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Immigration and Emigration
Morelli`s ice cream shop in Portrush
Morelli`s, Portrush
Morelli`s, Portrush

© BBC 2003
Radio, Pokes and Marble

By the mid 1800s, Little Patrick Street, in Belfast, housed the main concentration of immigrants, and here names such as Marconi, Fusco, Rossi, Forte, Notarantonio, Vergatti, Capitano and Morelli were common.

And in neighbouring Nelson Street you could find Pasquale, Dragonetti, Saclio and Marcello. Most were listed as street musicians.

The name Morrelli, stands out from the list above because of the number of ice cream shops around the province that bear this name. The seaside resorts of Portstewart and Portrush, on the north east coast of Northern Ireland, have probably the best known of these shops.

Angelo Morelli aged 95
Angelo Morelli
Angelo Morelli, now retired to his beloved Casalattico.
© BBC 2003
Angelo Morrelli, 95, who has now retired to his home town of Cassalattico built up an empire of cafes and shops in Northern Ireland, which date from 1911.

To find out more, select the video clip icon, at the start of this article, to watch Mr Morelli talking about his early days in Northern Ireland, making ice cream by hand and selling it on the streets from a cart.

The Italians who came to Belfast around this time were mostly poor people trying to find a better life. The majority of them came from southern Italy and Cassalattico in particular, is home to many Irish Italians.

They were mainly farmers, who found it difficult to produce a sustainable crop from the land in this region. Chain migration followed, with each emigrant joining up with a relative who had already made the journey abroad. Initially the migrants came to the south of England, before moving up the country and eventually crossing the Irish Sea, landing in Belfast.

By the end of the 1800s, Belfast's 'Little Italy', was well established. Relatives of the original settlers arrived and the Italian population in Belfast grew considerably, extending into York Street.

The extent of Italian migration to the British Isles is revealed in census statistics. The number of the Italian-born population in Britain in 1861 was 4,608, by 1901 this had risen to 24,383.

After World War II, a programme of redevelopment began to take place in Belfast. Many of the Italian families found themselves spread out around the city breaking up the community. Sadly, today most of 'Little Italy' is gone.


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