The lady on the right in the less elaborate hat is my grandmother, Valentina Coletti. The gentleman next to her is her brother Leonardo Coletti. They look pretty exotic for Edinburgh, as they were immigrants from Castelvecchio Pascoli in Italy.
I am Rector of Dundee University. At a recent meeting of Rectors I was speaking with Kevin Dunnion, the Rector of neighbouring St Andrews University. We were astonished to discover that his grandparents also came from Castelvecchio Pascoli.
Perhaps it explains our amazement if I tell you that Castelvecchio has a population of 509. For this tiny Tuscan hilltop village to produce Rectors of two of Scotland’s finest universities – at the same time – is pretty mind-boggling.
Castelvecchio is in the municipal district of Barga. There was a mass exodus from Barga to the central belt of Scotland around the start of the twentieth century. A recent study of Scots Italians was entitled Barga No More. I recall some years back an exhibition in Chambers Street Museum which suggested that some 20% of modern Scots are at least a quarter Italian.