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HISTORY

Even though autonomous, Hamrun is not actually among the older towns and villages, which can boast of having a long historical past. It was constituted as a parish in the last quarter of the 19th century (1881). This does not mean that in the area itself on which it stands nothing important happened before that.


Prehistory:
From the Pleistocene era, fossil shells, elephant and deer fossilized bones and teeth were unearthed in the 1940s when air raid shelters were being dug.


Punic Times:
A tomb of this age was found on the road to Qormi in 1930 containing human remains and a larger one in 1960 while foundations were being prepared for a house near Gwardamangia (then part of Hamrun). This tomb had the remains of eighteen bodies and also some rich artifacts. Again, from the Roman era, workers digging a drainage ditch discovered another tomb in 1955, this time with five skeletons and some pottery.


Byzantine and Arab:
No remains from those times were discovered in the Hamrun area.


Medieval:
More prolific are buildings of the Knights of St.John and Hamrun still has a good share of these. In a contract of 1627 by Notary Ambrogio Sciberras, Giovanni Barbieri leaves in his will, a block of houses at the eastern end of Hamrun called Blata l-Bajda, to the Confraternity of St.Paul of Valletta. Sadly these houses were demolished in the early 1960s to make way for a traffic project, the Bishops Curia being compensated by land further in where it built a block of low-income houses!

The Knights had their Powder Magazines further west close to the main road. Even though the space is now occupied by private dwellings built at the turn of the 20th century, an access lane on the location still bears the name of Sqaq il-Kubrit which is the Maltese word for Sulphur one of the ingredients of gunpowder. After the Knights left, the Powder Magazines were still standing but unoccupied. Sicilian and Maltese contraband dealers who always had knives to deal with problems that arose frequented them. From this we get the nickname tas-Sikkina (knife wielders) for the people of Hamrun and especially soccer club fans! (Please refer to the article by J Martinelli at the end of this chapter)

About a hundred meters west of this area, the Bailiff of the Order De Blacas D Aups built a palace facing the main road, complete with extensive botanical gardens and fountains where the institute of the Little Sisters of the Poor now stands and included the space where we now have St.Pauls square. A part of the old palace itself still stands facing St Joseph High Road the main Hamrun thoroughfare. It was annexed to the new building and preserved.

Around 1645 a small church was built about 500yds further west of this palace. Adjacent to it a one level palace was raised. This had an imposing doorway and two windows on each side. The last tenants who occupied it between 1867 and 1902 were the Count George Sant-Fournier and his wife Paolina. This palace was transformed into very cheap low-income housing built at the beginning of the twentieth century. The ledge and balcony together with the doorway of the palace were incorporated into the transformation, with the doorway taking a small balcony in the new design. The church of Our Lady of Porto Salvo and the apartment on its left, still stand.
On Atocia hill prominently overlooking Floriana and Marsa, is a palace from the time of the Knights. It is now partly divided into private residences but still has an imposing entry hall and a large stone balcony of which today only the base exists. In 1919 the Zahra family from Baron C.Zammit Gauci acquired it. Its facade still carries the scars from being hit by cannon balls during the French blockade of Valletta. Being built more than 400 years ago, this edifice could be said to be the oldest standing building in Hamrun, but sad to say that nowadays it is in such a sorry state that the local council is pleading with the government to close up the entrances because of safety issues. Close by on the hill stands Atocia church and this too had its part to play in the French blockade.
Another palace, from the time of Grandmaster De Rohan used to exist on the west side of the same hill where we now have St.Cajetan Street behind the Parish Church. This palace, which used to be called ta Brunu, had four steps in front of its main entrance. Around the time of WWII, it used to house a marble factory, then after being hit by bombs was later demolished to be replaced by private homes. Some of these can still boast of a few coats of arms of De Rohan all that remains of this palace, in their backyards. At the other end of St.Cajetan street, nestled between two houses, stands a water tower. This is part of what used to be Grandmaster Wignacourt aqueduct built during his tenure to carry fresh water to Valletta from sources around Rabat. In a backyard further down from the tower, stands a stele to commemorate the extension and betterment of this aqueduct by another Grandmaster, De Rohan. The translation of the inscription on this stele says: Emmanuel De Rohan made this aqueduct stronger for the collection of water, with a newer one better built by the kind hearted Prince for the health of his people in the year 1780. Most of the aqueduct still stands between Sta Venera and Attard.

