At the end of October 2016 we were invited to attend their celebrations in Marsa and it was several days and evenings as they are so proud of the link. We very often did not really know what we would be involved in! The first event took place on a very hot and sticky evening in Balbi Street beside the church of the Holy Trinity where a new statue had been placed.6 of us attended Mike and Di, myself and husband and Pat and Jennie Parker ( Pat was Mayor when the Twinning was signed in Marsa 10 years ago )It was to honour the Capuchin brothers who have a friary attached to the church (known locally as the convent) The statue celebrates the bothers coming to Marsa to help the very poor and needy as the area was extremely poor with people living in small dwellings and working in the dock area. It was unveiled by the Mayor Francis Debono and Fr Martin Micallef who is the head man and was Oxford educated. There were many speeches and photographs taken. The Marsa Scouts played a fanfare (their pipe and drum band are very well renowned) A couple of pictures taken inside the church.
We spent one evening at a formal meeting with all the various clubs and associations in the town. The Scouts, both Band Clubs, the Pageant Group, Football Nursery, Historical and Cultural Society and Members that organise the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Very interesting discussions were held to try and find similarities.
The next event was a morning event where we were invited to join the celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the Marsa Historical and Cultural Society. We were welcomed by Raymond Montebello who now is the President. I met him many years ago when he was the secretary and we have been in regular contact, then the president was Michael Salibo a 90 year old gentleman who had a wonderful knowledge of the history of Marsa. Raymond asked Mike and Francis to do the honour of planting an Olive tree where it was blessed by Rev Carmelo Aquilina. We were then taken to rooms above the Society Headquarters where we were shown exhibits of the equipment used by locals to unload coal from the welsh coalfields into ships in the harbour which was fascinating.
We then had a talk from a local entomologist called Denis Magro who showed us local insects. Pictures of extinct (in Marsa area) crabs, crickets and the boxes they were kept in as alarm clocks! The last picture shows a local bee hive. We were then given a poetry rendition by Dr Saviour Piscani (a retired anaesthetist) and Mrs Mary Attard (retired teacher) of poems and poets that had links to Malta ,then downstairs to their meeting room for refreshments, you can see a plate of Bridgwater and there are several gifts we have taken on display.
A day off when we took the ferry to Valetta and back, the sky that evening looking from the balcony.
We then had the pleasure of being joined by our Mayor Alex Glassford , it was his first visit to Malta , also came Ian and Sonia Tucker and their 16 year old grandson Adam. Marsa council had arranged all transport for us from several areas of the island where we were staying for every event. We had been invited to visit the San Gorg Preca Primary school that is now linked with St Mary’s, we were welcomed by the Headmaster Mr Norbert Pulis who took us on a tour of the school which takes over 2 floors of the building, in the entrance hall is the first picture and we then went to the 2 classes who are in contact with 2 in Bridgwater where we saw work displayed that they had been investigating Bridgwater but had found some with an “e” in the USA. We were able to explain the very distinct difference! In the playground you can see the sun shade used as people are very aware of sun damage. Adam had worn his school uniform and gave a talk about his school life and answered many questions, this is the class of Shania Spencer and the boy next to her would like to be able to earn badges! We presented information to both classes and the last we heard from St Mary’s was that they were trying to sort out Skype as both schools have internet and lessons are taught in English from Kindergarten. Alex was presented with a book and then we were given tea and biscuits and were able to talk to some of the staff before a break time for the children. Pictures of the outside of the school which is a very short walk from the church and council offices. The upper story used to be a technical school but not anymore. We had a walk around to see the Bridgwater Playing field and to the council offices.
In the evening of Friday 28th October we attended the big event at the council offices to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Twinning Agreement. Marsa is extremely proud of the link with Bridgwater and in the entrance is the print of the picture that is hung in our Mayors Parlour ( a gift from our Association)and all around the building are pictures taken in and around Bridgwater (Francis is a professional photographer ) and various gifts we have given as well on display. We were entertained by a local Maltese family group called The Jackson Folk Group playing traditional instruments and local music.
