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The funeral is to be held in Stornoway today (Friday 11 March) of Andrew Cabrelli, who has passed away at the age of 91.

Andrew was one of the first generation of Stornoway’s well-regarded Italian families to be born in the town. His father and two uncles had come to Britain from the small village of Baselica, in northern Tuscany, soon after the end of the First World War.

Members of the family lived and worked in various parts of Scotland before Andrew’s parents, Dominic and Adele Cabrelli, settled in Stornoway and began to develop a successful and popular dynasty of businesses. 

Andrew was born in 1930, above the shop on North Beach Street where his parents had set up selling sweets, ice-cream and other goodies.

Soon after Andrew was born, around 1931, his family bought the Lido Café, which was to become a Stornoway institution along with other cafes and businesses in the town centre.

But Andrew’s mother became unwell during the following years and the family took a holiday to Italy in 1939, to be extended unexpectedly when war trapped the family in Italy.

Their passports were taken and they remained with their Italian family until hostilities ceased, their business being ably looked after in their absence by Annie Morrison from Newton.

Back in Stornoway, in the early 1950s, his family acquired the Coffee Pot, to be run jointly with The Lido. Andrew married Gianfranca in Italy in 1958 and, after their return to Stornoway, they worked in the family business until, in 1961, the Rendezvous café was bought to become their own part of the empire.

Stornoway’s Italian cafés were a lively part of the town scene for years, popular with school pupils and teenagers. The Rendezvous had the first juke box in Stornoway and entertained its predominantly young customers on two floors with ice-cream, ham rolls and milky coffee, all steeped in cigarette smoke. Andrew and Gianfranca were popular hosts and appreciated for their easy style of management.

Long-time friend Willie Macleod of Macleod and Macleod butchers on Church Street said today: “The Rendezvous was the place to be and was always heaving, upstairs and downstairs. I don’t know how they managed to keep us under control, a crowd of boisterous schoolboys, but they did it and only had to chase us out a few times. Even then it was done in such a friendly way that it didn’t stop us going back.”

In memories of those times collected by Stornoway Historical Society some years ago, people recalled: “Mr and Mrs Cabrelli were the best boss and best friends you could have asked for, lovely kind people.” “Andrew kept a box of broken chocolate biscuits under the counter for dogs and my dog wouldn’t go past there without going in for her KitKat!”

On retirement Andrew and Gianfranca moved to Kenneth Street, where Andrew remained busy in his garage, tinkering with bits of machinery and improvising his own tools.

Willie Macleod said: “I think he missed his vocation really, because he was very talented with his hands. He spent a lot of time in his garage making and mending things, with great attention to detail.

“One time I had a fridge motor that had packed in and it was going to go for scrap, but he took it and used bits and pieces to make me a tyre pressure monitor out of it.

“It was very practical for me as I was living in the country at that time and had tractors and all sorts, and it was a godsend with keeping them going. He was a generous man with a fine personality.”

Lifetime friends George and Nan Smith shared their memories of Andrew today. Nan said: “He was a private man and there was not much that he would want shared of his life, but friends are precious and we have many happy memories of times spent with himself and Gianfranca, both here and in Italy.”

In latter years Andrew suffered with Alzheimers disease and was resident at Dun Eisdean care home for some time.

His wife of 60 years, Gianfranca, passed away last year and he is survived by son Peter and daughter-in-law Pam, who stay in Tain, and by daughter Paola and son-in-law Chris in Stonehaven, grand-daughters Francesca and Danielle, two great-grandchildren and a wide extended circle of relatives.

His life is also appreciated today by many who have happy memories of time spent in his company, within his café and together with his family.

The picture shows the outside of the Rendezvous café in the 1960s (Stornoway Historical Society).