French occupation:
In the last years of the 16th century, just before the knights of the French langue were starting to plot to overthrow the Order and open Malta for Napoleon, Hamrun was already recognized as the village of St.Joseph. In the 1778 map below, which already had French influence, we can spot a place called S.Joseph on the road to Mdina, with a semblance of the end of Wignacourt's aqueduct near the wording.

Malta went through an important part of its history in 1798 when the French langue of the Order of the Knights of St.John opened the doors for Napoleon Bonaparte to usurp the islands. The corrupt knights capitulated and the French occupied Malta. It was only when Napoleon started ransacking our churches to pay his troops that the Maltese rose up and blockaded the French in Valletta a year later. And here, Atocia hill with its little church played an important part keeping the French at bay. Strategic trenches were dug facing Floriana and the city, part of the main effort in the attacks on the enemy trying to exit the capital. The church roof too served as a prominent watch tower and vantage point for sharp shooters. Moreover the rubble walls of fields in the area were dismantled and the rocks spread over the roads to slow down French troops and movement of cannon. When the British were invited to help the Maltese get rid of the French, British Marines were stationed at these trenches. At the heat of the battle, a crucifix from Atocia church was stuck atop a black flag to show the French that this was a fight till the end.

The Maltese leaders including the future Maltese Bishop Caruana, meanwhile were meeting in their headquarters at Casa Leoni, a palace built by a knight and which still stands in Sta.Venera which was once Hamrun territory. From this time too, there is also record of a fairly important skirmish on the main road of Hamrun. We find a French detachment on its way to relieve compatriots at Mdina, being ambushed and routed by the Maltese who surprised them from behind the rubble walls.

Tas-Samra hill played a great part in the blockading of the French in Valletta. It overlooked entry to Valletta through Porte des Bombes. In front of the Samra church whose roof served as a lookout point, was a battery parapet with five gun embrasures. The attached camp had battalions from Zebbug, Siggiewi and Naxxar and was under the overall command of Canon F.Caruana who later on became bishop of Malta. Even Blacas palace below, housed some soldiers from Samra camp.

British rule:
In the 1800s, under British rule, the area started to develop peacefully though sporadically and only hindered by frequent plague epidemics. In 1813 the Governor Commander in chief Sir Thomas Maitland arrived in Malta. He had to face a Plague epidemic, which started on the 21st of May 1813 and petered out only around September of 1814. Cholera made other visits in the years: 1837, 1848, 1850, 1854, 1856 and 1865, killing most of the victims tainted. Until the early 1960s, at the eastern extremity of Hamrun in an area called Blata l-Bajda, there used to be a cemetery for victims of the plague. This gave way to a modern chapel and a centre which will be discussed in detail further on in another section.

From the early years of British rule very close to this cemetery, we find a stone obelisk at Blata l-Bajda. Originally erected at 'Kordin' in Paola, it is a monument to Captain Sir Robert Spencer of HMS Madagascar who died at the end of November 1831 whilst his ship was in quarantine. He was the second son of Earl Spencer and a cousin of Lieutenant Governor Ponsonby. A few days later his body was carried ashore by barge. The funeral was attended by a great number of prominent people including Maltese. Originally this monument stood on top of Cordin hill and was moved to Blata-l-Bajda in 1893.

Malta, with its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean, gave the British an advantage through the two world wars but involved the Maltese in the process. The First World War saw troops encamped in Hamrun territory near Porte des Bombes and down to Pieta around 1915. In the same area there is a commemorative 3 meter stele in a public garden which bears the inscription: Jubilee Garden planted to commemorate the silver jubilee of His Majesty King George V 1910 - 1935.


The two great wars:
Again, through Hamrun passes a main artery for traffic to the Western part of Malta and to the areas where the British had their facilities. So through this time, one could glimpse the odd military vehicle or equipment passing through, sometimes being pulled by a steamroller kind of tractor through the main road.

There was not much upheaval in Hamrun for the duration of World War I. It has to be noted that Malta took in the wounded of the area, being called the nurse of the Mediterraneanat the time and Hamrun played part in this since the British built a small but adequate hospital for eye cases here. From the book 'Malta, the nurse of the Mediterranean' by Rev.A.G. Mackinnon, M.A. Chaplain-Major Senior Presbyterian Chaplain, Malta, we have his comments as he is exiting Floriana visiting the wounded all over the island: Two miles farter out the hot dusty car track is Hamrun Hospital, an inspection of which is well worth the annoyance of getting there . . . Hamrun is small, but a model. Of course, it is quite new, and, therefore, might be expected to have all the latest improvements. It exhales an atmosphere of up-to-datedness. Here all eye cases are being sent.

