Malta & the military connection

With the arrival of the Baton Relay at Malta today (07.05.2014), Club21 International Story editor, Laura Nicoara shares her project findings on the University’s historical connections with Malta:

Souvenir photograph of Cita Vecchia, Malta, late 19th century (Special Collections, Dougan Add. 8/12)

Souvenir photograph of Cita Vecchia, Malta, late 19th century (Special Collections, Dougan Add. 8/12)

Although student-led links between the University and Malta began in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century (see the country page), the period covered by my project was the twentieth century. However there are continuities throughout the centuries in these student-led links.

During the twentieth century, two aspects continue to stand out regarding the connection between the University and students from Malta: The majority who were born in Malta were sons and daughters of British expatriates, temporarily stationed in Malta. Of the eighteen students born in Malta who enrolled in the University between 1908 and 1964, only five gave their home address as Malta; the rest were living in the UK at the time of enrollment. This ties in to the second point: A large number of these students had parents who occupied some position in the military: six students had fathers who were or had been in the army, two of them had fathers who had been in the navy, and another two students’ fathers worked for the air forces. This would explain their temporary presence in Malta at the time their sons and daughters were born, and their subsequent return to the UK. As a result, many of the students did not return to Malta. An example is Kathleen Melita Fryer whose father was a Church of Scotland minister serving as Senior Chaplain to the Fleet in Malta between 1902 and 1906. Although born in Malta in 1905, the family left the country the following year, and therefore it is unlikely that she considered Malta her home.

Other students were not only born in Malta, but spent a considerable part of their lives there before commencing their university studies. Nevertheless, the time spent in Glasgow was for many of them the starting point for a new life away from home. For example, Millie May Josephine Peralta, who started a degree in Medicine at the age of 30 in 1936, gave her home address as Valletta, Malta, in her matriculation files, but after graduation she stayed in Glasgow for further research, and later her job as a doctor took her to many parts of the world, such as India, Nigeria and Pakistan. She later settled and opened a private practice in England.

Another student who built a new life for himself in the UK is Joseph Zahra, of Maltese nationality. Educated in Malta, he started his Arts degree at Glasgow in 1944. This took place in the context of the Second World War bombing of Malta by fascist Italy that began in 1940, when 60% of the area where Joseph lived was destroyed. Perhaps these circumstances contributed to his decision to move to Scotland where he received bursaries in order to complete his studies, and eventually chose to settle there.

Whether they were sons and daughters of expatriate British citizens or Maltese citizens, many of our students born in Malta seem to have used their experience at the University as a starting point for successful careers.

By Laura Nicoara, MA Philosophy & Latin, Malta, Club21

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