To generations of Paisley families he was known simply as Luigi Pierotti, partner in a number of fish and chip shops in the town and latterly as a newsagent in Rowan Street.
But, thanks to an honour that is to be bestowed upon him by the Italian Government today, plain Mr Luigi Pierotti will be given the honorary title of Don when he is honoured for services to the Italian community.
“I know – it has a Mafia sound to it.” Mr Pierotti joked.
But the retired businessman’s life has been anything but criminal, thanks to his hard work and dedication to others.
Born a Scotsman in Barrhead, he even went to the effort to learn Italian so that he could help the many people from Italy who for generations have lived in Paisley and the West of Scotland, as well as to honour his family’s roots in Barga, Tuscany.
The 84-year-old said: “My parents Olympia and Giuseppe were both born in Italy.
“My father came here when he was 16.
“He had a grand-uncle here who had an ice cream café in Smithhills Street, next to the old Paisley theatre in the 1890s.
“My father had two older brothers in America and was en route to the US, but he came to Scotland first to earn some money with his uncle, and he liked Paisley so much he stayed.”
The young Giuseppe went back over to Italy on holiday and through the traditional practice of arranged marriages there, he met his future wife Olympia.
“His mother knew a friend who had a daughter, so they got married, and they actually got on all right,” Mr Pierotti said.
“We were lucky.”
The young couple came back to Paisley and lived in a flat in Orchard Street.
“My father had his first fish and chip shop there after he stopped working for his uncle,” said Luigi.
The first fish and chip shop that he remembers dated back to 1938 when the Pierottis bought The Cecil restaurant in Moncrieff Street, where a major branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland now stands.
“I was born into that,” Luigi, a former pupil if St Mirin’s Academy said.
“When I was 15, 16 almost, and was still in school, my father took very ill. He had an appendix that burst, and septicaemia set in and he was gravely ill.
“So, my mother couldn’t manage the business on her own and, being the oldest boy, I left school.
“I worked in there all my life.
“I took it over when I was 20, but I went into the Army first.
“When I was 18, I went into the Royal Signals from 1953 to 1955.
“They were the best years of my life. I had a great job – I worked in the War Office in Worcester.”
It was in 1962 that Luigi’s’s father retired and the young man took over the business.
By this time, the family business had moved to Old Sneddon Street.
“That was called Pierotti’s,” he said.
Both my brothers came of age and they came into the business and we bought another shop in Erskine, which we owned for 21 years, as well as the chip shop in the Sneddon. But the rents went crazy in Erskine, so we left there and opened a newsagent up in Rowan Street. And we built a chip shop there too. So we had the three shops. And that was it until I retired. I loved it. I didn’t like the hours I worked. It wouldn’t have been the job I chose for myself but I did well enough – no complaints.
It was in 1957 that Luigi, husband to the late Caroline and father to Lisa, John Paul, Michael, Caroline, Clare and Francis – began his work for the Italian community in Paisley and the west of Scotland.
“I felt ashamed of the fact I couldn’t speak Italian, because my mother was working with my father, and during the war we couldn’t get an Italian nanny, so we had a Scots girl that look after us,” he said.
“So, we were raised speaking English.”
Luigi could, however, understand spoken Italian, even though he could not speak it, and this led him to take lessons in the language at the University of Strathclyde , and he can now speak it well.
He became involved in an Italian Club in Glasgow, serving on the committee and helping the Italian community in general
In the 1980s, Luigi was involved in setting up Italian language classes at Paisley Grammar School.
“They were for everyone, not just Italian people,” he said.
This continued for many years, along with his work helping the less fortunate, such as those who attend the soup kitchen at Holy Trinity and St Barnabas’ Church, in St James’ Place.
“It’s a shame that we need that,” Luigi said.
“But life’s been good to me. Why shouldn’t I put back into it?”
And it is for his devotion to others that the Italian Ambassador will travel to the Consulate in Edinburgh tomorrow to confer on him the honour Ordine della Stella d’Italia, or Order of the Star of Italy.
It is conferred upon individuals who have made a positive contribution to the promotion of Italy and cooperation with other countries.
Consul General Carlo Perrotta said: “The award of Order of the Star of Italy to Mr Pierotti is a well-deserved acknowledgement of his tireless dedication, over a period of many years, to the promotion of Italian language and culture in the Paisley area and beyond.”