In 1919 the Farrugia Flourmills in Hamrun are burnt down in the 'Sette Giuigno' riots and the owners decide to diversify their business by producing industrial gases, notably carbon dioxide; then in 1926 by venturing into brewing.

During the Second World War, a couple of stray bombs did fall during WWII demolishing houses. Anticipating the conflagration many started digging air-raid shelters in the limestone underneath their properties, and even the government of the time ordered a good many of these to be excavated for the general public. Since of late, the government has declared air-raid shelters to be heritage sites and so not to be disturbed or altered. With this state of affairs, a family in Hamrun had to go to court because of the need to dig a cellar under their premises and coming across one of these! The part that Hamrun played in WWII was more like that of a host to a great number of refugees fleeing the most heavily bombed part of the world, that is the Grand Harbour area. This artificial inflation of local numbers, does not show on any documents because during the war years no records were kept of movement of population. Some of these people stayed and others left after they had rebuilt their homes in Valletta and the three cities.

The Hamrun Name and Territory:
By the late 1700s, in front of Bailiff Blacas palace across the road from St.Paul square, there existed a popular tavern belonging to Gamri (John Mary) Zammit nicknamed Il-Hamrun. This leads us to the most probable conjecture that the town took its name from the family nickname which by the way was still in existence up to the beginning of the 20th century. At this time there were other names for other areas of territory, which would one day form the town of Hamrun. The part bordering Birkirkara was known as St.Joseph because of a small St.Joseph church that existed there, while the hill was known as Atocia or Tas-Samra because of the dark complexion of the Madonna on the icon in the church there. Furthermore there was the part called Ta' Braxia which was down by Pieta, but as is obvious, the name Hamrun prevailed, not after some disagreements among the villagers.

Documents of the first elections held in Malta, show that the part of Hamrun called Casale San Giuseppe or 'village of St.Joseph' which was partly in Birkirkara and partly in Qormi territory, was amalgamated with Blata l-Bajda which actually was part of Floriana, and later on Atocia hill was added, all under the name of Casale San Giuseppe. The Government Gazette was still calling the village Casale San Giuseppe in 15th May 1888 but the electoral register of the 2nd June of the same year started calling it Hamrun once and for all ending the inconsistency of names. It is interesting to check out how the population of Hamrun evolved from the latter part of the 1800s, that is from when it was officially constituted into a village up to our times. There is a reason behind each fluctuation of the numbers but here it is important to mention the motto that Hamrun took from the start, that is Propera Augesco meaning Quickly do I grow. A very fitting phrase, which Hamrun honoured because in its first fifty years as a parish, it expanded to about five times the population it started with. Please see lists at the end of this chapter. Indeed, the beginnings of the history of Hamrun are entwined in the building of its Parish Church. At this time, about 1878, all we find is little more than 4 chapels, 2 palaces and about 100 houses on the main street.

In a book describing Maltese churches and their contents published by Giuseppe Calleja a teacher of drawing at the Lyceum in 1881, the author writes about a 'New' church on St Joseph's road. This happens to be the same year that St.Cajetan's became a Parish Church and was open only for a few years.

From the papers of those days we have these comments:

Lo Maschetore 22nd Nov 1873:
The village of San Giuseppe, slowly but surely, is expanding. The new church is going ahead at a good pace with the help of many contributors. A small but trim cafe with the name of Don Carlos has opened and has all the amenities needed. A club has just been formed with the name of San Giuseppe. The following committe is already in place: President- Dr Ruggiero Tabone; Secretary- the public notary (sensal) Giuseppe Portanier; Treasurer- Mr F Marguerat; and two other members. The number of registered members is already about 40. Now it is the government whose turn is to act. The population of Casale San Giuseppe has already reached 5000. They are petitioning the government to repair the main roads that link the village to other centres. There is need of gas lights. These are necessary because people pass through Via San Giuseppe during the night. About this village we have more in future.

