Current Affairs
Gibraltar woman speaks Maltese without ever having studied the language

Over a third of Gibraltarians have Maltese roots going back to the days of Maltese migration to this British territory in the west of the Mediterranean. These people are highly respected and some have occupied and occupy important positions in politics, the Church and work places. Unlike other territories that have become a second home for the Maltese, the Maltese identity in Gibraltar is still very much alive in families more than in clubs and associations.

Maria Theresa Pitto Attard said her grandfather had holidayed in Malta and had met her grandmother and they had married in 1929 and returned to live in Gibraltar.

Thus began Maria Theresa Pitto Attard’s link with Gibraltar where she was born and still resides without however forgetting her links to Malta, including the Maltese language and although she had never learnt the language at school, she learnt it off her mother Margaret, as well as her relatives. She is one of the few generations in Gibraltar that still speak Maltese, in her case with a distinct Cospicua accent. Although her children have not mastered Maltese, except for a word here and there, she still converses in Maltese with her mother and her aunt.

Maria said she speaks in Maltese to them and although they are hard of hearing, when she speaks to them in Maltese she does not have to repeat what she says and neither has she to raise her voice to be more audible.

The movement of Maltese to Gibraltar began 100 years ago and lightly before in order to benefit from work opportunities in the large dockyard, the construction of the breakwater and the marine transport of coal. The majority of today’s generations with Malta links results from grandparents and great grandparents. The majority of those with Maltese roots live in the part of Gibraltar that falls under the St Joseph Parish where over the years Maltese and Gozitan priests have been present. The Maltese Bishop in Gibraltar is Mons Carmelo Zammit from Gudja.

He stated that Maltese influence was mostly felt during the construction of the port’s breakwater. Maltese labour had been brought to work on the construction and many of them stayed on. He said he knew one named Formosa from Ghaxaq who had remained there for the rest of his life and raised a family in Gibraltar. Stones had been brought from Malta for the building of the Sacred Heart Church, a beautiful Gothic church whose corners are of Maltese stone and nowadays easily crumble. The rest of the stonework is that of stones mixed with soil and covered in cement.

Contrary to other countries where the Maltese migrated, such as Australia, Canada and the United States, the Maltese identity is not maintained through clubs but through families.

From tomorrow, the programme ‘Ħadd wara Ħadd’ for the coming months on Television Malta will feature Malta’s links with this territory on the edge of the Mediterranean, a British territory in the most southern part of Spain with a population of 30,000 and that is dominated by a mountain. This offers wonderful views and one may meet monkeys and although they are mainly docile, one still has to remain attentive. Gibraltar’s economy mainly depends on tourism, financial services and fuel supplies to ships entering or leaving the Mediterranean.

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