Launch of the first book on the Maltese village of Kirkop

The launching of the first book on Kirkop,
Hal Kirkop u l-inhawi ta' madwaru
(1st volume, ISBN 99932-0-085-9, 170 pages),
held at Kirkop's parish on Friday, 26th January, 2001.

Last Friday, the 26th January, 2001, the parish of Kirkop celebrated its first village publication on the roots of its people. Triggered by the initiative of its once first mayor and University senior lecturer in Classics, Dr. Horatio C.R. Vella, with the support of the village's parish priest, Rev. Carmelo Camilleri, the idea developed into a University project focusing on what is probably the smallest village in Malta.

Hal Kirkop u l-inhawi ta' madwaru was chosen as the title of this 170-page book to accommodate also the surroundings of this village, whose boundaries have been, of late, reduced due to revision of local-council territories and airport development. The book's achievement is also appreciated from the fact that a holistic approach was taken to incorporate in it the archaeology and history of the island, to which that of Kirkop belongs.

Chaired by the Pro-Rector of the University, Prof. C.J. Farrugia, the presentation was made by a University panel of contributors, addressing a most welcome numerous gathering, mainly from the village. The audience included representatives from the two local band clubs, political parties and Mr. Emanuel Buttigieg, the mayor of Mqabba.

The audience could appreciate the work of the University contributors in as much as it was professional, written in Maltese, and addressed to the general public, said Prof. Farrugia. Thanks to this publication, Kirkop will be assured of a place in its cultural importance to the island.

Kirkop's history, in fact, goes back to Malta's earliest noted prehistoric period, said Prof. A. Bonanno and Dr. N.C. Vella, co-authors of the book's first chapter. Traces of Bronze Age, Phoenician, Roman, Paleo-Christian, Arabic and Medieval settlements were then illustrated by both a clear mini-lecture, and an analysis of professionally made graphic illustrations.

Prof. Stanley Fiorini's next chapter filled the gap between the archaeology, on the one hand, and the first 80 years of the village's existence as a parish, on the other. Taken laboriously from notarial and other sources, Fiorini's chapter  talks about the first inhabitants of Kirkop from the Arabs' conversion into Catholicism, down to their settlement as herdsmen, into the first decades of the Knights' arrival here and their organization of the island.

Dr. H.C.R. Vella's choice of the period from 1592 to 1679 arises from his previous re-writing of the parish's first register which covers those years. Indeed, Dr. Vella not only developed the demographic concept of history of the village, but went further into the polemic issues of Kirkop's matrix position over Safi and Mqabba, its first titular parish church, the existence of former chapels and their remains, and information on the parish taken from the first pastoral visits to Kirkop.

The last two chapters (Mr. E. Lanfranco, and Mr. John Schembri-Mr. K. Bonnici) also refer back to neolithic times: the existence of indigenous shrubs and trees, as well as to good-quality limestone. But the authors analyses go beyond 1679, indeed, to our own days, to the creation of new breeds as a result of a recently hewn reservoir, and the recent population rapid growth and village's doubling its own size. Both chapters refer to other areas for comparative study: Lanfranco to Wied Babu and Wied Hoxt, Schembri-Bonnici to the whole south of Malta.

The book ends temporarily with a list of parish priests from 1592 down to the present day: temporarily, because no book does justice to a village's history if that ends in 1679. In fact, Dr. H.C.R. Vella has already indicated that this volume is only the first one.