Outside il-Barri

Il-Barri, meaning The Bull, is a regular restaurant for us when we go to Malta, says Lyn Funnell.

I knew that underneath it was a WW2 shelter where the villagers used to hide during the bombing raids.

And although I wanted to see it, the week’s holiday always flew by.

But this time I was determined to see it, so I made an appointment.

Entrance

The Maltese are reticent about discussing the war. The island went through Hell, day after day, with air-raids, many deaths and long periods of starvation until the British were able to get some supplies to them.

In Mgarr, everyone knew where the shelter was, but it had bad memories for them, and it had become hidden under Il-Barri and a neighbouring house.

Then it was found in 1998 during refurbishment to the restaurant. They were digging out a pizzeria, and it collapsed into the shelter.

Stairs down

It was opened to the public in 2,000.

The Government claimed it, and now the Sammut family have to rent it and pay for the electricity and the upkeep of it.

We went through the restaurant and down the stairs, led by Rachelle, our guide.

She sat us down and played a very emotional 10-minute video showing the bombing of the area. Then she unlocked the gates and turned the lights on.

I gasped at the size of it. It’s massive! It was all dug out by hand in a short time by the desperate villagers and there are pickaxe marks everywhere.

‘What’s that noise?’ I asked Rachelle.

‘It’s the traffic above us,’ she replied.

Tiny church

I thought it was a recording of the planes and bombs. It sounded muffled and it added to the atmosphere. It must have been terrifying for the people, hiding down there for hours and days on end, listening to their homes being destroyed. They never knew what sights were going to greet them when they emerged.

The shelter is 224 mts in length, with tiny rooms carved out at the sides.

Bedroom

There is as much again buried under a neighbouring house.

Around 450 people hid down there at once.

The nursery

Edgar Sammut, who is 74, was one of the last new-born babies to be kept in the nursery at the end of the passageway. He was lucky to survive. There were a lot of diseases spread in the damp, unhygienic shelter, including scabies and arthritis.

His elder sister died aged five months.

Bedroom

There was no electricity in the village. They used candles and oil lamps.

Day and night, the villages huddled together under the ground. The conditions must have been horrific. It must have stunk! They cooked, gave birth, prayed, went to the toilet, and even made love there. Well, it might have been their last day on earth, so why not?

The Mgarr Shelter is well worth a visit. You’ll never forget it. And as my brochure states, we mustn’t forget how the children suffered due to the conflict of others.

I highly recommend the Barri Restaurant. The service is very friendly. Their food is all freshly prepared and delicious, massive portions!

But I’ll never forget what is underneath it and how the villagers suffered!

The Mgarr Shelter is open Tuesday to Saturday, 09.00-13.00.

Sundays 10.00-11.30.

Barri Restaurant

Church Square

Mgarr

Malta.

Tel +356 2157 3235.

Email info@il-barri.com.mt

About Lyn

LYN FUNNELL CV (well, sort of!) Lyn had very successful careers as an Air Hostess, Sales Rep, (she was one of only a couple of women. She beat all the men regularly, becoming the Top Rep in the UK, and 2nd in the world.) And then Catering took over. She did everything from the washing-up, to Silver Service Waitress, and Chef. A few times, she had to cook the meal, dash round the other side and Silver Serve it! In between all this, she wrote as often as she could, building up a reputation as a published short story writer, (Horror and a twist in the tale,) and a Poet. She has appeared as a Performing Poet, and a Demo Chef. Then she discovered the world of the Food & Travel Writer. And that’s what she has continued doing to this day. Her main hobbies are Cookery and entering Competitions. She has won many prizes, including holidays and a moped. She enjoys entering Competitions, submitting her original recipes. She was first in many Competitions, including the Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu, Fruits of France, Bernard Matthews Turkey Recipe, and appeared on BBC’s The One Show Spag Bol contest. She was one of three Finalists, coming 2nd, which makes her Britain’s Spag Bol Queen! Now she runs B-C-ing-U! and loves it! After several years of being messed around by Editors, and having loads of contacts, Lyn formed her own online Magazine, vowing to treat her writers fairly, and to do everything possible to further their careers, publicise their books, etc. She now has a band of excellent regular writers, and the Magazine’s going from strength to strength! Lyn’s online published books; Adverse Camber A collection of my published poems. The First Book of Short Stories The Second Book of Short Stories The Third Book of Short Stories. Many of these stories have been previously published. St Anthony of Padua. The Patron St of the Old. A story of one woman’s terrible ordeal in a Home, and her family’s rescue of her. The Girl Who Watched. A Cuban girl is attacked by an English journalist & what follows! Willy the Whizz & the Wormhole. Suitable for Young Adults, aged 15-95! Get Out Of Debt And Stay Out – Forever! Unsympathetic, hard-hitting, realistic solutions to your problems. All these books are published by Andrews UK Ltd www.andrewsuk.com No, I didn’t pay them to Vanity Publish! They’re all available from Amazon, and many other online publishers. LYN FUNNELL.