Malta in 1973

(originally posted on Facebook, 4 and 5 th April 2023)

In 1973 Malta was an independent country with the British Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. She was represented locally by a Maltese Governor-General.

Father Charles’ advice

I started my research a few days later at Dun Charles’ office as Director of the Cana Movement on the fourth floor of the Catholic Institute in Floriana. I have been so many times to that place. Fr. Vella was always very busy and in the meantime he started bossing me around and to my surprise I enjoyed it. I also met Father Louis Camilleri, the Deputy Director, always in a good mood. Het lived ‘far away’ in Hal-Dingli, a place where I was going to enjoy the festa in due time.

From the beginning Father Charles was very much interested in my studies. He lectured me for two hours on Malta, the Church, the State, the Cana Movement and everything ‘I needed to know’.

During one of our first meetings he gave me a numbered list of 26 persons I should interview. I still have this list, written in green ink. I could mention Father Charles’ name to most of them. In his opinion I should explore the backgrounds of Church-State relations, such as the Demech case and the Strickland affair. Therefore I should interview political oldtimers. His advice: ‘don’t go waste your time with youngsters who have their information from others. Go for first-hand facts’.

NOTE : Those wo know Father Charles will notice that thephoto above was certainly not taken in 1973, but many years later after het was made a Monsignor.

In the meantime we started exploring the island by car and by foot. I bought a road map and we drove to the utmost north from where we could see Gozo and Comino. On the way back we had a great meal at The Hilltop in Mellieha, a restaurant we would often frequent after we settled down in St. Paul’s Bay.

In the utmost south we enjoyed the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk. We had to go the national phone office in St. Julians in order to tell our parents about our travelling to and arrive in Malta.

We were often amazed by our first impressions of Mdina and Rabat, Dingli Cliffs, the three Cities and places like Zabbar, Siggiewi, Zebbug and Qormi. During this and later stays we would love to have a drive over the island and stop somewhere for a walk. All of us really enjoyed Malta. Margreet and the children like several well kept playgrounds all over the island.

I loved to take the family (my wife Margreet and our children Jetty 2,5 and Corneel 1+) with me as much as I could. We stayed about a week in Sliema, where we enjoyed the sunny weather, not too hot (we came from the cold). Although we enjoyed our daily walks with the children near the sea we were not so fond of climbing all these stairs to our flat, so we decided to look for a more suitable accommodation. I still remember us checking a dark place in Rabat owned by a man, who said he was a nephew of the Archbishop. Margreet always had the last say, which was no in this case.

I cannot remember how we met Mr. John Mallia who became our landlord at Tal-Fjuri in St. Paul’s Bay. We stayed at the ground floor of his summer residence, his family living on top of us. It was a nice place with hardly any traffic, so the children could safely play around the house. We had a beautiful view on the village, Xemxija on the other side and the sea.

For me an extra asset was Mr. Mallia’s son Louis, a keen observer of the local political scene, who gave me precious information during the first years of my research. Unfortunately for me he emigrated later to Australia, of all places.

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