Edinburgh Thoughts 20


This is a photo of my great grandmother, Valentina Brattisani, taken on her wedding day at the Catholic cathedral in Edinburgh. I post it because I had never seen a photo of my great grandmother until just now, and it is an emotional thing to rediscover an ancestor. She looks astonishingly like my grandmother, also called Valentina. Somewhere there must be an uncut copy of that photo with my great grandfather on too.

it is actually quite a sad story, because Valentina died still young, her husband remarried, and her children were effectively cast out in favour of new ones. My grandmother was born into what was famously one of Edinburgh’s wealthiest families, but lived in slums and great poverty. She had thirteen surviving children, however, and was a permanent source of love and fantastic food for the masses of children and grandchildren with which she was permanently surrounded.

I shall be in Edinburgh all of August. I shall stand outside that Cathedral, and take some flowers to the graves of both Valentinas.


20 thoughts on “Edinburgh Thoughts

  • mary

    That is a sweet story Craig.
    RIP both Valentinas, and all mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers whom we have loved and lost.

  • craig Post author

    Mary, sorry I lost your kind comment in a spam purge.
    .
    [Mod: Craig, one of your moderators has rescued it for you!]

  • Jack

    When everything else in the damn country goes wrong, we always – hopefully – have family. And blood is always thicker than water – I was taught that and teach it still myself.

    I’m retired now, and recently I discovered – via a relative – photos I’d never seen of my long-deceased mother. Until then I’d only had a couple of good photos to remember her by. I can’t tell you how much those images moved me.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    That’s a very moving account, Craig. What an evocative photograph! Her eyes, gazing into an unknown future, the determined set of her face. Interesting, too, in view of the later family history you recounted, that it’s been cut to remove your grandfather’s image. From the name, I assume your great-grandmother was Italian?
    .
    What, I sometimes wonder, will our own great-grandchildren think of us, when they chance upon an old photograph – or an ancient e-mail (then long-redundant technology) or cached blog post (!) in a dusty real or cyber-attic on 27th July, 2111…?

  • Haemoglobin

    Hi Craig. Are you related to Joe Brattisani, Edinburgh restauranteur? Just wondering as I grew up living behind one of his fish and chip establishments. Also, as an ex-genealogist (Scottish) I’m fascinated by family histories. Having spent time on my own family history, and having supplied family histories to others, I can quite understand the emotion involved in learning about one’s ancestry. Quite apart from the huge individual family interest, it personalises social history, making parts of the past easier to imagine and connect with.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Haemoglobin (hope you’re well-furnished with the iron of the soul!)- yes, that’s where I’d heard the name in connection with Scotland before, thanks for reminding us of the Italian Scots restaurant chain.
    .
    Found these on the web, they’re easily ‘googlable’ – thought I’d share them, hope that’s okay, Craig:
    .
    http://www.quilietti.com/the-brattisani-connections-2/brattisani-louisa/
    .
    http://www.quilietti.com/the-brattisani-connections-2/valentina-brattisani/
    .
    Absolutely fascinating. The whole history of the Italian Scots is fascinating, actually. Largely – a generalisation – those who settled in Edinburgh tended to come from southern Italy, while those in Glasgow tended to be from the town of Barga, in the province of Lucca in Tuscany.
    .
    On a related note, if anyone would like to read excellent autobiography and/or fiction (but still based on many real events/people) around the Jewish community in Scotland, there are some excellent books available:
    .
    http://www.jdavidsimons.com/
    .
    David has had a fascinating life and has written two superb novels in recent years – check out his website, above, for more details.
    .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Glasser
    .
    A very big set of books, a total immersion experience beginning with the newly-arrived Jewish community in the Old Gorbals.
    .
    For books re. Italian Scots, Joe Pieri, born 1919, who started writing in his 70s:
    .
    http://www.birlinn.co.uk/author/details/Joe-Pieri-1104/
    .
    Here’s an interesting piece on internment during WW2. There is a heart-rending scene in one of David Simon’s novels where, during The First World War, the mother of the household, who is Jewish German, is being taken away by the police as an ‘enemy alien’, to be interned in a camp.
    .
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/10224872
    .
    A more general site:
    .

    http://www.scotsitalian.com/famous.htm
    .
    Enjoy!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Haemoglobin (hope you’re well-furnished with the iron of the soul!)- yes, that’s where I’d heard the name in connection with Scotland before, thanks for reminding us of the Italian Scots restaurant chain.
    .
    Found these on the web, they’re easily ‘googlable’ – thought I’d share them, hope that’s okay, Craig:
    .
    http://www.quilietti.com/the-brattisani-connections-2/brattisani-louisa/
    .
    http://www.quilietti.com/the-brattisani-connections-2/valentina-brattisani/
    .
    Absolutely fascinating. The whole history of the Italian Scots is fascinating, actually. Largely – a generalisation – those who settled in Edinburgh tended to come from southern Italy, while those in Glasgow tended to be from the town of Barga, in the province of Lucca in Tuscany.
    .
    More below… too many links to post as one post!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    On a related note, if anyone would like to read excellent autobiography and/or fiction (but still based on many real events/people) around the Jewish community in Scotland, there are some excellent books available:
    .
    http://www.jdavidsimons.com/
    .
    David has had a fascinating life and has written two superb novels in recent years – check out his website, above, for more details.
    .
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Glasser
    .
    A very big set of books, a total immersion experience beginning with the newly-arrived Jewish community in the Old Gorbals.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    For books re. Italian Scots, Joe Pieri, born 1919, who started writing in his 70s (usual prefixes):
    .
    birlinn.co.uk/author/details/Joe-Pieri-1104/
    .
    Here’s an interesting piece on internment during WW2. There is a heart-rending scene in one of David Simon’s novels where, during The First World War, the mother of the household, who is Jewish German, is being taken away by the police as an ‘enemy alien’, to be interned in a camp.
    .
    bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/10224872
    .
    A more general site:
    .

    scotsitalian.com/famous.htm
    .
    Enjoy!

