Video – Bella Ciao and the Italian Celts at the Brazen Head in the Gorbals

Sunday lunchtime. Getting myself in position behind the settee to watch the Celts play Motherwell when I hear the unmistakable sound of ‘Bella Ciao’ playing on the television, courtesy of the Fir Park PA system. Nice one, whoever came up with that idea, on a weekend when we remember those who suffered as a consequence of wars they didn’t start.

I immediately think of the Italian Celts, a group of friends I first met last April when three of them turned up for the stadium tour of Celtic Park, 24 hours after French Eddie and Prestwick Jamesie had scored to win the latest Glasgow derby for the Hoops. We seemed to hit it off immediately, the guys showing me photos of Federico’s guest appearance the previous day dressed as the Italian Pope. I’m sure that went down well in the quiet corner of the ground.

First meeting with the Italian Celts

Anyway, long story short. I use my schoolBhoy Italian to try to find out a bit more about them and I tell them I will be heading to the north of Italy for several weeks after we win the Treble Treble (I can say that now!) to start work on my first book, Invincible. I am immediately directed to Lecco, on the shores of Lake Como, where I am assured of a warm welcome in the local Celtic pub. Fast forward two months and that is exactly what I get, as well as an invitation to travel with the Lecco CSC to St Gallen for the friendly in early July. I extend my stay to travel up for the game and a brilliant afternoon is had with fellow Celts from Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and er… Coatbridge. We are truly a global family.

with Marco in the Shamrock Bar, Lecco.

Shamrock Bar, Lecco

Matt Corr with Alessandro, Il Presidente

In September, I am invited to a meal in the Number 7 restaurant at Celtic Park and made an honorary member of the Italian Celts CSC, and the following month, I am asked along to the Brazen Head in the Gorbals, where the club will be making a presentation to Joanna Doyle, daughter of the late Johnny, a hero to our Italian friends as to so many of us. God bless him.

During a brief interlude from the entertainment provided by an excellent musician, the boys and girls from the Italian Celts take over with a wonderful rendition of ‘Bella Ciao’ in the middle of the packed pub, which I desperately try to capture on my mobile phone. Other folk quickly gather round to join in. It’s like a scene from a movie. An Italian Job in the Gorbals.

The Italian Celts at the Brazen Heads

I need to find out more about this song and I do. Originally a protest song chanted by workers in rice fields in northern Italy, it was ‘adopted and adapted’ by Italian partisans – the partigiani from the song – as an anti-fascist anthem in the later years of the second world war. In more recent times, it has also been used more generally to reflect defiance and resistance, including in Italian neighbourhoods during the early and distressing days of this current pandemic. But whilst other nations and causes will bring their own stamp to ‘Bella Ciao’, I guess nowhere on earth will it be sung with such obvious passion, emotion and feeling as by the descendants of those Italian partisans who fought against fascism eight decades ago. Their rite of passage.

I’ll let you judge for yourself as you listen to the Italian Celts singing spontaneously in the Brazen Head, Gorbals. I have included the Italian and English lyrics of the version covered (see below).

Hail, hail, fratelli e sorelle italiani.

Matt Corr

Bella Ciao – Italian lyrics

Una mattina mi son svegliato,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao!
Una mattina mi son svegliato
e ho trovato l’invasor.

O partigiano portami via,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
o partigiano portami via
che mi sento di morir.

E se io muoio da partigiano,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
e se io muoio da partigiano
tu mi devi seppellir.

Seppellire lassù in montagna,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
seppellire lassù in montagna
sotto l’ombra di un bel fior.

E le genti che passeranno,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
e le genti che passeranno
mi diranno «che bel fior.»

Questo è il fiore del partigiano,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
questo è il fiore del partigiano
morto per la libertà

Bella Ciao – English translation

One morning I awakened,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao! (Goodbye beautiful)
One morning I awakened
And I found the invader.

Oh partisan carry me away,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
oh partisan carry me away
Because I feel death approaching.

And if I die as a partisan,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
and if I die as a partisan
then you must bury me.

Bury me up in the mountain,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
bury me up in the mountain
under the shade of a beautiful flower.

And all those who shall pass,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
and all those who shall pass
will tell me “what a beautiful flower.”

This is the flower of the partisan,
oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
this is the flower of the partisan
who died for freedom

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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