Relatives from Atina Come and Join Us In Clerkenwell
After the war Zio Michele and Zio Vincenzo decided to remain in Atina. Michele Del Prete married Michelina Volante Rossi in 1920, and Vincenzo Del Prete married Maddalena Leonardi (Papà’s sister) in 1919. However by now Mamma really wanted more of her family from Atina to come and join us in Clerkenwell. She especially wished for her two younger sisters, Emilia and Annunziata to come. Preparations were soon set in place.
Some Old Photographs of our Family from Atina
Photos of My Parents and My Brother and Sisters
Finally came my arrival in Clerkenwell. I was born at home in Little Saffron Hill on the 28th October 1920. I was to be Mamma and Papà’s last child. Story has it that I was an enormous baby, My poor Mamma! There was little medical help in those days, often one of the local ladies acted as a midwife, many women still died in childbirth. She was only tiny, barely 4ft 11” tall, and was said to have had a 20 inch waist when she got married.
Thankfully the Lord was smiling over us and I was delivered safely and they baptised me Concettina. Obviously the family still spoke in their strong Atina dialect, and the registrar erroneously entered my name as Congettina on the birth certificate. And Concettina being something of a mouthful, and sounding rather like a musical instrument, inevitably became shortened to Tina.
I, just like my sister Giuseppina, was born with a congenital dislocation of the hip, which seemed to be very prevalent in Italian children, especially girls. In those days there was no routine for checking babies for this disabling condition, and no easy way to correct it. It was not until 10 years later that an Italian Mothers and Baby Clinic was established just north of Clerkenwell in Pine Street. By now, Giuseppina was about five years old, and was just a tad jealous of the arrival of her new baby sister, and was feeling a little put out by all the attention I was receiving from Mamma and Papà and a number of cooing “zia’s” (aunties) fussing over me.
So one day, when no-one was looking, she decided to let me know my place in the family pecking order. Needless to say I bawled and screamed! Mamma came rushing in to see what was wrong with me – was I too hot, or too cold, hungry, unwell? She was puzzled for a while until she discovered the tell-tale little teeth marks on my tiny fingers, which finally gave the game away.
However, very tragically, not long after this, poor little Giuseppina fell ill and developed a very high fever, which resulted in her suffering several convulsions. In those times children were very susceptible to many nasty childhood illnesses, such as Measles, Chickenpox, Scarlet Fever, Whooping Cough and Diptheria, all of which could prove to be fatal. The doctor was summoned, this was something that was only done when a patient was very ill indeed. Many of the elderly Italian women had remedies of their own, which were passed on to others in the community.
The doctor’s house was not in the neighbourhood, and he did not have any transport and had to travel to home visits on the bus. When he eventually arrived and examined Giuseppina he judged that she was improving and that she was “over the worst”. However a few hours later Guiseppina’s health took a sudden downward turn and tragically nothing could be done to save her. My sister died on 10th March 1921. She was just seven years old.
The doleful church bell sounded from the belfry, as her little white coffin was carried down the steps of St. Peter’s Church. Mamma and Papà were truly heartbroken, and found it very hard to come to terms with the death of their darling bambina. Giuseppina was laid to rest at Kensal Green Cemetery.
All photos belong to my family