DUKW, but also had to transport civilian labour to work in Prisoner of War camps and also to and from the village of Malamocco to the laundry in the Lido. One of these laundry workers was a dark haired Italian beauty, Edera Olinda Santin. They say that love knows no boundaries. That was certainly true in their case as he spoke no Italian and she spoke no English. However, when it became clear that there was an attraction between each of them, they somehow were able to communicate that they should meet for a date. In Italian my mother told him that hey should meet at 2:30 the next day at the beach (spiaggia) in Malamocco. Unfortunately my father’s limited Italian caused him to interpret spiaggia as spaghetti and he thought they were to meet at the usual pickup point, after which, they would in his own words “have a feed of spaghetti.” Consequently when the time of their date came he was at the wrong rendezvous and with great perseverance remained there for over six hours until eventually he saw her coming towards him with all her girlfriends in tow.
As she had been under the impression that she’d been stood up she was somewhat articulate in her comments which apparently did not need translation. When he had calmed her down and she realised his mistake, they and the entire entourage went to the beach which was less than a 10 minute walk from where he’d been sitting.
Things improved from then on and their love grew albeit always under the watchful eye of at least one chaperone. When he met her parents Ruggero and Margherita for the first time he was surprised and delighted to find that the elderly gentleman he had often given cigarettes to as he passed by, was none other than his sweetheart’s father. This must have been a good omen because their romance blossomed and although they were always chaperoned, especially if going to the cinema, it did not stand in their way.
He was 26 and she 23 when on 16th November 1946 they married in Malamocco. As part of her going away outfit the bride wore a coat she had made from dyed army blankets. They honeymooned in the Cortina region of the Italian Alps. In June 1947 two years after the end of the war my father was discharged from the army and they headed to Ireland to begin the next phase of their life together.
The Irish Connection
It must have been with some excitement and apprehension that my mother in particular began the journey to a foreign land, a foreign people, a foreign culture and a new family. But nothing could’ve prepared her for the huge difference in lifestyle she had in Venice where she lived in a large house on the Via Merceria and which had every amenity, compared to the home which awaited her. My father’s mother, father, brother, and five sisters all lived in a small semi detached cottage on Cloughole road, Campsie, County Derry. They had no gas, no electricity, no running water, no inside toilet, but what they did have was a cast iron range to cook on and to heat the home, paraffin lamps, a well from which to draw water and to the rear of the cottage a small hut with a wooden seat from which the human waste was covered in ash and then buried some distance away. Now with the arrival of my father and his lovely Italian wife there would be ten adults living in the cottage. Not ideal, but the lack of amenities was more than made up for by the love and affection with which she was received by the family and the neighbours. After a time they lived for a period at Messines Park, Pennyburn and then moved in with the O’ Kane family who lived in Duke Street next door to Peter Rodgers Saddlery in the Waterside district of Derry.
In the early 1950’s their lives were transformed when they moved to what would be their final home at 34 Rinmore Drive, Creggan Estate. I was about 5 years old and vividly remember the Sunday when together with the O’Kanes we went to see our new home for the first time. My mother and father’s delight at entering this three bedroomed paradise was great and increased as they toured the kitchen with its modern gas cooker and built in cupboards, the bathroom with a full size bath, sink and flushing toilet, a sitting room, three separate bedrooms and front and back garden….at last somewhere to call home.
Derry had had a small Italian population in the pre war period some of whom belonged to the fascist blackshirts and even with new arrivals in the post war period the number of Italians did not change dramatically. They reached out to each other of course and in the Creggan my mother’s closest friends were two women who arrived post war, namely Lena Strawbridge and Lucia Radcliffe. Other friends were the Yannarelli’s who had a cafe on the Strand Road not far from its junction with Clarendon Street and indeed one was my godmother. Other Italians in the city included the Del Pintos who also lived in Rinmore Drive, Fiorentini, Battisti, Cafolla, and two people who in later years were to become close friends, Assunta and Archie Cassoni. There was an Italian society and on one occasion to my mother’s delight an Italian singer called Roberto Cardinali who sometimes appeared on television was guest of honour at the annual dinner.
As the years passed four boys and two girls (one of whom died when only a few weeks old) were born. For us the benefit of having an Italian mother was most obvious in the cooking. From the start we were introduced to olive oil, herbs, garlic, pasta, pizza, polenta, salami, parmesan cheese and ways of cooking that were alien to most people living in 1950’s and 1960’s Derry. What my mother could do with a pound of special mince was nobody’s business! I can also remember being sent at turnip picking time to Campbell’s farm not far from where we lived to get the turnip(swede) leaves which would normally be thrown away by the farmer or fed to the animals, but which she cooked in oil and garlic like spinach. Some of the then exotic foodstuffs were obtained from Italian cafe owners and some was sent from the family back in Venice.
The language, especially the Derry accent and dialect was never really a problem. The monetary system was a different matter however. To change from a straightforward decimal system to the LSD system was difficult. For those who do not know it there were pounds, shillings, guineas, half crowns, florins, sixpences, three pences, and halfpennies. So she had to contend with calculating sums such as £2.16.4 + £13.8.11 +.£4.7.6. In order to do this she not only needed to recognise the different coins and notes, but remember things such as although £1 was 240 pence or 20 shillings or 8 half crowns, a guinea was 252 pence (£1+ 1shilling) there were 30 pence in a half crown or as it was also referred to as : two and six i.e. 2shillings plus six pence, 24 pence in a florin(2 shillings) and so forth. A consequence of this was that when she eventually grasped the intricacies of calculation she realised that the bread delivery man had been systematically cheating her over a long period of time. To put it succinctly, she told my father who let the bread delivery feel the full force of his anger and needless to say we got a new supplier. This was the only occasion that I remember of any taking advantage of her. Indeed our neighbours were second to none, supportive, kind, friendly. So great was the feeling of community in Ringer Drive that celebrations, including a dance were held to mark the 50th anniversary of its existence. Sadly neither my mother nor father lived to see it, but I know they would have enjoyed looking down at the McDaids, Burkes, Irvines, Cregans and others too numerous to mention and seeing their old friends enjoying themselves.
Return to Italy
Around about 1970 they returned to Venice for what would be their last visit together. I know from conversations with my father that he was not only surprised that this lovely, intelligent Italian woman should have married him, but that she didn’t long to return to her Venetian roots. But the fact that she had long ago become content in her life was brought home to him during that holiday in Malamocco. Having been there for a only few weeks my father suggested to her that they might extend the holiday so that she could spend more time with “her family” and thought she would be pleased. Her response took him completely by surprise. “Don’t you dare say that to anyone here.” she replied angrily, and then went on to use a phrase he would never forget.
“This is the family I visit. My family is back in Derry.” So he learned the truth that everything she loved was back home and that there were no regrets.
They did not return to the “family I visit” because shortly after her return to Derry she was diagnosed as having breast cancer and during February 1979 her life came slowly to an end. For some days she had drifted in and out of consciousness and on the morning of 22nd February as I sat beside her she opened her eyes and called out “John! John!” My father ran up to the bedroom and as he came to her she put out both her arms for him to hold her, and in those few seconds that they held each other, she died. He gently laid her down and although she was dead, his love for her would remain until he died on the 5th December 1988. As a family we are very proud of our Irish — Italian background and glad to have had the parents we did.
Roger E. R. Logue
12th November 2004
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