There were to be various awards given out to Marsa residents including the Members of the Regatta team who have brought such pride to the town winning so many races over the last year in the 2 Regattas. Our two representatives who were there to celebrate the 10 years Pat Parker who signed 10 years ago and Alex with the important members from Marsa Scouts who have a long history and now have girls in the troop, they had always been male only until fairly recently. We met so many people from all the various organisations in a much more relaxed event. The first picture shows members of the Pageant group as you can see Josef Zammit plays a very realistic Jesus with other members one of whom played the part for many years, the end of a very long parade around the town where local people take part dressed representing the various bible stories ends in the crucifixion which is so real you want to stop it happening!
Everyone was in their best outfits and to commemorate the occasion a type of Yew was planted by Mike, Alex and Francis after many photos we went back inside where there were speeches and awards given out by Francis on behalf of the council. Alex was asked to unveil a plague on the wall under pictures of the two twinning events and the Twinning Agreement. More speeches and presentations happened and more photos of the Marsa Council, Executive secretary and ladies in the office. The evening continued with the group playing, videos playing of our carnival and the feast of the Holy Trinity and the Pageant. There were many local people who were not all involved in different organisations, one 94 year old gentleman who really enjoyed himself talking to us all. There was a wonderful buffet and plenty to drink as the Maltese are extremely hospitable in their own homes or at functions. It was a great evening.
The event had to be held indoors as they were expecting a gale and yes there was one. We were supposed to be going in traditional boats from Marsa around the Grand Harbour to Birgu to the Maritime museum. We were taken to the town by Dominic Spencer and Raymond Montebello and walked round an extremely old part of one of the 3 cities which was the Knights of St John’s first stronghold before Valletta was built. We were taken to the St Lawrence Museum in a church of that name which was really interesting and found a letter from George V to the people of Malta awarding them the George Cross. We found an original bus in the Square the streets were narrow and slightly curved as of course not much wheeled vehicles and curved as arrows fly in a straight line. Very atmospheric with all the Auberge for the different nationalities of Knights. We walked to a view point overlooking the entrance of the Grand Harbour and nearly got blown away; we soon retreated to the safety of the small roads and visited the National Maritime Museum which used to be the Bakery for the English Navy. A large museum with so much to see from early history up to much more modern, the picture shows some of the history with the 3 planes that defended the island, Faith, Hope and Charity which were Gladiator biplanes from the Italians and Germans as Malta was a key deep water port for the English. This is an interesting part of our history as well as Malta’s. Ian Tucker was ex Navy and really would have liked to spend all day there. We were taken with all the council staff to a restaurant under the bastions in Valletta for a wonderful evening meal.
On Sunday it was the last day for Alex and the Tuckers we had been invited to visit many of the association’s home bases. We started with the Scouts HQ and were met by many of the leaders , Joe Galea has been involved for too many years to count, know as Cubby he is the Quartermaster and has all their wonderful equipment stored with military precision in a garage opposite his home, most of which is ex army, we were shown many twinning memorabilia from the link with the 1st Bridgwater Wembdon (St Georges ) and the visitors book which was signed by Baden Powell n 1933 , the Scout movement started in Malta just a year after England. I presented Alex the Group Scout Leader with work that the scouts in Wembdon had sent. Alex Glassford was then presented with a scout Necker and a woggle and as Pat had lost his woggle (wearing his Marsa Necker he too was presented with a woggle to replace the one he lost!) we had visited the area where all the street decorations were made for the Feast, a year round job to repair, repaint and make new ones as the whole town is wonderfully decorated in early June. We had a quick visit to the Football Club bar and were shown all their trophies and the strips that they play in.
Finally we went to the Holy Trinity Band Club headquarters opposite the church, downstairs is a bar and upstairs a function room where they were preparing for a Halloween party but we were shown into a beautiful room like a very comfortable dining/front room with all their trophies in cabinets by Clint Baldacchino who is the president of the club, again more presentations.
The final photo taken outside the council office show Alex presenting Francis and Dominic with the brand new Bridgwater Town Council ties which as you can see they were pleased with. It was a very successful visit, we spent 2 weeks there as part holiday and part civic duty but as ever we were treated like royalty and were catered for by Dominic and Claudette ( all of the group of 10 of us ) on two occasions and as it was Di’s Birthday on Halloween she was treated to a birthday cake . We had some not wonderful weather, it rained torrents one day and gales twice but we were still in summer clothes!