Usually at this time of year, Qormi residents would be filling the streets for the feast of St George, which will now be held on a smaller scale on 6 September with a solemn mass and a pilgrimage of the statue of the patron saint in the evening. However, for collector Neville Attard, St George lives in his heart the whole year round. Since he was a child, he has been collecting everything which has to do with this saint and today his collection covers the whole house.
This area is usually packed to the gills on the feast of St George the martyr. This year, however, the silence cuts like a knife because Malta’s feasts have also fallen victim to COVID19. For Neville Attard, who has been a devout follower of St George from the time he was a child, the patron saint comes before anything else. He lives with his grandmother Vitorin in the old part of Qormi and just a stone’s away from the parish of St George.
From the time he was a little boy he began collecting anything connected to St George, from statues and pictures to silver ornaments, holy pictures, bottles and literally thousands of other things. As soon as you step into Neville’s home all you see are images of St George. His latest acquisition is that of St George as a child. At the age of 8, Neville received a statue of St George made out of papier-mâché from his grandfather. “After that I kept on adding to my collection. When I travel I am always buying something and I get them as presents as well. My favourite piece is the statue my grandfather gave me because it was the first one, and then there are these statues from Spain which I really like. I have so many different ones, and I really cannot choose because I love them all.”
In this collection we counted 30 icons, more than 200 keychains, medals and coins, 50 paintings and just as many souvenirs including plates and ornaments, 300 holy pictures and postcards and 80 statues. Neville’s collection is also enriched by a number of relics of St George. The collector explained that his favourite two statues came from abroad, one from Spain and one from Marseilles, France. In a special showcase, there is a large statue of St George the Martyr, made in Gozo, which he sometimes lends to children from Qormi to carry during the procession. “The smallest item is a thimble and the largest is a large statue by Gozitan artist, Austin Camilleri.”
His grandmother, Vitorin, told us that during the days when the feast is celebrated many people come to take a look at her grandson’s treasured exhibit. She never complains about his hobby and in fact she makes sure to keep the entire collection as clean as can be. ” I do it because Neville is usually at church. I take care of them. I just let him do what he likes and never contradict him.”