  • mary

    That was an amazing find Suhayl and what a fantastic website for Craig to delve into.
    .
    I gather that there was significant immigration from Italy to Scotland. Do you know the reasons? I was thinking of Daniela Gardini, Sharleen Spiteri and Charles Forte are some well known names that come to mind.

  • craig Post author

    Haemoglobin,

    Yes, I am related to the chip shops! But I think I am right in saying that Joe Brattisani and the other Brattisanis in Edinburgh come from the second marriage described in the post, so I only share a single great grandparent with them (Sante Brattisani, I think). For a century the two branches of the family weren’t really speaking. I have never met any of them – which is something I would very much like to do, but I don’t want to upset the sensitivities of any of my older, closer relatives. You can find the detail on the website Suhayl references. I may not have all the detail right – it gets confusing as they all married their cousins, often of the same surname.

    My great-uncle Naldo (Leonardo Quillietti)was head of the “rival” branch from the first marriage and also opened chip shops, which are still going. He lived to a great age and died fairly recently. I think his widow is my Aunt Pat and still with us, but it is such a huge family I confess I get confused.

    Suhayl, I don’t know if the story is on the website you found, but I understand it was the new wife who cut my great grandmother out of the photo and put her in the bin, and my grandmother as a young girl rescued the photos and momentoes from the bin and posted them to a relative in America for safekeeping, which is why I never saw them until now.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Sorry for the duplication; I realised I’d put too many links on the ‘big’ post, so it didn’t appear immediately! How very engrossing. Your family, Craig, reminds me a little of Marquez’s novel, ‘100 Years of Solitude’, where everyone has similar sets of names and it (deliberately) gets somewhta confusing. Also interesting to note that cosuin marraige is not a new, or purley ‘Muslim’ thing (as it often is depicted). Thank goodness your grandmother did rescue her mother’s photograph from the bin – what a dreadful thing to have to do for a girl (or, for that matter, for anyone). Treading on eggshells – yes, as I (and I’m sure most of us) know from personal experience, there’s nowt stranger than families.
    .
    Mary, from what I know, as with much later immigration from South Asia, it was ‘chain migration’ to work in various (then booming) industries in Scotland, so that some men and maybe their immediate families, would arrive, work, and then call over relatives as they became a little more financially secure in the new country and as oppostunities for work developed and expanded. Italy was an extremely poor country in the late C19th and early C20th, which is when most of the immigration from Italy ocurred. Some people arrived after WW2 as well. Some of the Italian POWs married local women, and stayed. The South of Italy, esp. the ‘deep’ south – Calabria, Sicily, etc. – was really poor until the 1960s.

  • mary

    Thanks Suhayl. From this and other posts I am always impressed at your depth of knowledge especially on literature if that is not patronising. I am also impressed by Clark’s technical knowledge on IT, physics and metaphysics amongst his other attributes. This blog would be poorer without both of you. Also not forgetting Mark and Jon.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Thanks very much, Mary. That’s very kind of you. And you too!!
    .
    Truth is, I’m fascinated by the so-called ‘little’ stories, tales of minutiae. Whenever I’m anywhere unfamiliar, I seek out the local books which it’s hard to get anywhere else. ‘Elsie Jones’s account of her time in the WAAF during the Second World War on the aerodromes of Lincolnshire’, or ‘The Story of the Old Iron Forge of Tapton’ – that kind of thing. I think these narratives are really powerful because they arise from the truth that can come only from a solid engagement with that short span we know as life. You can build an entire story from such vibrant roots.

  • Haemoglobin

    Craig/Suhayl

    Have had a quick look at the quilietti website, and it’s great. A lot of effort has indeed been put into it. Inspiring too – at some point in the future I would love to create something similar about my own family.

    I think lots of people are fascinated by minutiae of one form or another. In the days when I worked full time at genealogy I would frequently find myself getting involved with the family I was researching. Learning that Craig is related to the guy who ran the chip shop downstairs from me when I was younger has quite captured my imagination. I have always found anything on film or TV set in my home town of Edinburgh fascinating. Don’t fully understand why. I don’t imagine I’m alone in this sort of thing though.

    Oh well. Must get back to the feed a financial crisis, starve a business cycle downturn minutiae.

  • Frazer

    Craig..been looking at the website (kindly supplied) and brings back many memories..Antonia, my gran, used to supply meals any time of the day for us kids..do you remember Kimble, her labrodor dog ?
    I used to take that thing for a walk, but actually it dragged me around the estate, I was only 7 then…Went for a beer with Gary when I was in Edinburgh..still the same for a blacksmith that drives a new Merc every year..
    Enjoy Auld Reekie and hugs to Nadira and Cameron..
    Break a neck and leg..Sorry to all of you that read this blog, but have to slip a family message in here to Craig..

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Yeah, me too, Haemoglobin. It’s given me an idea. But I just don’t have the time, the photos/info., or the cyber-skills right now. Family politics, non-fluency in various languges and geographical distance always plays a part too. In some ways, perhaps I’ve sublimated some of that frustrated quest for minutiae, the human longing to know those who no longer are, into some of my fiction.
    .
    Best wishes to you (and to your blood cells!).

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