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> Anti Italian Vandalism In Glasgow.
dugald_old
post 21st Nov 2005, 11:55am
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Anti-Italian Vandalism in Glasgow.

Among the many memorable days in Glasgow during the war, the day of Italy's infamous entry into the war on June 1940, the "stab in the back", stands among them.

There was a considerable number of Italian ice-cream and chip shops in Glasgow. These Italians apparently settled in Glasgow just after the end of the Great War, and by the general standard of the regions where their businesses were located, had prospered. Most of the male Italians were interned right after war being declared, without having been given time to arrange for someone to look after their various businesses.

This was the season of the "bogie" in Glasgow. This was simply a vehicle consisting of a plank, wooden box, and two pairs of pram wheels. That Italy had entered the war in such a cowardly fashion was not unknown to four young lads, including myself, as they pushed their bogies along the street, but certainly they never set out to be a part of what took place in Glasgow that day.

When they reached a corner where Meschi's fish and chip shop was located, they noticed a crowd of people standing around the closed door, at which a policeman stood. From across the road a passing soldier shouted something over at the policeman and the policeman took off after him. A woman ran into the nearby close and reappeared shortly with a key with which she opened the door. When the door was opened a horde of yelling children, myself included, rushed in over the sawdust-covered floor.

I clearly recall jumping over the counter and grabbing as many bottles of pop as I could carry. Once I had the bottles I couldn't get out again fast enough. There were cold fish suppers all over the place and salt shakers were being thrown from one side of the shop to the other. The place was in an uproar. I did eventually manage to get out with my loot as did all my pals, and we scooted off down the street leaving the ever-growing howling mob fighting over whatever was left in the shop. We scoffed the pop, and took the empty bottles back to another shop for the deposits.

Rumours abounded as to what was happening to the "Tallies" in other parts off Glasgow, but a lull had set in as far as we were concerned. We were still a bit on the timid side and not too sure if we were to get away with this clear act of lawlessness, which was so foreign to our normal way of life.

There were great expectations regarding what was going to happen that night when darkness came. While my participation in the "Maschi affair" had been totally spontaneous, this was not the case with what happened the same night.

At night I found myself in the company of fellow army cadets. We knew of a Tally (not a disrespectful word -it simply meant "ice-cream shop") nearby that had survived the earlier looting of the day and it was here that some of us again celebrated Italy's entry into the war. When we arrived we found a crowd milling around the barred front door of the shop. No policemen were there, but for a long time nothing happened since no one was too sure how far they could go. As the night grew darker, the mob-confidence grew, and periodic door-hammering took place. There were no anti-Italian slogans or anything like that to lend justification to these acts of sheer vandalism.

The front plate-glass window was smashed and some hero who had gone in through the the broken window opened the front door and set off a stampede of hooligans, wild at the prospect of clearing the well-stocked confectionary shelves of the Tally shop. Jelly beans, that's what stands out clearly in my mind as the first thing I noticed as I rushed into the shop: some boy had thrown a big box of them up in the air and it burst open and scattered the beans all over the place.

At a great dash I reached the counter, climbed up on the top shelf and grabbed a carton of boxes of Cadbury's dairy milk choclate - not one box, but a carton containing many boxes. Seconds after the door had been thrown open I was scooting up the street, on my own, with the box tucked under my arm. I just wanted to be out of it and running. Through a close, over a dyke, up a wall, and I was atop the highest building in the area. The Glasgow black-out was good. I still remember sitting all alone on that roof: everything was jet black and quiet, no lights on the windows of the many tenement houses, and only the occasional noises from the night-shift workers in the factory below, and the odd screeching of the tramcar on the other side of the dark towering tenements. I hid the box then made my way back to the street and innocently watched the proceeding as the lootings continued until two bobbies arrived on the scene. Next day every kid on my street had their fill of chocolates.

I don't recall feeling any remorse over what we had done; neither do I recall having felt particularly justified. There was no conscious rationalising, it was simply a matter of it was done and "so what". There is no doubt it was a deplorable thing to have done to these Italian people, people who as far as I was aware, were nothing less than model citizens. The financial losses were of course covered, but the way the people were treated must surely have hurt them very much.

One is tempted to say it was just a bunch of hooligans. But this is not true. The two shops at which I took part in the looting, and in fact all the looted shops by the very nature of their business, were in totally built-up areas surrounded by tenement buildings with lots of adult people. The young people could have been stopped if there had been a desire to do so. Perhaps in June 1940 one had reason to think differently.

