Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 6(1975)4(458-459)

G. MICALLEF: Ħal Luqa Niesha u Ġrajjietha (Veritas Press, Malta, 1975), 368 pp., illus.

The village of Luqa has today become one of the most important centres of Malta because of its airport. However, Fr. Micallef has fully indicated that the village has its long chequered history. The history he writes, is the history of the Maltese village: he describes in a vivid way the whole Luqa scene, the people’s work, homes, customs, beliefs, sufferings, superstitions and pastimes throughout the centuries. It may be stated that Fr. Micallef has succeeded in giving us the human aspect of History.

It is clearly evident that much research work was done before this book could be written. The book is divided into 34 chapters and it also has an analytical index. The text is substantiated by references to documents found in various archives.

The history of Luqa goes back to the middle ages when a small community established itself in the area of Luqa. The people were mainly farmers. In documents dating as early as 1419-20, one comes across the names of men from this village who had to serve in the Maltese Dejma (militia). With the coming of the Knights of St John, the Luqa community continued to grow: new families appeared, foreigners settled there, the social life became more active. There appeared the farmer, the stone-cutter, the money-lender, the priest, and the taverner. The villagers started to build their Chapels. The Siege of 1565 forced them to move out of their village. Many took refuge in Birgu and Fort St Michael.

Following the memorable year of 1565, the Knights started to build the new city of Valletta. The building trade attracted many workers from Luqa. It is also during this time that two notable personalities from Luqa appeared — Rev. Mariano Briffa who became Parish Priest of Qormi and Rev. Damiano Taliana O.P. Mgr. Duzzina, the Apostolic Visitor who visited Malta in 1575, noted the religious situation in Luqa and reported that there existed a number of small chapels.

The growth of the population, especially after the plague of 1592, [p.459] brought about a more complex society which continued to develop during the later centuries in which the Order of St John continued to rule over the Maltese Islands. In 1632 the population totalled 1000. The desire had long been felt that Luqa should have its own parish. A number of citizens led by Bażilju Farrugia made a request in front of the Bishop of Malta, and Pope Urban VIII decreed the erection of the Parish Church of Luqa. Its first parish priest was Rev. Wistin Cassia. The Church, dedicated to St. Andrew, was originally built in 1539-42. It was later embellished and then replaced by another built on the plan of Rev. Ġulju Muscat. The author gives a detailed description of the church which was consecrated in 1783. As far as civil administration goes, it is remarkable to note that Luqa was given its own Constable in 1743 and its own Syndic in 1786.

During the Order’s administration the people of Luqa indicate perhaps the way of life that was experienced in every other Maltese village. Stability brought about the presence of doctors, notaries, businessmen, merchants and slaves. The influence of the Inquisitor was also felt. The people occasionally suffered hardship because of scarcity of rain, plague epidemics, poverty and other problems. However they also had their pastimes, card games, cock-fighting, drinking in the local taverns, feasts.

The coming of the French affected the village of Luqa. The villagers played their part in the Blockade. The corsair Luqa Briffa who was sent to contact the British fleet to come to aid the Maltese, belonged to a family from Luqa where he lies buried. During the Blockade the villagers were led by another notable personality, namely Dr Giuseppe Casha.

The history of Luqa after the departure of the French, indicates the vicissitudes of the Maltese Islands during the 19th century. Plague, cholera and unemployment affected the people who, however, continued to strive. Gradually social services were introduced by the British administration; a primary school was set up in 1856. In 1937-38, the building of Luqa Airport made the village more important than ever before — it became Malta’s link with the rest of the world.

In this detailed history of Luqa and its people, Fr. Micallef also gives information about various personalities who hailed from Luqa such as Fr. Indri Schembri S.J., Mikielang Sapiano and Indri Vassallo. It should appeal to those who are interested in the social history of the Maltese people and those who are interested in Malta in general.

C.G.S.