Nonna is Italian for Granny. A true Argentine is an Italian who speaks Spanish but thinks they are English. Argentina attracted more immigrants from Italy than from any other country. By 1914, a third of the population of Buenos Aires was Italian-born. You might think it strange that Argentina didn’t end up speaking Italian instead of Spanish. The reason is that the Italian immigrants didn’t speak Italian either. They were mostly ill-educated, unskilled country people who only spoke their local dialects. Margaret, my Nonna, wasn’t Italian.
She was born in 1903 in Kearsley near Bolton in Lancashire. Her father, Harry Haighton Cork was the son of a reed maker in the Lancashire cotton mills and had trained as a quantity surveyor before he emigrated with his wife to Argentina to work on the railways. Like most of the English abroad, Harry Haighton (as he was always referred to) refused to integrate with the ‘locals’ and settle in Argentina. Spanish was spoken grammatically correctly but with a pronounced English accent; an Argentine accent indicated the speaker had gone ‘native’ , a social disgrace. Thus England was deemed home and his wife, Emily, was sent back to Lancashire to give birth to her first child, Margaret. She returned with her 3 month old daughter on the SS Tandil in August 1903. However, Margaret’s brothers, Stephen and John Richard and younger sister, Kathleen – known to all as Kitty – were all born in Argentina
Being a senior railway official Harry Haighton and his family would return to the UK every 3 or 4 years for a spot of leave lasting 4 months or so. The shipping lines were often part-owned by the railway companies so this was a perk of the job.
On one such trip the whole family sailed to Liverpool in early 1913 and returned to Argentina on SS Highland Enterprise in June leaving Margaret behind to finish her schooling at Aigburth Vale High School For Girls in Liverpool.
Meanwhile Kitty was a student at Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepción in Lomas de Zamora. In August 1920 the family sailed from Montevideo, just across the River Plate from Buenos Aires, to Liverpool on SS El Uruguayo. 14 year-old Kitty replaced her sister at Aigburth Vale High and Margaret returned to Buenos Aires just before Christmas 1920 on the SS Marquesa with her parents and little brother, John Richard.
Four months later, Ken arrived in Argentina on SS Highland Piper. He and Margaret were married at the Holy Trinity Church in Lomas de Zamora on 10 November 1923.
I was christened in the very same church on 3 July 1949.