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Church and School

To the parents of "Little Italy", an education for their children was extremely important as they themselves had had little or no schooling in their native Italy.

There were two Catholic Schools within the area of "Little Italy". St. Alban's was situated in Fawcett Street close to the step bridge over the Rochdale Canal, (wishfully known to the Italian people as the "Ponti Vechio")and St Michael's, which was situated in George Leigh street.

St. Alban's and St. Michael's Churches

The first priest to minister from St Alban's was the Rev. John Gornall. The church was built in 1878, a small and simple, yet dignified structure. Father Francis Timony was rector from 1888 until his death in 1917. Then an Italian priest was sent, his name was Father Michael Pappalardo, from Turton. He worked tirelessly for the Italian community, but unfortunatly due to failing health he was forced to return to Italy, where he died in 1922.

Soon after there followed another Italian priest, Father Gaetano Fracassi. He became rector until his unfortunate death during the sinking of the SS Arandora Star, the ship taking Italian internees to Canada during World War 2; a sad loss to the community. There followed a number of priests thereafter. Even though St Alban's had two Italian priests, St. Michael's was always the principal parish for the Italian community. St Michael's Mission was founded in 1864 and the church was built as a chapel of ease to aid St Patrick's church by the Rev. Canon Cantwell. It continued as such until 1877, when Father Hill became the first rector. There was also another Italian priest Father Salvatore Carroccio, who ministered in the district for eleven years, helping Father Byrne from St Joseph's, Goolding Street, until it was amalgamated with St Michael's in 1887, when Father Byrne became rector.


Some Italian children went to St Alban's school, but the majority were sent to St Michael's in George Leigh street in the hart of "Little Italy".

For a time in 1920s and 30s the headmaster of St Michaels was a Mr Ambrose Rocca, who had Italian parents and was a brother of Louis Rocca, a famous scout for Manchester United Football Club.

The school had places for some 450 children between the ages of five and fourteen. Those fortunate enough to pass their 14+ examinations would move on to St Gregory's for boys and St Joseph's for girls, were they would continue their education until the age of 18.

The children of the Italian immigrants also attended classes to learn the Italian language. These classes, which were held in St Alban's school, were instigated by the Italian goverment through the consul. The classes were welcomed by the parents who whilst respecting the fact that their children were English speaking, did not want them to ignore their mother language.

Most children enjoyed the classes, but few learned very much! Their sense of fun and mischievousness was greater than their desire to learn.

After school most children had to help their parents in the small family buisnesses, running errands and looking after their younger brothers and sisters. Finishing their chores, the children would sit down to a good home-made Italian meal with their parents, and later climb the stairs to bed. No doubt they were a little weary, and wondering what tomorrow held for them.

Those unfortunate to go to the big grammar schools went into the family businesses making and selling ice cream. If you were fortunate enough that your family had an ice cream business then you had a job for life.


My Godmother, Filomena Arcaro on her communion day.
The Reverend Father Pappalardo's Silver Jubilee celebrating 25 years since his ordination and first Mass, September 24th, 1893 (courtesy of the Bove family).
A mixed communion class of Italian, Irish and English children
Children of St. Michael's School, which was 60% Italian
Class 1 of St. Alban's RC School, Fawcett Street, Ancoats, a mixture of English, Italian and Irish children with their teachers, 1933
Pupils of Italian teacher, Mr. Francisco Testa
Typical scene of nun taking class

All text and images (unless marked *) Anthony Rea 2010
not to be used without permission. All rights reserved