Lo Maschetore 13th Dec 1873:
On Saturday the 6th of this month, the opening of the club Casino San Giuseppe took place. This club took the name of the village with decor and without any fuss. The president Dr Ruggiero Carbone gave a good speech and another interesting one was given by the Secretary Guze Portanier. Both speeches were loudly applauded by all the membership.
We wish long life to this young Club.
(Actually this club was just a Social Club, which took care of the well being of the area, like petitioning for road repairs and more lighting. It became a Band club in 1889.)

Corriere Mercantile Maltese 27th October 1873:
The four gaslights that are in front of Porte des Bombes are a huge asset. Now we need to add some lighting within the populated suburb of Casale San Giuseppe, which is the most important artery in the island.

Chiese e Cappelle di Malta e Gozo 1880
In his book of this name, Achille Ferris refers to the church of Porto Salvo, more commonly known as San Tunnuzzu, as the nearest church to the San Giuseppe club, it being just three doors to the west.

Consular reports - Commerce, Manufacturers, etc, Vol 37 - 1891
(Regarding the extension of Electric Street Lighting) ......I propose to introduce the high pressure, alternate-current system, and to provide a plant for 10,000 lamps of 10 candle-power each. The cost includes the extesion of the mains to Hamrun and Sliema, two populous suburbs, which have their streets very badly lighted at present and where some improvement is very much needed.

Transport-Railway:

The growth of Hamrun during the late nineteenth through the twentieth century is again studied through the progress of the transportation system over the years. Being on the main artery as regards access from Valletta, Hamrun gained from the introduction of a railway system all be it a simple line. On the 12th June 1879, the Malta Railway Company Limited was formed. The single meter-gauge track emerged from the Valletta tunnel near Portes des Bombes. Besides the Valletta station, another four, namely that of Hamrun, Birkirkara, Attard and Notabile, and four request halts two of which were at each end of Hamrun. A stone-arched bridge crossed over Princess Melita Road. In Hamrun the train passed near the Ta Braxia Cemetery, crossed the place known as the Mile End and entered the Hamrun Station, later known as the Central Railway Station. This housed the engine sheds, the workshops and stores for coal. It was the only station throughout the line that possessed a semaphore signal. Leaving Hamrun station, the train ran over an embankment and then came to a flagman hut at a level crossing over Villambrosa before heading for Birkirkara, one and a half miles away, and then on through the other stations to Rabat Notabile station terminus.

The station building of Hamrun is a one level building with a sun-canopy extending on to the platform and rectangular doors and windows with the name of the station painted in black on the main entrance door. There is still a huge flowerpot typical of the station decor. A small two level entrance lobby with offices on the first floor used to exist up to the 1960s when it was demolished to make way for traffic. At around this time a part of the railway embankment leading to the church of St.Francis was still standing; this of course became a road with residential buildings on each side soon afterwards.¨›The Malta Railway Company was taken over by the government after seven years, under the name of The Malta Railway. It was always a passenger train and never operated freight service. It was closed down definitely on the 3lst March 1931 after serving the Maltese people for nearly 50 years.

Nowadays the station itself still exists and is used by a local scout group. The main dairy products company in Malta now occupies the repair shop, foundry, and garages. At the same time that the railway was at its peak, the British were enhancing their defenses around the Grand Harbour, building up a better system and facilities for their ships in the form of a new dockyard. This called for a lot of participation of local workers and since the cities around the harbour were getting overcrowded and expensive to live in, the workers sought to build their homes close by. Hamrun was in an excellent position and now easy to reach by rail. This is the reason why at this time it saw such a surge in population numbers.

Transport-Tramways:

The British corporation Macartney, McElroy & Co. Ltd. following a contract between its representatives and the Malta Government signed on July 2nd 1903, set up the Malta Tramways. Construction of the lines began in 1904, with the main terminus being built in Porta Reale, Valletta, so that lines would run over Floriana and Hamrun, at which point they would diverge to different urban centres, including the Three Cities of the Cottonera and Zebbug, passing through Qormi.

An extension to cover Birkirkara was later added to the original schedule. Governor General Sir Mansfield Clarke inaugurated the electric tramway service on February 23rd, 1905. The individual trams were double-deckers and mostly with no roof on the upper level with 18 seats, there was also no protection against the elements on the main level, which could take 20 seated, and some standing passengers. They had a platform at the back where there was access to the top. With a slow speed of 10mph, they used to clang along St.Joseph High road and stop at St.Paul square and Fleur-De-Lys. In July 1908 a new company, Malta Tramways Limited, was set up to take over the Malta operations. After 24 years of service the company was becoming less and less viable to run, so, being declared insolvent, the tram company closed down on December 15th, 1929.

