Hamrun Girls' Primary School in 1954 and a British-style tea-party. Smart teachers, smart girls.

Hamrun Girls’ Primary School in 1954 and a British-style tea-party. Smart teachers, smart girls.

 

I guess the older you get the greater becomes the nostalgia, not exactly wishing a return to the past, nor ruminating that things have changed and it was much better then, and not wishing to live through it all again. Just a nostalgia of fond memories, recollections and reminiscences – the things that influenced and made you what you are today.

 

 Well before my time but this is St Anne's Square at The Ferries in Sliema and one of the early cinemas. The advertising board is in Italian.

Well before my time but this is St Anne’s Square at The Ferries in Sliema and one of the early cinemas. The advertising board is in Italian.

My early boyhood was spent in Malta to the age of seven years and eight months before going off to live in England with my family. Between early 1957 and late 1959 we returned to live in Malta before returning to England and until I finally returned in 1965 down to today.

 

Many happy days spent at my aunt's in Tigne, Sliema, today sadly ruined by a conglomeration of apartments and shops.

Many happy days spent at my aunt’s in Tigne, Sliema, today sadly ruined by a conglomeration of apartments and shops.

Disruptive yes, but in equal measure interesting because it has enabled me to be present in times of substantial change, with the past almost entirely unrecognisable of what Malta is today.

 

For this week’s contribution, rather than words which have their limitations no matter how much a wordsmith one is, I prefer to let these nostalgic pictures illustrate the past.

 

 Also well before my time, Valletta's Strada Reale, later Kingsway and now Republic Street. This occasion was the feast of St Dominic, one of Valletta's two main festas.

Also well before my time, Valletta’s Strada Reale, later Kingsway and now Republic Street. This occasion was the feast of St Dominic, one of Valletta’s two main festas.

Dreams, expectations, novelty experiences, hopes and despair – all make up the composition but overall I class the positive which today has become wondrous.

 

These are my memories and recollections before going to England in January 1954.

 

The not-so-affluent Valletta back streets.

The not-so-affluent Valletta back streets.

I went to a school run by nuns in Hamrun, an unusually mixed boys’ and girls’ school at the time when gender coeducation was regarded as virtually being a state automatically leading to carnal sins, no matter the ages. Maltese parents were always proud and protective of their children and although many still are, in a number of cases today, sadly not with the same dedication.

 

 Driving along the Msida Seafront past the submarine depot with the apartments for RN Wrens in the background.

Driving along the Msida Seafront past the submarine depot with the apartments for RN Wrens in the background.

I am from Sliema and was brought up in Sliema, then still beautiful unlike the monstrosity it has become today, made despondent and gloomy by blocks of high-rise apartments, commercial and retail outlets and traffic gluts.

 

The pace of life was gentle, spent playing street football, fishing, swimming and being spoilt by doting grandparents and going to Tigne’ to spend days with my enormously kind Auntie Annie and Uncle Edwin who was also my Godfather.

 

 The entrance to Valletta then named Kingsgate, all gone now.

The entrance to Valletta then named Kingsgate, all gone now.

In boyhood eyes, the world looked large and infinite (only in later years did I appreciate how small Malta and Gozo are in the eyes of the world).

 

Occasionally there was a grand trip to the capital city Valletta, a special visit where one had to be dressed up smartly and accompanying adults wearing their best togs – to let one and all know one’s society standing, which later I realised was lower middle class and therefore largely nondescript, yet nevertheless important at the time.

 

 A grand military parade in the early 50s marching past the then British Governor's Office and St George's Square, now Palace Square.

A grand military parade in the early 50s marching past the then British Governor’s Office and St George’s Square, now Palace Square.

Valletta had its own fascination with a busy hustle and bustle, many shops and outdoor cafes and restaurants, as throngs of civilians mixed with British military personnel, mostly Army and Navy, in peaceful and thankful coexistence that horrendous World War II had ended just a few years earlier.

 

 RAF 601 Squadron at RAF Ta' Qali where my father was later stationed between 1957 and 1959.

RAF 601 Squadron at RAF Ta’ Qali where my father was later stationed between 1957 and 1959.

The bus ride from Sliema to Valletta was via Msida, a sea route with its own fascinations including the RN submarine depot and the massive HMS Forth alongside, a submarine depot ship.

 

A British military presence was everywhere and generally much appreciated and a part of everyday life. What a grand experience to see and hear the sounds of a grand military parade in Valletta, celebrating some occasion or other – uniforms, precise marching, bagpipes, drums and brass instruments going at full blast and the civilians appreciative in their encouragement and applause.

 

 Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth (with Prince Philip behind her) entering the elite Sliema Union Club in 1950.

Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth (with Prince Philip behind her) entering the elite Sliema Union Club in 1950.

Visits by various members of the British Royal Family were frequent and always well met, beacons that shone and had a great following and to an extent still have today particularly by old-timers.

 

 The one daily Gozo service from Marfa to Mgarr in Gozo using the ferry (MV Bancinu).

The one daily Gozo service from Marfa to Mgarr in Gozo using the ferry (MV Bancinu).

Yet, the treats of all treats were occasional Gozo visits to see relatives and where I once spent several weeks of bliss with my mother’s cousins as my maternal grandfather was Gozitan. The bus ride from Valletta to Marfa ambled through and past several sleepy villages and culminated in a boat ride (one daily ferry – unlike today’s virtual shuttle service) with dolphins and flying fish (no more today) escorting the ferry.

 

 Valletta Bus Terminus and the colour-coded buses, dark blue for Rabat, orange for Zurrieq, yellow for Qormi, Zebbug and Siggiewi. All gone today and the terminus being revamped.

Valletta Bus Terminus and the colour-coded buses, dark blue for Rabat, orange for Zurrieq, yellow for Qormi, Zebbug and Siggiewi. All gone today and the terminus being revamped.

I have never been a motoring enthusiast in fact I have never driven a vehicle! Yet I vividly remember the solid and shining metal cars, trucks and buses that occasionally traversed the roads alongside horse and mule-drawn carts and cabs. The colour-coded buses are a special and specific memory.

 

 A paraffin vendor going door-to-door, a rarity today.

A paraffin vendor going door-to-door, a rarity today.

Those were my early days and I have to thank https://www.facebook.com/bayretro/photos/ for these so lovely pictures that remind me so much of my wonderful boyhood and to my dearly departed family that made me what I am today.

 

 

ALBERT FENECH

 Solid motor cars, shining and sheening works of art.

Solid motor cars, shining and sheening works of art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Albert Fenech

Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management but still retained his roots by actively pursuing freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel.