Monday, 28 September 2009

Times: Villa Francia legacy
Monday, 28th September 2009 by Joseph Gauci, W.N. Francia Estates, Valletta

Photo: William N. Francia

I wish to thank José Herrera for his article in memory of the Francias (September 17) [see below] which explained the truth and gave the correct story on the legacy of Villa Francia and the late William N. Francia, who left the villa to our nation.

There are many ways we can pay respect towards our fellow citizen, without having to be insolent.

The article is greatly appreciated.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]


Times: In memory of the Francias

Thursday, 17th September 2009 by José A. Herrera

I was happy to attend the inauguration ceremony of the newly-restored Villa Francia in Lija last Saturday. This distinguished edifice is certainly a masterpiece of baroque style and we Maltese should be proud to have it as part of our patrimony. Yet, I think a disservice has been made to the old Francia family and that is to say the least, as I shall explain.

In his speech at the opening, the Prime Minister took occasion to remind one and all that it was in this residence back in 1942 that one of Malta's foremost Prime Ministers died. In fact, the whole ceremony looked more like a memorial service in honour of this personality rather than anything else. In fact, Sir Ugo Mifsud's famous last speech in Parliament was also read out. Here, this eminent politician undoubtedly did his utmost, according to his moral convictions, to defend Malta's internees against deportation albeit, unfortunately, to no avail. This address was to be his swan song as he fell ill towards the end and passed away a few days later. To go return to Villa Francia, as you enter and proceed to the second floor you will find a room dedicated solely to the memory of this politician.

The Francia family, however, amazingly get no mention. This is unjust. I fully concur with the eulogies made in remembrance of one of Malta's earliest Prime Ministers who did strive, till his last breath, to uphold his principles and beliefs. On the other hand, it is outright scandalous how the true benefactors, in this instance the Francia family, were totally omitted from any type of oration whatsoever.

Once you view the villa room by room you will find no bust, no painting and not even a humble photo recalling William N. Francia, the last in the line of the Francia family who, back in 1986, decided to bequeath the said property.

Unfortunately, the Francia line today has gone cold and there are no bearers of that surname. Thankfully, the villa, which still bears their name, could be considered as some consolation.

Sir Ugo was married to one of the five children of Col. John Louis Francia, Lady Blanche Mifsud. Unfortunately, the Mifsuds died childless and the other siblings of the Francia family never married. One of them, however, John Baptist Francia, eventually did adopt a son, William N. Francia to whom the Maltese nation is indebted for having bestowed to it the property in question.

Worse still, in certain instances instead of gratitude there has been a dose of insolence. A case in point is an article written by Minister George Pullicino on September 14. The writer said: "Any alterations, which over the years were made to the villa without recognising history, have now been removed". He also refers to the building as being a dilapidated site (September 11).

Is that the sort of thank you one expects for opting to leave to the state an invaluable piece of property? The minister must surely be reminded that William N. Francia has been dead for more than 20 years and it was only during these last two years that the government took any initiative to restore and preserve the building. Everyone should know and Mr Pullicino especially, being an architect, that if you abandon a building for such a long period of time it will surely fall into a total state of disrepair and neglect. Thus, in his remarks, he should have pointed a finger at his own government and, himself forming part of it, he should not hesitate to utter mea culpa.

Regarding the alterations mentioned, it must be pointed out that the building was used as the ordinary residence of the Francia family and not as some cold museum or institute. Thus, the place has been fashioned in a way as to create the ambiance of a warm home.

I also read with interest another article written by one of our foremost journalists on March 9. The author felt exasperated to note that the extraordinary large carpets that were once present in the villa are nowhere to be seen as are also other particular artefacts. It must be stated that these were taken by representatives of the government to the storage facility Transpack Overseas Removals Ltd of Paola so many years ago and only God knows what has happened to them. Even here the responsibility falls on the state.

I also find criticism that the introduction of recent structures not falling within the baroque style as being uncalled for. Apart from the reasons already mentioned, it must be pointed out that, after all, it is this present Administration that has somewhat ignored the character, style and date of the building. The furniture brought there is either Victorian or early Edwardian. To my mind, the attitude adopted discourages others from following suit.

If, however, you happen to be visiting the premises of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Enterprise in St Christopher Street, Valletta, known as Il-Borża, stop for a while and take a glance at the paintings there embellishing the walls of the said edifice. There, among the numerous paintings, you'll find one of the late Col. Francia, Sir Ugo's father-in-law. This is the only portrait of this eminent personality on public display. It was bequeathed to the Chamber by the William N. Francia. You should then stop and pause for a while in acknowledgement of his family's gift to the Maltese.

Dr Herrera is a Labour member of Parliament.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]


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1 comment:

  1. I hope Joseph (Gauci) is not suggesting that designating someone gay is being insolent? It would be great to learn more about the lives of the two Francias and pay respect to them for who they were rather than for whom others wanted them to be. Joseph Carmel Chetcuti