Transport-Buses:

Between the two world wars, there developed in Malta, a new form of transport, and this was the reason of the demise of the tramways. Again, this was a more versatile mode of travel this time not confined to tracks. The Maltese easily took to building small buses over imported truck chassis and were still doing this up to the 1960s. At first the running of these was disorganized and individuals who vied with each other for fares owned buses, but the pity about all this was that beauty had to make way for progress. A beautiful boulevard of a main road in Hamrun between St.Paul square and Blata l-Bajda, had its trees cut down for road widening! Soon, after government intervention, a company was formed and after a while specific route buses had a specific colour according to destination. Hamrun had the red Birkirkara buses and the blue Rabat buses coming right through the main road, while other colourful routes veered off at Blata l-Bajda and by St Paul Square to other destinations to the south of the island all stopping at frequent request and obligatory stops.

Transport-Roads:

Because of the multiplying number of cars and buses on Maltese roads, especially after the development of the pneumatic tyre, the roads, which were all dirt roads up to the 1920s, started to be asphalted. In Hamrun, in the 1930s an experiment was done with a stretch of the main road on the west part of town that is on a slight incline going into what is now Santa Venera. A new kind of lava asphalt was laid and this smooth surface lasted well into the 1960s. A huge traffic project was undertaken just outside Porte des Bombes with the Princess Melita Road underpass in the 1950s.

Another more complex flyover at Blata l-Bajda was built around 1965 where Spencer Monument had to be moved Eastward about 200 feet. Before, in both locations traffic was controlled by a police officer from a tiny traffic island with an umbrella roof in the middle of the busy intersection. The smooth flow of traffic nowadays is a necessity with the ever-increasing number of vehicles on these roads. In the last decade of the 20th century traffic lights were installed in three spots in Hamrun and these make for better control and flow of vehicles and safety of pedestrians. Blata l-Bajda has a set, another is at St.Paul square, while a set of flashing and beeping lights were installed with a crosswalk in front of the St.Cajetan Parish church.

Modern congestion:

Through the twentieth century but especially after the Second World War, one could see the face of Hamrun changing, especially with new building on the outskirts and the transformation of ground floor residences into storefronts on the main road. Even though it was happening all the time in particular cases as we suggested earlier, this process took on an accelerated pace in the last three decades of the 20th century. While in the early stages of growth of Hamrun and up to WWII there used to be only a few bars selling wine, coffee and pastizzi on the main road, nowadays the shops offer all one needs from stationery to household appliances. There seems to be a concentration of furniture shops between Blata l-Bajda and St.Paul square while restaurants abound around the parish church. All over the main road from the square to the church, general merchandise is carried in many a shop window while further to the immediate west of the church, clothes shops seem to be springing up at a fast rate.

One problem that is getting worse in our times partly because of how Hamrun grew, is the lack of parking spaces. Our town, which started to take shape and grow in the time of horse drawn carts, was never built for the kind of vehicles we use nowadays let alone their number.

Over the years the authorities strove to improve the streets by demolishing unwanted obstacles and carrying streets like Victoria Avenue through, and refurbishing the sidewalks, but the main road always remains congested and parking spaces at a premium even in the side roads. Garages are nearly non-existent in the core but nowadays people are trying to find ways to gain more space. Some car rental companies have been excavating below ground level under their premises creating underground lots for their cars. Other individuals have opted for the smaller Smart car on sale nowadays, taking half the space of a regular car.

At least in the summer of 2007, with the approval of the local building authority, Hamrun Local Council had the go-ahead to build a much-needed 5 level car park alleviating the problem in the centre of the Town. There are plans for free overnight parking when it is ready. It will also have a garden on top of it, with access to Duke of Edimburgh Street. But it is not just the traffic that is the problem. Of course the streets cannot be widened further, to the detriment of pedestrians. It seems that its strategic position and the innovations in transport, which helped Hamrun grow in the beginning, are now becoming the causes of its deterioration!

Population:

The following Census, the first one, taken in 1882 by the first Pastor Fr.Valletta street by street, sheds light upon the situation in Hamrun of those days. It was gleaned from old parish archives by Fr.Frans Camilleri and published in one of the Festa booklets. Note the Italian language used those days especially for documentation.