When the shops were looted the proprietors were in custody pending interment as enemy aliens, or pending release as British subjects. As far as I know they all returned to their shops and with few exceptions remained in business in Glasgow throughout the war. The plate glass windows in every Italian shop had to be boarded up rendering them easily recognizable as cafes etc. It became the practice in the cafes where a son was serving in the British forces to have a picture of the son in uniform prominantly displayed. Perhaps this was to remind the Glasgow people of the gross stupidity in smashing their property when Italy entered the war.

The shops I looted were shops I knew and in which I was well-known as a customer. I'd had my first "pokey-hat" in that cafe! The owner's son was in the Army and I knew him very well. He had been born in Glasgow and lived there all his life before joinng the army in 1939. While this young man was away soldiering for the British, his old customers smashed his father's shop!

While I was an army cadet in 1941 a group of us, the same group who looted the cafe, often went camping, dressed in uniform, to the moor above Duntocher just outside Glasgow. One Sunday night we dropped into a cafe in Whiteinch on our way home. A young Italian/Glaswegian woman served us our cups of hot peas. I learned the true feelings of Glasgow's Italian community regarding their treatment back in 1940. She was terribly bitter and let us know exactly what she thought of it in a Glasgow accent every bit as broad as ours and using the choicest of Glaswegian words(women didn't swear much in those days and she is the first woman I ever heard use the crudest of Glasgow's many curse words). She showed us several photos of her relatives serving in the British forces. This was late in 1941 and the shop was still badly damaged from the Blitz. We travelled home without saying too much to each other, and we never went back to that cafe.
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dugald_old
post 12th Nov 2009, 09:49pm
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A Footnote to the "Anti Italian Vandalism In Glasgow" Story.

It was brought to my attention last year (2008) that Oscar Meschi, the man who owned and operated the Fish & Chip shop we looted on the morning of the day Italy entered the war, had been sent to an internment camp when Italy entered the war. He later left the interment camp to be sent aboard the British troopship Arandora Star , to an interment camp in Canada. This troopship was torpedoed by a German submarine (Kapitšn Gunther Prien) on July 2nd 1940, and Oscar was among the 821 people who lost their lives when the ship went down.
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johnjack
post 18th Dec 2010, 01:32am
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QUOTE (dugald @ 21st Nov 2005, 06:33am) *
Anti-Italian Vandalism in Glasgow.

Among the many memorable days in Glasgow during the war, the day of Italy's infamous entry into the war on June 1940, the "stab in the back", stands among them.

There was a considerable number of Italian ice-cream and chip shops in Glasgow. These Italians apparently settled in Glasgow just after the end of the Great War, and by the general standard of the regions where their businesses were located, had prospered. Most of the male Italians were interned right after war being declared, without having been given time to arrange for someone to look after their various businesses.

This was the season of the "bogie" in Glasgow. This was simply a vehicle consisting of a plank, wooden box, and two pairs of pram wheels. That Italy had entered the war in such a cowardly fashion was not unknown to four young lads, including myself, as they pushed their bogies along the street, but certainly they never set out to be a part of what took place in Glasgow that day.

When they reached a corner where Meschi's fish and chip shop was located, they noticed a crowd of people standing around the closed door, at which a policeman stood. From across the road a passing soldier shouted something over at the policeman and the policeman took off after him. A woman ran into the nearby close and reappeared shortly with a key with which she opened the door. When the door was opened a horde of yelling children, myself included, rushed in over the sawdust-covered floor.

I clearly recall jumping over the counter and grabbing as many bottles of pop as I could carry. Once I had the bottles I couldn't get out again fast enough. There were cold fish suppers all over the place and salt shakers were being thrown from one side of the shop to the other. The place was in an uproar. I did eventually manage to get out with my loot as did all my pals, and we scooted off down the street leaving the ever-growing howling mob fighting over whatever was left in the shop. We scoffed the pop, and took the empty bottles back to another shop for the deposits.

Rumours abounded as to what was happening to the "Tallies" in other parts off Glasgow, but a lull had set in as far as we were concerned. We were still a bit on the timid side and not too sure if we were to get away with this clear act of lawlessness, which was so foreign to our normal way of life.

There were great expectations regarding what was going to happen that night when darkness came. While my participation in the "Maschi affair" had been totally spontaneous, this was not the case with what happened the same night.

