Wied Għammieq (2005) is based on a dream sequence that my late grandmother used to narrate to me when I was young. The dream goes something like this:
‘I was walking alone at night when I passed by the cemetery of Wied Għammieq, and I saw several lit candles from behind the chancel. It was then I saw these shadowy figures approaching and calling me. I was not afraid of them, so I went up to them and asked them what they wanted. ‘Pray for us’, they pleaded, ‘light a candle and pray for us that we may not be forgotten. So I did, and I pray for those poor souls every day. And so should you…always pray for the poor souls of Wied Għammieq.’
For many years I thought the story was a fabrication of my grandmother, one of her many pious tales she used to tell me on warm summer nights sitting outside on the threshold, stories which often sat alongside less pious but very humorous and exaggerated tales. Then on day I stumbled on the real Wied Għammieq – a dilapidated and abandoned cemetery on the outskirts of Kalkara next to Fort Ricasoli and Fort Rinella. The cemetery amounts nothing more to a communal pit where the victims of the 1837 cholera outbreak, most of whom came from the Ospizio in Floriana. The Ospizio was nothing more than a substandard ‘refuge’ for society’s undesirables: the old, the disabled, illegitimate offsprings, orphans, retired prostitutes, the ‘possessed’, etc…all conveniently hidden from society in the bastion walls of Floriana. Those were the ‘poor souls’ that my grandmother spoke of.
‘Wied Għammieq’ was premiered by the Edinburgh String Quartet in February 2006 at St Giles High Kirk, Edinburgh, Scotland. You can hear a live recording of the work by clicking here