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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Italians

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Immigration and Emigration

Clip Title: Angelo Morelli
© BBC Northern Ireland 2003
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“I was born here, 21st October 1907. Things were very uncomfortable here because the family was very large, my father had eight brothers. The accommodation was very poor, things were very difficult. The area is mainly agricultural, still is off course, but the methods of working the land was very primitive and didn’t really respond generously to the work that people had to put into it “

Like so many before him Angelo had to leave the valley in search of work, he packed his bags and set off for Ireland, to join up with his uncle Peter who was then running a café in Coleraine. But young Angelo had big ambitions, he wanted more than simply to work in his uncles shop.

“Fish and Chips and Ice cream I would’ve liked to do something better than that particular type of work. We had no electricity in those days so that meant pasteurising the milk, churning it, stirring it, cooling it to the best of our ability. Then making ice cream by hand as well, churning and then spading, it took an awful lot of work”

It was all work and no play and Angelo found the long days tough going

“What kept me doing it was, I didn’t want to let my father down. He was a brother of Uncle Peter and it was my fathers wish that I should be there and I didn’t want to sort of go against his wishes”

If making ice cream was hard work selling it at times was even harder.

“I had to go and sell the ice cream, pushing the cart along the Coleraine streets, and I used to get very tired especially if it was warm, and very often I would have to stop and maybe fall asleep. Little boys would come and sort of try to get ice cream or sometimes they used to even ruin it by throwing things into it”

The business flourished, so much so that Uncle Peter opened a second shop in Portstewart. Uncle Peter had no children of his own so Angelo was given responsibility to run his shop. He gave it his all, but felt his efforts were not really being rewarded.

“I told my father that I wanted to leave, I didn’t see any prospects of starting on my own. So he got in touch with his brother, my Uncle Peter and said if you don’t give him a chance to start on his own he is going to leave you. So he had no choice, he gave me the Portstewart shop”

So for the princely sum of £600 pounds, the deal was struck, and Angelo Morelli`s business future now lay in his own hands. Although Angelo was now settled in Portstewart his childhood sweetheart was still in Italy so he headed back determined to woo her.

“I came back to Casalattico, to Anastasia. She was a beautiful girl, she was a wonderful person and gradually she impressed me very much with the result that, in 1931 I asked to marry her. Her father at first was a little bit disconcerted, because he thought that I was a little bit too young, I was only twenty three and a half you see. But in any case he did manage to accept my offer of marriage to his daughter. When I brought my wife to Portstewart, in the little flat, I was so depressed because there was very little in it and she had probably thought she was going to go into a lovely home. But both of us being very much in love with each other we just said well we will have to make it”

And make it they did.

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