'Hundreds got to say goodbye to Dad' Son of well-loved Dalkeith restaurant owner thanks community for send off

The family of a well-loved Italian restaurant owner have said a heartfelt thanks to hundreds who paid their respects at his funeral – a fitting send off for a man they said was ‘at the heart of the community’.

By Jolene Campbell
Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 1:37 pm
Mr C, George ran the Cavaliere with his wife Pina
Mr C, George ran the Cavaliere with his wife Pina

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When Giacinto (George) Crolla died, his son Tony said his family and local community were devastated by the news.

Known as ‘Mr C’, the grandfather of seven was well-loved in Dalkeith, where he was best known as the force behind the legendary Dalkeith Cavalier restaurant.

He established the family business along with his wife Josephina in 1968 – just two years after the pair married.

When the couple first came to Dalkeith, they took over a small shop named The Central Fish & Chop Shop which later became The Bonnie Scotland, one of Midlothian’s first restaurants.

Recalling the days when they worked together in the family restaurant, Tony said: “Dad ran the show, mum was in the kitchen and I would greet guests wearing a little bow tie. We still use mum’s secret recipe for bolognese and lasagne.”

Tony and his wife Gemma took over the running of the business from his parents in 2000 and have vowed to continue to make them proud.

But even after he retired at 71, Mr C, who Tony described as a ‘true grafter’, continued to help out with the business.

Tony and his sister Gloria wanted to give him a send off he deserved, to honour both his home in Edinburgh and his family roots in Italy where he worked as a Shepherd before emigrating to Edinburgh in the 1960s.

But due to Covid restrictions still in place in July they could have just 50 family members and loved ones in the church and 100 outside due to restrictions.

With heavy hearts, the family had to decide who could attend the funeral service at what was already a distressing time.

After choosing to live-stream the service, Tony said the family was extremely touched when nearly 300 tuned in to the service at St David’s church, including Mr Crolla’s 88-year-old sister who watched from Picinisco in Italy.

Tony said: “He was a family man, always at the heart of the community. He loved to sit with us at Sunday lunch. He had seven grandchildren and loved to spoil them. He instilled strong, traditional family values in all of us. He was old school.

"He worked right up to the age of 71, he was a true grafter. It caught up with him and his health in the end. But even after he retired, Dad still supported us with the business. He used to come in every day to the cafe for a coffee and a chat. It was his baby in a way.

"But his health took a turn this year. His diabetes got worse then in June he slipped and fractured his hip. He got Covid-19 but went ahead with an operation. It was too much for him. It has been hard for us all to lose Dad, especially mum.

"They did everything together for more than 60 years. They both met in church in Edinburgh in the sixties and married in 1966. Mum was an auxiliary nurse at the ERI then worked in a cafe. Dad’s passing has hit her hard. She has teary days then she sees her grandchildren and that makes her smile again.”

He added: "In Italy, Dad was awarded a kind of knighthood. We wanted to give him the send off he deserved.

“It’s the way of Italian communities, often big families so bigger funerals with all the cousins, everybody comes. I wanted Dad to have a big turnout. Because we had hundreds tune in there were more than 400 people able to pay respects to Dad.

"We had many customers come into the restaurant in Dalkeith days after and say what a lovely service.

“I’ve never experienced that sort of community respect unless it was for someone famous like Princess Diana. It was really something. I’m so happy that many were able to be part of Dad’s goodbye. I know he would have loved that.”

Funeral Directors have reported that the pandemic has had a profound impact on grieving families and previously traditional funeral services that people can only attend in person are being replaced with virtual alternatives.

Around half of all funerals that William Purves delivers are now live-streamed. The family firm, who provided drive-thru funerals at the height of the pandemic, said they’ve seen a huge rise in live streamed funerals and they predict it’s going to continue into the future.

They have invested in tech for every service room and can now provide live streaming from Elgin and Inverurie in the North to Ashington over the border. They can also provide teams to record services from churches and even some natural burials.

Andrew Purves said: "More people started live streaming funerals when restrictions were in place and now it’s still popular. I’d say about half maybe more ask for live streamed element. It can be from the crematorium, the church or even a cemetery in the bucketing rain in the middle of nowhere.

"At this time some people are still nervous or scared about going into busy spaces with many others.

"For people who are elderly, unwell or if it's difficult to travel to a service, then it's a real benefit for them.

“With live-streamed the service the family get to keep the recording, which they value as a memento of the service. People like to be able to watch it back later, often they are upset at the time and so don’t take it all in. We have had to learn this fast but it’s important for us to adapt to help people in whatever way we can through what is a very difficult time in their lives. Live streaming funerals gained momentum due to the pandemic but I think it’s here to stay.”

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