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Italian families in Rhymney

I am a native of Rhymney, Monmouthshire. I was born there in 1933. I well remember several of the Welsh-Italian families who lived and worked there, mainly in cafés. I lived in upper Rhymney, where Mr Albino Dallanegra and his family lived. His business was based on confectionary, tobacco, ice-cream, fish and chips. He had five daughters- Rita, Marina, Giustina, Olga and Gloria. The business was well supported and popular. Imagine our horror when, on Italy’s declaration of war, the window of Mr Dallanegra’s shop was destroyed by an unknown person and he sent to the Isle of Man for the remainder of the war to an internment camp. Rita, his eldest daughter, was one of my friends – we shared a desk in the Primary School and the sense of outrage of what had happened was very obvious in our community. Mrs Dallanegra carried on with her husband’s business. An elderly widowed aunt of mine lived next door to her and spent a great deal of time looking after the five girls – who called her ‘Bopa’ – (the local Welsh name for Aunty) and who worshipped her. There were three “Italian” business in Middle Rhymney – Owned by Mr Joe Savi, Mr Cordani, and Mr Gambarini who died, I believe, when the Arandora Star went down leaving his wife, a young son, and an elderly father who kept the business afloat for many years.

When an exhibition was held in Pontardawe recently based on the fate of the Arandora Star, I saw details of Mr Cordani on a photocopy of his identification. His address- “High St. Rhymney” was clear on that document. I had not realized that he was on the same ship, but he survived and spent the rest of the war in Australia. His son Tony (Antonio Luigi Domenico Cordani) attended the Rhymney Grammar School – a contemporary of mine. I remember his name in full having heard it so often in “Prize Giving” Days. I believe Tony became a priest. I believe he attended a college for training of priests in Aberystwyth. His sister married a Welsh Nonconformist family member called Berwyn Moseley – also a native of Rhymney (and an excellent soloist).

Mr Joe Savi had taken British Nationality before the war and joined the R.A.F. His café was VERY popular with us as teenagers. We always met in Joe's and made one coffee on one ice-cream last while we were there! He was most generous in allowing us to spend as much time as we liked there and we thought the world of him.

Mr Minoli’s café was in Lower Rhymney and although I passed it many times, I was not acquainted with any of the family – it was not in our immediate neighbourhood.

It may be of interest to you to know that Mr Dallanegra had a brother who married a girl from Rhymney named Myfannwy and who lived in Ebbw Vale, where he also owned a café in the main street. I believe he was also a survivor of the Arandora Star sinking but I am not sure of that.

I hope these memories of mine may be of some interest to you.

Yours sincerely
Cynthia Dodd (nee Jones)
March 2013.