Forgotten – the 110 children crushed to death at Ta’ Ġieżu Church for a fragment of bread
This time 200 years ago there occurred a tragedy during Carnival time in which 100 children were crushed to death in a Valletta convent. Research into the tragedy has shown that nobody was actually responsible for the tragedy but over the years the tragedy seems to have been forgotten and there is not even a memorial for the children.
The fatal day was 11th February, 1823, during Carnival time when at the Ta’ Ġieżu Church in Valletta scores of children from Valletta and Cottonera lost their lives. However, after all this time, what is known as to the sequence of the tragedy?
It was in fact a slice of bread that led to the death of 110 children aged between eight years and 15 who on the day during Carnival celebrations gathered in the Valletta church hoping to be fed bread at a time when poverty and hunger were rampant.
Researcher Fiona Vella told Television Malta the children assembled at the convent to distance themselves from the Carnival manifestation.
She said it was ironic that at the time the children from the Valletta and Cottonera districts should be assembled to avoid the extravagances of Carnival.
She said a series of mistakes may have led to the tragedy and the children became the victims of a riot. She said the Mass being celebrated took an hour longer than expected. Thus when the children went towards the convent this coincided with the end of celebrations and they came up against the homeward bound crowds and the children were caught in the middle.
She said the sacristy door was normally kept closed but as it was now late it was left open. Some people who were aware of the tradition and also sought to try and gain some bread entered with the children and as it was now dark nobody noticed their incursion. As was the normal practice, the sacristy door was closed to bar entry to further people.
The lamp that was normally lit on this occasion was not lit. Thus, when the door was closed, all those inside were in complete darkness and a whole panic ensued with lots of pushing and shoving and the children were the victims of being crushed.
Fiona Vella explained to Television Malta that an investigation was later carried out by the Governor Richard Plasket which concluded that nobody was actually responsible for the tragedy and it was just an accident and not a planned tragedy. Fiona said she does not understand why a memorial has never been established in commemoration of the victims.
She said this is a pity and when related a lot of people do not even know about the tragedy and the tragedy remains a blot on the beauty of Carnival. She said she cannot understand why a memorial has never been erected.
She said these children deserve to be remembered and commemorated because the tragedy is part of Malta’s social history.