Population growth and decline:
Year(s)........People.................Circumstances
1850.............------...........Late 1800s saw building of dockyard.
1881.............3235...........1881........Parish of St.Cajetan
1890.............6120...........1883........Railway
1895.............8000
1901...........10393...........1905........Tramway
1911...........14601...........1912........Sta Venera Parish takes territory
1921...........12347...........1913........Marsa Parish takes territory
1931...........22086...........1930s......Buses
1940s......WWII refugees from Valletta & 3 Cities inflate numbers.
1957...........16895
1961...........21081...........1960s......Mass Emigration
1967...........14787...........1968........Gwardamangia parish takes territory
1985...........13622
1995...........11195
2003...........11203
2005...........11000
2007...........10188

Milk Plant:

When Sir Temi Zammit found that raw goats' milk was the source of Brucellosis or Undulant Fever early in the 20th century, the government decided to install a facility for the Pasteurization of milk. What better central place already in government hands could exist than the old disused Hamrun railway station? In 1938 the Milk Marketing Undertaking¨›was inaugurated. At first it started to treat up to 800 gallons of milk a day, a number that in the 1970s was already up to 12000 gallons daily. Milk is collected at depots all around Malta and Gozo, tested and trucked to the Hamrun centre. In 1986 the government transferred the responsibilities of the M.M.U. to a private Malta Dairy Products, which soon introduced its brand name Benna on its products. Both the M.M.U. and the M.D.P. produced thousands of gallons of free milk for schoolchildren. Up until 1988 milk was distributed in returnable glass bottles, which were phased out by 1997, nowadays all milk being sold in cartons. Apart from milk and cream, the facility also produces ricotta, hard cheeses, local gbejniet, and all kinds of yoghurt.

Brewery:

Hamrun was the cradle of the¨›first Maltese Brewery: In 1919 the Farrugia Flourmills in Hamrun were burnt down in the 'Sette Giuigno' riots and the owners decided to diversify their business by producing industrial gases, notably carbon dioxide; then in 1926 by venturing into brewing as Farsons Ltd. L.Farrugia & Sons (Farsons) later would amalgamate with Simonds and Cisk breweries to form Simonds Farsons Cisk in 1929. They built their first brewery in the West end of Hamrun and launched their first beer, Farsons Pale Ale, on April 19th 1928 during the traditional feast of St. George in neighbouring Qormi. This was the first beer ever brewed in Malta. The company continued to operate uninterruptedly in the Hamrun brewery until 1942 when part of the brewery was destroyed during the Malta blitz of World War II. However, with typical determination, the brewery was up and running again within a year. The brewery building still stands and the street is still called Farsons street.¨› Nowadays, Simonds Farsons Cisk is a leader in industry and enterprise. It also produces a wide portfolio of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages.

Tobacco products:

Since the late 1800s, Hamrun boasted of a cigar factory on the main San Giuseppe road. Here is an excerpt from an article on the Hampshire Telegraph of Sat 16th Nov 1878: But some most excellent weeds are manufactured in our island. The other day I wended my way down the San Giuseppe road, through the well known massive Porto des Bombes, to the Franklin manufactory, where I met with a friendly greeting from the kindly manager, M.P.Von Homelryck, who showed me, as he is ready to show any visitor, everything that was to be seen.

Later on from the 1920s up to the late 1950s there also existed a couple of cigarette factories in Hamrun, the main one being The Scerri Tobacco Company run by my two uncles and father. Their company was the only official one with license to manufacture during WWII. All cigarettes were most of the time hand rolled by family and hired hands. Pre WWII cigarette cards showing actors or members of parliament were also included in the packs.

Cane goods:

As regards other historical industries, Hamrun can boast of being the centre for the manufacture of cane objects. The craft was handed down from father to sons since the late 1800's and a lone worker still makes baskets, fruit containers, fish traps and even small pieces of furniture in his shop close to Blata l-Bajda. On my visit in May 2010, this chap was showing me all his handiwork but was sorry no one wants to learn this trade because it is very rough on one's hands, fingers and back. If no one picks it up, this craft will go by the wayside like many others. At least my friend still participates is craft shows and the like.

Millennium Monument:

A monument to commemorate the Third Millennium was unveiled at St.Paul's square. It was built in three units at different levels with the plan of Hamrun in the middle. The work was done in marble by the sculptor Ronnie Pisani. On the front of the base of the monument is an inscription in Maltese which says:
The people of Hamrun celebrate the first full centenary of activity and look forward in hope towards the future. Today at the dawn of the Third Millennium 1st January 2000.

