The Quilietti Family

The story of a Scots Italian family


Joseph Quilietti, son of Joseph Angelo Quilietti and Jane Walker Boyle.   Joe was born on 14th April 1922 in 2 Greenside Court, Edinburgh.  Joe was my dad.  He was the second child in the marriage, the eldest son.  There was Annie, Joe, Arthur, Julio, Jean  then young Bobby.  There was also a daughter Jemima who died in infancy.

Both he and his younger brother Arthur spent a lot of their childhood in ‘homes’ because their parents could not afford to look after them during the years of the great depression.  He often talked of his time in these homes and the cruelty handed out to him by the Nuns who were meant to look after him.   Despite this he remained a true Catholic and would always attend the Christmas Midnight Mass with his brother Arthur for many years.  He was very handsome in his youth with his dark wavy hair and intense blue eyes.  He and his cousin Sonny were also great buddies and great street fighters.  There was many a boxing match held in Greenside’s garden, Calton Hill during his formative years.

We lost our dad very suddenly in 1979 and I must for all of us that his passing was to us like a lightning strike through the heart.  So sudden.  I personally weeped for a year afterwards as the shock was so severe.  The shock of losing your protector and best pal.

Joe was always a loving dad to us all.  But to his Peggy he was so much more than that.  He was her whole life.   She took his passing very badly, and never really recovered.

Their love blossomed when both were young teenagers.  Peggy would wait for hours to catch a glimpse of him at the top of Hay Road.  She recalled to us how they eventually met  when she worked in a tobacconist across from Greyfriars Bobby in the town.  Joe being four years older would of course smoke as it was the fashion then to do so.    Peggy would have been perhaps 14 or 15 then and again she would recollect in later years how she progressed to become the Manageress of that wee shop.  She was very proud of this.

Their families had both moved from the old town to the new Niddrie Houses built for specifically to enhance the lives of those who had been part of the squallor and disease of old slums in the City.    Both their families moved to   Niddrie Mains Terrace, the Morrisons at 50 and the Quilietti family at 79.

Peggy was born Margaret Walker Morrison  in 17th May 1926 in the Canongate.    We know that the four year gap in their ages she was hold a secret for many years. By the time the War came in 1939 Joe would have been 17 and Peggy only 13.

This is the earliest photo we have of our dad.
Age 14
young Peggy Morrison

In 1941 dad was called into the War. He served with the R.A.S.C.  He was in the Heavy Artillery Division.  Hope I got that right.

Army number and regiment

Military Training Pamphlet No23 Part 1.

The role of the RASC in the field falls into two main parts, supply and transport.
Supply embraces the provision of food, petrol and lubricants, fuel and light, hospital supplies and disinfectants.
Transport is concerned with the conveyance of the above supplies, together with ammunition, engineer stores, ordnance stores and post, from railhead, or from base if no railhead exists, to all units of a field force.

In addition RASC units are provided for the carriage of infantry, tanks and heavy bridging equipment. The mechanical transport of medical and certain other units is also found and operated by the RASC.

To enable these services to be undertaken effectively, the RASC are responsible for the provision, repair, and maintenance of their own mechanical transport.

General Transport Companies are allotted to divisions for the transport of ammunition, supplies and petrol. Similar companies are allotted to higher formations and for employment in Line of Communication areas as required.

Their romance was just blossoming then, but despite their separation, continued for the next four years, throughout his life in the Army through their correspondences.   Through their letters their love evolved and blossomed.  Mum kept these letters until the day she died and bequeathed them to our Pauline who has cherished them since 1996.  She has kindly now let the family share in these treasures.

I love you

They tell us how Joe was in Burmah, Sicily, Albania,  Italy, France, Austria and Germany  and just a brief insight into his travels.  He was never allowed to divulge his whereabouts as all the letters were read before they were sent.

These letters were full of love and tenderness and seeing their love bloom from boyfriend to sweetheart and finally husband has been a wonderful journey.

to husband

Joe would tell her about the countries he visited, about North Africa and the hunger they endured there.  In comparison, whilst in  Italy over Christmas, he describes his time there as wonderful with a feast to behold.  He speaks of visiting St. Peter’s in Roma and how he, as a Catholic, had never seen such a wonderful Church.  Only once you have visited this you can understand how he felt.

Dad the Chef – we would laugh about him being a ‘chef’ in the army. What we did not know was that he learned the Cobblers’ Trade as well as driving the army vehicles

He tells her of how the Pope blessed them all and how excited he was about this and apologising at the same time, as she was a true Protestant,

Pope Pius XII was the POPE who blessed Joe just shortly after the War EndedOn his election, Pope Pius XII surrounded himself with Jesuits and international clergy, in a break from the traditional Italian control. He employed German and Dutch Jesuit advisors, Robert Leiber, Augustin Bea, and Sebastian Tromp. During the Word War II it is noted that Pope Pius XII used the phenomenal forgery skills within the Vatican at his disposal for two famous campaigns- the first being the re-assignment of new identities and papers for thousands of mostly Rabbis and important Jewish officials who – once their “flocks” has been sent to concentration camps somehow magically found their way to Rome. 
Roma from the Roof of St. Peter’s
with his Army buddies enjoying a beer after the War.  With shining Wedding Band.  This is my favourite photo of Dad, with his tan showing off his good looks.

Joe took up his boxing again when he was in the army. ” I can well look after myself ” he quotes to Peg in one letter.

in North Africa
joe on the right

The insight into their family life is only now being unveiled.  Peggy was not a well girl and had TB which plagued her from teenage years.  She spent a lot of time in Hospital and lost a Kidney.  Many of their letters described her ill health and how tired she was.  The conditions during the War were not good for anyone with ill health  Food was scarce and houses became damp with lack of coal for the fires.  She talks of the cold dampness in Scotland and he of the warm Meditteranean climate.

