Prominent Maltese Merchant and Founder of Scicluna's Bank

An active and laborious citizen, Giuseppe Scicluna founded in Malta several establishments and commercial houses, chief among these the firm Giuseppe Scicluna and Sons.

Giuseppe, the son of Paolo Scicluna and Grazia née Cardona was born in Valletta, and was the first in line of Sciclunas who came to be regarded by some as God's own bankers and businessmen. At the begining of the 19th century the continental system favoured Malta enormously and contributed to a growing awareness of how just important the island was to Britain. Thanks to this system, British trade was redirected from Italian ports to Malta, a bonanza of immense value.

A number of enterprising Maltese recognised the opportunity when it arose and grabbed it. Scicluna was in the forefront.

Scicluna exploited to the full the seven fat years between 1806 and 1813 before he experienced, the seven lean years that followed. During the first period, cotton manufacture was enjoying its last cornucopia, defence requirements provided employment for a whole swathe of craftsmen, maritime trade flourished.

The first man to rejoice in the cheerful sobriquet of 'Ċisk' was probably the banker Giuseppe Scicluna senior who, was reckoned to be climbing to the top of the land-owners' league and one of the wealthiest men in Malta during the first decades of the nineteenth century. In 1830, he established Malta's first privately-owned bank. This bank operated from an office at 122 Strada Teatro, Valletta.

Scicluna had been carrying on a lucrative import business in grain, sugar and other primary commodities, and in partnership with his sons Emanuele and Giovanni Battista he established the firm 'G. Scicluna & Figli' in 1840.

It was not long before the semi-literate depositors coming in from country districts, corrupted the word 'cheque' to 'Ċisk', and Scicluna himself became known as 'Iċ-Ċisk'.

In due course, his descendants  would be adding to the family fortunes by brewing beer. When Giuseppe died, the good work was carried on by his younger son Emmanuele, a forceful and colourful character.

In August 1807 Giuseppe married Marianna Caruana, and they had three boys, Michel Angelo, became a priest, Gio Battista* and Emmanuele*, the two successful businessmen.

He died after a short illness at his residence in Valletta. On Sunday 22 February his remains  were removed to the Church of Santa Maria di Gesù of the Minor Observants (Ta' Ġieżu). A few years before his death, his wife predeceased him.

More than five hundred persons attended his funeral including the most distinguished of every class – nobles, judges, military men, merchants, and professors. Many legacies and pious works were bequeathed by him to the amount of several thousands of Maltese scudi.

This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.

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