Emily’s resting place

Emily’s resting place

IMG_0648 pixlr signed lores

Last weekend, I took a visiting friend to a quiet corner of Floriana, to the aptly named Garden of Rest.  Run by Malta’s National Trust, Din l-Art Helwa, the garden lies on the site of Malta’s first Protestant cemetery built during the early decades of the British period until it reached full capacity and was replaced by the larger Ta’ Braxia Cemetery in Pieta.

The site is lovingly and tastefully maintained and presented and features the final resting place of more than 500 people including the Maltese patriot and scholar Mikiel Anton Vassalli and the British diplomat and author John Hookham Frere.

The graves of great men and women aside, whilst walking along the garden paths, I was particularly struck by a simple headstone marking the resting place of a little English girl of eleven who died in Valletta on the 29th May 1837. A little girl called Emily Greig.  The details on the headstone are scant.  It tells us Emily’s age, her place and date of death and her father’s name: Sir Hector Greig.  It also tells us that she was Sir Hector’s only child.

Intrigued by this information I took a few pictures of this memorial and continued on my tour of the cemetery.

Upon my return home I decided to look for information on Sir Hector Greig.   My research told me that his first appointment in Malta was that of Superintendent of Quarantine and that he was subsequently appointed as Chief Secretary to the British Government of Malta by Governor Henry Bouverie in 1837.  He also served as Chief Secretary under the Governorship of Patrick Stuart until he resigned in September 1846, presumably to return to England.  Other responsibilities of his while in Malta included serving on the Board of Health and the Committee of the Charitable Institutions.

My curiosity also unearthed another small piece of history: an envelope for sale on Ebay bearing a postmark dated November 15, 1866 and bearing the handwriting of Sir Hector Grieg: little Emily’s father.  A small memento which suddenly became a tangible link to a forgotten girl’s resting place and which now lies in my proud possession!

The front of the envelope contains some very useful information.  It is addressed to a Mr Baden of the North British Mercantile Insurance Office in Threadneedle Street in the City of London, the same street which houses the Bank of England.  An addendum in somebody else’s handwriting at the top of the envelope notes that Sir Hector, “has been Chief Secretary at Malta” and that he had been “created Knight Commander – 1839”.  This latter piece of information indicates that he was Knighted while serving in Malta and this could be due to services he rendered to Her Majesty Queen Adelaide during her visit and stay in Malta between 1838 and 1839.  This was the first ever visit of an English Queen to Malta.

IMG_0715 pixlr signed

The front of the envelope tells us even more!  It was posted  in 1866, twenty years after Sir Hector’s departure from Malta and twenty nine years after little Emily’s premature demise.  The stamp on the Victorian Penny Red stamp indicates that it was posted in London SW18, a postcode which includes Battersea and Wandsworth, suggesting that Sir Hector resided in this part of London upon his return to his country.

IMG_0718 pixlr signed

The opened flap at the back of the envelope contains some more information in Sir Hector’s own script.  It is a short message “with Sir Hector Greig’s compliments to Mr Baden” indicating the enclosure of payment covering “premium on life insurance due 18th November” (1866) for “£27″ 3/4d” which I interpret to signify 27 shillings and three quarters of a penny or one pound and thirty five and three quarters pence in today’s sterling currency.  This would be equivalent to a £152 insurance premium in 2017 currency after taking inflation between 1866 and today into account.

It all started off with a casual walk on a sunny autumn morning around a cemetery on a Floriana bastion constructed by the Knights of Malta.  A walk during which my attention was drawn to a little foreign girl’s final resting place on a Mediterranean island so far away from her home.  And it evolved into my learning a few interesting facts about her father’s sojourn in Malta and my acquiring a small memento bearing his handwriting.

I plan to revisit little Emily’s resting place in the coming weeks.  And I will be sure to carry her dear father’s memento with me to place it on her grave so that I can briefly help them reunite again by intersecting across space and time.


The sea-horses of Mgarr ix-Xini

3427294440_2251e9c494_b pixlr signed

The sea-horses of Mgarr ix-Xini

Mgarr ix-Xini is a small, narrow inlet on the southern coast of Gozo, the submerged mouth of a valley which gives the impression of a miniature fjord.  Popular with visiting sailing boats but less known to most owing to its relative inaccessibility, it is a place for peace and quiet where one can enjoy unspoilt nature and occasionally, solitude.

2511515467_3c07cc59d5_b pixlr signed

During my last visit there I experienced a scene which used to be much more commonplace in my childhood but which is becoming increasingly rare.  A scene involving a family outing/picnic complete with bathing horses.  A relaxed, unposed scene highlighting the special relationship between man and horse and this noble animal’s full integration into the family life of rural communities on Gozo.

The horses enjoying the dip in the chilly waters of early spring while protected by blankets, the ladies sitting on the stone bench at the base of the hill, the splash of the horse’s hoofs and the men leading the horses back to dry land whilst sipping from a mugful of something warm are all aspects which the three photographs capture.  The animals look calm and accept their off-season swim in a matter-of-fact manner.

3427310138_8ecec38bb6_b pixlr signed

I never quite understood why people took their horses for a dip in the sea and always assumed that it was either related to cooling off during the hot summer months or a downright cheap way of giving the animal a wash!

However after doing some research in relation to this post I came across the following information on http://www.equi-therapy.net

“Equine Hydrotherapy is based on the therapeutic use of cold sea water……… it has long been recognised that it has benefits in aiding the treatment of leg injuries, swelling, and diseases in horses. It is known that cold sea water has a positive anti-inflammatory effect on tissues which improves healing and helps to protect against injury.”  The site also goes on the explain the troubles that professional stables go through to replicate the benefits of seawater in places far away from the sea.

So yet again I found myself experiencing a further example of what seems to be a quaint tradition but which in effect has roots in an older, deeper understanding of the benefits of a healthy relationship with nature, particularly the sea from which all life emerged.

3427298380_1a3c9da9c9_b pixlr signed