Do you know when the Union Jack first flew over Malta? The real answer will surprise you!

Maltese history is a rich tapestry of events, influences and wars. The Maltese are proud of British heritage, but few seem to know where the British flag was first flown over the islands.

In the 18th century, the threat of invasion from the Ottoman Empire had receded. The Maltese started to build in land outside the fortified cities, now that pirate attacks were also a distant memory. In the central town of Birkirkara (now part of the town of San Gwann), they built farmhouses around agricultural land. One such farmhouse is Ta’ Xindi farmhouse which is now on the road between San Gwann and the new hospital.

The building is modest and not too large. Today the road is busy with traffic leading to the hospital. Constant urbanisation means that the vast fields it once controlled no longer exist. The building looks like any other and one wouldn’t think it has any special significance unless one sees the plaque on the wall.

A photo of Ta' Xindi Farmhouse - San Gwann, Malta

Ta’ Xindi Farmhouse – San Gwann, Malta

Records don’t show who built it but by 1798 it was owned by 21-year old cotton merchant Vincenzo Borg.  [1] This was the year when the French occupied the islands. [2] The French soon offended the Catholic Maltese by looting churches to pay for the French war effort against the British. On 2 September 1798, the Maltese revolted against the French during an auction of church property. 10,000 Maltese surrounded Valletta, baying for blood. [2]

Vincenzo Borg was one of the leaders of the campaign against the French. The people of Birkirkara and neighbouring Mosta chose him as their leader. Together with two other Maltese, he was one of the main figureheads in the uprising. [2] He led one of the largest battalions in the 10-000 strong irregular military that was set up. While arms were scarce at first, the British and Portuguese navies supplied the insurgents with arms. [3]

Borg used his home as his field headquarters. Under his command insurgents built batteries around Valletta harbour but the fortified city was strong enough to repel attacks. Borg spoke to British Admiral Alexander Ball [5] to see if the United Kingdom was interested in taking the islands. Ball was already well-loved in Malta but he was suspicious of Borg’s intents. Despite this, Borg wrote to Ball explaining ‘the majority of us [Maltese] wish to see the islands under British jurisdiction’. [5] It was clear that the Maltese expected Britain to act.

A photo of the plaque at Ta Xindi Farmhouse - San Gwann, Malta

The plaque at Ta Xindi Farmhouse – San Gwann, Malta

On 9 February 1799, Borg hoisted the British Union Jack over his farmhouse showing his commitment to the cause. [4] This was the first time the British flag flew over Malta.

The French surrendered and left Malta by 1800, ending a 2-year occupation. The British kept the islands under the treaties of Amiens and Paris and ruled until independence in 1964.

 

Do you know where your flag was first flown? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

References

[1] (2017) Ta’ Xindi Farmhouse, Wikipedia
[2] (2017) French occupation of Malta, Wikipedia
[3] (2016) National congress battalions,Wikipedia
[4] (2017) Vincenzo Borg, Wikipedia
[5] (2017) Alexander Ball, Wikipedia

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this post, this is simply awesome.

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