Pictures by Anthony Scerri taken around Hamrun in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

An article by Joe Martinelli about the origins of the Hamrun nickname.

Legend of Tas-sikkina

Many translate this as Cutthroats, but a more literal translation is closer to Knife wielders and this nickname was attached to the people of Hamrun many years ago. Some say that this came about with the birth of the soccer team Hamrun Spartans since way back then, they were regarded as bullies, thus the nickname seemed appropriate.

However, a more interesting explanation has been handed down from one generation to the next and this one, makes perfect sense and takes us back not only to the creation of Hamrun Spartans but even before Hamrun was ever known by its name. This throws us back to the last years of the Knights of Malta, therefore prior to 1798. Now one may ask, how does Hamrun or, Casal San Giuseppe as it was formerly known as, figure into the history of the Knights?

There are two reasons why Hamrun was important to the Knights. One was because the Aqueduct the Knights built ran from the Rabat area through Hamrun and onward to Valletta, and two, because the Knights had constructed a lookout fort on the hill known as tas-Samra which very conveniently overlooks Marsa Harbour and thus the Knights were able to watch for invaders and other intruders. To this day the evidence of these structures is very much visible but there are other invisible features connected to the transportation of water from the central part of Malta to its capital city, since underground, there exist a number of cisterns which it is believed, provided water storage for when the island ran into draught periods which invariably happened every hot Summer.

A third and lesser-known reason for Hamrun importance to the Knights was the fact that the Knights had built a series of stores which housed their gunpowder provisions. It is not very clear why they chose an area which lies between Blata l-Bajda and the central part of Hamrun in order to build such storage facilities. One reason would probably be that since Hamrun was a sparsely populated hamlet at the time, such explosive stock would produce minimal damage if something went wrong and the magazines blew up. Another reason would perhaps be that the structures were not be readily identifiable to the enemy had an invasion taken place because they were located in the middle (then) of open fields, probably camouflaged by trees and growth. A third possibility would have been that in the event of invasion and the Knights being besieged behind the Valletta Bastions and likewise in Vittoriosa, the locals who knew where to find provisions, would have been able to fight the invaders from the rear and spring a nasty surprise on them. Towards the end of the rule of the Knights, and the threat of invasion becoming somewhat diminished (in their own mind), these stores were abandoned and were left empty.

It is also believed that intruders from the South of Sicily often found their way to the Island, as were regular traders some of whom preferred to stay. Oddly enough, these empty stores provided much needed shelter for these irregular immigrants. It was spacious, clean, somewhat remote and above all, free. Over the years they grew in number and formed a small community of their own. For their own protection, they remained fairly isolated and had to invent ways to keep some of their traditions and at the same time provide themselves with some entertainment.

One way of celebrating the weekend was to hold a traditional dance where various members of this small community could have some fun bearing in mind that they did not openly join the mainstream in case the authorities discovered their irregular stay in Malta and be shipped out back to Sicily, or worse. Part of this traditional dance involved the wielding of small stilettos, which they wore in their socks, waving them in the air and back to their sheaths, presumably without cutting themselves.

As it turned out this form of entertainment caught the eye of some Hamrun inhabitants and probably to the authorities as well, but since these Sicilians posed no security problem and caused the inhabitants no harm, they were left to cope with their meager existence without hindrance. In fact such a dance was apparently quite a spectacle and although it was supposed to be a secret, soon word spread around the island. It was known that every Saturday evening, the celebration took place. In order to protect them, they were never referred to as the Sicilians in case it became a dare to the authorities who would then be forced to act.

Instead they were referred to as Tas-Sikkina referring to the use of the small knife they used in the dance. People started to talk and often invited others to join them and when asked where they were going, they would say that they are going to (Hamrun) see the knife wielders (tas-Sikkina). Thus, when they said that they were going to see tas-sikkina, they were automatically implying that they were going to Hamrun or Casal San Giuseppe.

The nickname stuck and as the population of Casal San Giuseppe grew and when it eventually became known as Hamrun, it was transferred to the inhabitants of that town even after the disappearance of the Sicilians (probably through assimilation), and lives to this day. The present Hamrun residents sometimes take offence by being dubbed as Tas-Sikkina since they feel that the nickname has long worn out its usefulness, but it will probably stick forever.

Joe Martinelli