At night I found myself in the company of fellow army cadets. We knew of a Tally (not a disrespectful word -it simply meant "ice-cream shop") nearby that had survived the earlier looting of the day and it was here that some of us again celebrated Italy's entry into the war. When we arrived we found a crowd milling around the barred front door of the shop. No policemen were there, but for a long time nothing happened since no one was too sure how far they could go. As the night grew darker, the mob-confidence grew, and periodic door-hammering took place. There were no anti-Italian slogans or anything like that to lend justification to these acts of sheer vandalism.

The front plate-glass window was smashed and some hero who had gone in through the the broken window opened the front door and set off a stampede of hooligans, wild at the prospect of clearing the well-stocked confectionary shelves of the Tally shop. Jelly beans, that's what stands out clearly in my mind as the first thing I noticed as I rushed into the shop: some boy had thrown a big box of them up in the air and it burst open and scattered the beans all over the place.

At a great dash I reached the counter, climbed up on the top shelf and grabbed a carton of boxes of Cadbury's dairy milk choclate - not one box, but a carton containing many boxes. Seconds after the door had been thrown open I was scooting up the street, on my own, with the box tucked under my arm. I just wanted to be out of it and running. Through a close, over a dyke, up a wall, and I was atop the highest building in the area. The Glasgow black-out was good. I still remember sitting all alone on that roof: everything was jet black and quiet, no lights on the windows of the many tenement houses, and only the occasional noises from the night-shift workers in the factory below, and the odd screeching of the tramcar on the other side of the dark towering tenements. I hid the box then made my way back to the street and innocently watched the proceeding as the lootings continued until two bobbies arrived on the scene. Next day every kid on my street had their fill of chocolates.

I don't recall feeling any remorse over what we had done; neither do I recall having felt particularly justified. There was no conscious rationalising, it was simply a matter of it was done and "so what". There is no doubt it was a deplorable thing to have done to these Italian people, people who as far as I was aware, were nothing less than model citizens. The financial losses were of course covered, but the way the people were treated must surely have hurt them very much.

One is tempted to say it was just a bunch of hooligans. But this is not true. The two shops at which I took part in the looting, and in fact all the looted shops by the very nature of their business, were in totally built-up areas surrounded by tenement buildings with lots of adult people. The young people could have been stopped if there had been a desire to do so. Perhaps in June 1940 one had reason to think differently.

When the shops were looted the proprietors were in custody pending interment as enemy aliens, or pending release as British subjects. As far as I know they all returned to their shops and with few exceptions remained in business in Glasgow throughout the war. The plate glass windows in every Italian shop had to be boarded up rendering them easily recognizable as cafes etc. It became the practice in the cafes where a son was serving in the British forces to have a picture of the son in uniform prominantly displayed. Perhaps this was to remind the Glasgow people of the gross stupidity in smashing their property when Italy entered the war.

The shops I looted were shops I knew and in which I was well-known as a customer. I'd had my first "pokey-hat" in that cafe! The owner's son was in the Army and I knew him very well. He had been born in Glasgow and lived there all his life before joinng the army in 1939. While this young man was away soldiering for the British, his old customers smashed his father's shop!

While I was an army cadet in 1941 a group of us, the same group who looted the cafe, often went camping, dressed in uniform, to the moor above Duntocher just outside Glasgow. One Sunday night we dropped into a cafe in Whiteinch on our way home. A young Italian/Glaswegian woman served us our cups of hot peas. I learned the true feelings of Glasgow's Italian community regarding their treatment back in 1940. She was terribly bitter and let us know exactly what she thought of it in a Glasgow accent every bit as broad as ours and using the choicest of Glaswegian words(women didn't swear much in those days and she is the first woman I ever heard use the crudest of Glasgow's many curse words). She showed us several photos of her relatives serving in the British forces. This was late in 1941 and the shop was still badly damaged from the Blitz. We travelled home without saying too much to each other, and we never went back to that cafe.

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johnjack
post 18th Dec 2010, 01:38am
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I remember
carlos fish and chips on keppochhil rd had his windows smashed in when mussolini figured we were beat and it was safe for him to join adolf carlo had two sons in the british army so he had their pictures in his window, so we had hooligans then too.
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DavidT
post 21st Oct 2013, 05:28pm
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Passing of A quiet Glasgow Italian

http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/comme...175b436c343dc5c
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