A Boy from Bardi: My Life and Times

Name of traveller

Les Servini (b. 1913)

Reason for travel

  • immigration

Date of travel

arrival in May 1921

A talented young man was producing "Under Milk Wood" a play for voices[;] ours was the first 'stage' version, they had been hoping for an older chap with experience (they used another word) to play Captain Cat! . . . Incidentally it was voted a great success by the people at Laugharne, Dylan's birth place. (Servini 49)


  • architecture: works for one of the contractors involved in the construction of Claerwen dam in the Elan Valley
  • art: contains a great number of family photographs
  • customs:
    • notes the strong cultural presence of Italian families in south Wales
    • when younger describes himselves as a keen player of rugby
    • descriptions of Catholic life and customs in south Wales as continuous provider of social activities and dependable support network
    • notes the tension between Catholic and Protestant children in the 1920s
    • description of the popular annual "Rag" procession in Newport
  • diet:
    • description of the hard work behind producing ice cream to be delivered to the Italian family shops for sale
    • recognises distinct changes in Welsh diet by the 1980s with a fondness for Italian cooking owing to increased travels abroad
  • industry:
    • takes up brief employment building coke ovens
    • works in the building industry by the end of WWII
    • impact of the Aberfan disaster on the author's extended family
    • post-war wave of Italian immigrants seeking empoyment particularly in mining and the tinplating industry
  • language:
    • quickly learns to speak English after only a few months in school, surrounded mostly by children of Irish descent
    • joins the Welsh Society in Caerleon College to learn Welsh
    • teaches English to foreign students in college and Italian immigrants in evening classes; teaches French and Welsh in local schools
  • literature: in college in Caerleon, plays the role of Captain Cat in the first stage adaptation of "Under Milk Wood" by Dylan Thomas (1914-1954)
  • people:
    • relates how the author's parents, while teenagers, went into service for other Italian families in south Wales before returning to Italy
    • Giacomo Bracchi identified as the first Italian immigrant in Wales from Bardi, establishing a number of successful of shops in south Wales and drawing further immigrants from Bardi
    • immigration to south Wales together with his widowed mother to work in his uncle's shop
    • nurturing and welcoming atmosphere in Grammar School encouraged author to become a teacher later in life
    • remembers Richard Burton (1925-1984) as a boy
    • at 21 years forced to take over the family business from his uncle, but lacks the experience
    • marries towards end of WWII; Italian community contributes savings for the new couple to set up their home
    • takes O-Levels and returns to college at 42 years to become a teacher for literature and languages
    • character sketches of a great number of school staff in the different schools in south Wales where the author worked over the years
  • politics:
    • memories of the General strike and difficult life in impoverished south Wales
    • south Wales described as a stronghold of Socialism since the inter-war years
    • impact of WWII on life in south Wales with strict rationing of goods, change to war-time production in all industries and creation of Land Army
    • chronicles his internment as enemy alien in a camp on the Isle of Man after Italy's declaration of war against Britain, the deportation of Italian civilians to Canada and sinking of the Arandora Star
  • terrain:
    • mourns the loss of town communities and family-owned shops and businesses owing to post-war redevelopment in Swansea and Port Talbot
    • lives through the post-war town development of Llanharran which replaces former industrial features and small family shops with new houses
  • transport:
    • memories of being shocked by the traffic as a child from rural Italy on arrival in south Wales
    • post-war development of infrastructure with construction of new by-passes and the M4

Nationality of traveller

Italian, British

Language of publication


Gender of traveller


Type of publication



Servini, Les. A Boy from Bardi: My Life and Times. Cardiff: Hazeltree Press, 1994. Print.