He talks of how one day he would love to bring her to Italy to enjoy the warm sea on her feet.  You would love it here he tells her, with the warm winds and healthy climate.

Joe had a deep affection for the Morrison family and talks with great fondness of Ma and Alex.  He jokes with Peggy about them having a family and about Peggy becoming a great mother, just like Ma Morrison was.   And likewise Peggy was close with the Quilietti clan, but especially his mother.  She would visit regularly.  One of Joe’s letters to Peggy was when his dad Jospeh Angelo had just died [1943] and of his shock and grief at this news.  He speaks of how Peggy has been there for his mother to help her through the loss.  He was truly shocked at his dad’s death, even although their relationship had not been good for many years.

North Africa

Whilst in Paris he talks of the wide Boulevards with the trees which shaded him from the Sun.  He describes Venice of the most beautiful of all the places he had ever visited.  Having visited here myself I must say that sailing through the wee islands is a sight to behold.  The spectacular views of the sun shimmering off the waters, especially in low light is something which will haunt you forever.  We do have a photo of Dad in St. Mark’s Square, outside the great Cathedral.

But amongst the wonders of Europe were the bombings they endured and the horrors of War were never far from his mind.  Whilst in Sicily he describes how the bombs fell on a nearby Cemetery where the bodies were blown from their resting places.  He remembers the corpses with long finger nails and long hair and had horrendous dreams about this all of his life.  He shared this one with us, but not of other horrors he endured.  It was September 1943 when Italy surrendered to the Allied Armies and it was during this period that our dad was here.

Some of his letters also describes how he had left Scotland as a boy really but was now much more experienced in life and now a man.  He had sometimes been unfaithful whilst he was growing up during this harrowing period, but always insisted that she was his one and only love.   There was always a gnawing pain in Peggy’s Heart about this period in their relationship.  Many times they were going to break it off, but as history tells us that of course never happened, and here we are, the children of their marriage just so happy that their love endured.

  • a Christmas Poem – sent by Joe Quilietti to his sweetheart Peggy Morrison
  • Fragrant as a bunch of Roses are my thoughts that wing your way
  • Bearing to you tender greetings on this lonely Christmas Day
  • Though the flowers I send you lose the magic of their scent
  • May the message bring you fill your heart with sweet content.

So at the end of the War they married in Edinburgh, not once, but twice.

The story goes that the Catholic Priests were not happy at all that this marriage had taken place in the Church of Scotland Church nearby called Richmond Craigmillar.

Richmond, Craigmillar

The Priests hounded the young couple until they eventually relented and married again in the local Catholic Church St. Theresa’s in Niddrie Mains Drive.  Dad being a Catholic agreed that we would all be baptised into the Faith, which indeed they were. They were to have four children, Josephine, Helen, Margaret and James and were also to adopt a baby Darren, who was the natural great-nephew of Peggy.

circa 1950

Their first home was in the prefabs at Northfield where their first daughter Josephine was born.  Because of ill health and Joe being away, still in the Army, for a while Josie was put into a ‘Home’ in Northfield.  Peggy had TB which was very infectious and not allowed any contact with her.  In their letters she writes to Joe about how she would wait outside the gates of the home just to catch a wee glimpse of Josie when it was play time.   So Sad.


The family all remember Joe with much affection.   He was a wheeler, a dealer and loved to socialise with the boys.   He loved to sing and could do very well in his younger days.   One of his very favourite songs was called the Three Galleons sung by Robert Earl. THE LYRICS IF YOU WANT TO SING ALONG

Long long ago, long ago, Three galleons gay and romantic, sailed on the mighty Atlantic, The Pinta, The Nina, and the Santa Maria. Proudly they sailed to the west, with dolphins dancing beside them, Only the north star to guide them, The Pinta, The Nina, and the Santa Maria. Day after day they journed alone, with silken banners unfurled, Day after day until it was known, they had found another world. And that’s how Colombus arrived, where none had journeyed before him, Praising the galleons that bore him, The Pinta, The Nina, and the Santa Maria   Read more:

Joe with his family

They moved to Niddrie Mains Drive where Helen followed in 1953, Margaret in 1955 and James in 1957.  This address was where their family grew up.

During the years Joe had many occupations but wheeling and dealing was always way up there at the top of the list.  There would be many a week where money would be tight but Joe always made sure that Peggy had enough to feed the family and to pay the bills.

He stayed close with his brothers and sisters throughout the years and was always be  the first to frown and despair when their marriages failed for whatever reason or other. His own father, Joseph Angelo Quilietti, had an eye for the ladies and Joe caught him with another woman at Portobello Beach  when he was a young boy.   This action had a diverse affect on Joe. Joe and Peggy stayed faithful to each other and we know that despite hard times they loved each other deeply and stayed together to the end.

1953, our street at Coronation time
our street 1953
In later years with his beloves Brass Ornaments. Joe loved Horses and would describe his formative years when his dad also worked with horses.  His Grandad Emilio and great uncles were also in the trade

They loved their Grand children and grandchildren and Joe would always keep the Sundays free for them.  He would collect them and take them down to visit Grandma who always had a pot of soup on the stove.

A day out with the Morrisons.  Joe at the back

And this was another of his songs.   He would sing this to Ma Morrison who always came round at Christmas with the Clootie Dumplin that she would have made for the event.


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