Sker WI’s 2017 calendar opened with a welcome mix of Mediterranean sunshine and Valleys humour, when Mr Romeo Bassini came to address members and visitors on January 12.
Mr Bassini talked about his roots in his native Italy, and his adult years as the proud owner of a carpet shop in the Rhondda. He also gave an insight into why our towns and villages are peppered with businesses with Italian names such as Ferrari, Sidoli and Fulgoni.
Since Victorian days, young Italian men were drawn to the Welsh Valleys in search of ‘black gold’. Incredibly, the majority of them walked all the way. Mr Bassini explained that the young men of his village in northern Italy were told to ‘walk to Genoa – keep the mountains at your back and when you get to the sea, turn right!’
When they reached their destination, they were met with a landscape similar to that of their northern Italian homelands. The reality of life underground, however, in the coal mines of Wales was harsh, and they did not want their own sons to have to ‘go down underground’.
Most of these young men met, fell in love and married local girls, much to the horror of the local fathers! They moved into cafes, coffee shops and the retail trade and have become as Welsh as the next man (until the start of the Six Nations, that is!)
Mr Bassini also demonstrated the Italian connection in musical form by playing some familiar Welsh tunes on his piano accordion.
After a vote of thanks was given, Mr Bassini left us with a feeling of warmth and more of an understanding of the close ties between the Welsh and the Italians that we were not aware of before his talk.
The first of this year’s competitions, based on letters of the alphabet, was the letter ‘A’. The winner was Cynthia Sidey, second was Margaret Scanlon and in third place was Margaret Ashworth.
Sker WI meets at 7pm on the second Thursday of the month at St David’s Church Hall, Nottage Village. At the meeting today (Thursday, February 9) speaker Val Weaver will talk on ‘Overseas Challengers’. Visitors are always welcome. CB