First public exhibition of Cabinet meeting minutes
A unique display featuring personal memorabilia belonging to Sir Paul Boffa has opened at the Labour headquarters in Ħamrun. Boffa’s granddaughter, Lara, speaks to Joseph Borg
An exhibition dedicated to Malta’s first Labour Prime Minister, Sir Paul Boffa, has opened at the Ċentru Nazzjonali Laburista, Ħamrun. It includes original artefacts and documentation related to Sir Paul’s medical and political career from private collections, some of which is being displayed for the first time.
The exhibition is being co-ordinated by a Labour Party organising committee, including Sir Paul’s granddaughter Lara Boffa, who has always been an ardent admirer of her late grandfather.
In 1921, Sir Paul married Genevieve Cecy and had four children: Hilda, Salvino, Melina and Joseph. Ms Boffa is Joseph’s daughter.
“Unfortunately I never met my grandfather as he passed away years before I was born. However, I recall my father describing nannu Pawlu as being a man of his word, having strong values and an unshakable integrity.
“My grandfather stood up for what he truly believed in and worked very hard to put social justice at the heart of Maltese society. Notwithstanding his profession as a medical doctor and his involvement in politics, I’m told that he valued his family greatly and ensured that it stood in unity.”
Sir Paul will be remembered as the precursor of the welfare state in Malta, advocating his ideas in the 1920s and 1930s and implementing them during his tenure as Prime Minister.
The exhibition also features documentation and photographs of his wife Genevieve, with original photographs portraying the couple attending May 1 celebrations in Senglea in 1928.
Genevieve was born in Paris. She was the daughter of a Francophile aristocrat who moved to Malta and offered medical services to the local French community. She was supportive of her husband’s political commitment, attending May Day celebrations and other political activities with him.
“My grandmother lived with us for a few years. I remember her having a strong character.”
But what induced Sir Paul’s granddaughter to organise this exhibition?
“My cousin, Fr Marius Zerafa, is the most ‘Boffa’ of the family and he was a great inspiration. I feel that he has played an important part in keeping his uncle’s memory alive; and here we are, 50 years down the line.
“Excellent job! Indeed, my cousin’s enthusiasm is highly contagious and I’m pretty sure that my fascination about nannu has been lovingly triggered by my cousin over the years.”
Part of the exhibition features various artefacts connected with Sir Paul’s medical profession, including operating scissors, two old thermometers, a human skull, a sterilising stand used at his private hospital in Paola and the medical case which he always carried with him.
It also gives extensive coverage to the Compact between Gerald Strickland’s Constitutional Party and Sir Paul’s Labour Party.
Original pictures depicting a large meeting held in Senglea prior to the 1930 elections show Lord Strickland’s and Sir Paul’s hundreds of followers listening attentively to their leaders’ speeches.
Other photographs show the laying of the foundation stone of St Luke’s Hospital and Sir Paul with Mabel Strickland, leader of the Constitutional Party, in the late 1950s after he himself had formed the new Workers’ Party.
Artefacts relating to the role of the Labour Party during the 1928-1932 turbulent politico-religious dispute with the Church are also on display.
Bronze sculptures of a farmer and a blacksmith on two historical bases known as gastri provide a special attraction. They were commissioned by Sir Paul himself as a symbol of the Labour Party’s raison d’être in its early years.
They were donated to Sir Paul barely six months after the Maltese Church declared it was a mortal sin to vote for the Labour Party.
The minutes from various Cabinet meetings held during Sir Paul’s government are being made public for the first time.
They shed new light on various government matters, including the different stands taken by Prime Minister Boffa and Minister Dom Mintoff, which led to the“split” within the Labour Party.
The exhibition is open until July 24.