The brothers Ġużè and Lorenzo were the twins of Andrea Suban who had emigrated to Malta from his native South Tyrol, part of the Austra-Hungarian Empire.

Ġużè and Lorenzo were only 15 years old when their father died but evidently their frequent visits to the shop, tuition from their father and the fact that they were bright and quick to learn, enabled them to carry on the same trade with help from their uncle.

One of Andrea’s commitments for the Admirality involved the overhaul of the clock located in a tower in Vittoriosa known as the Victualing Yard Clock. Andrea was unable to complete due to ill health. The twin brothers were already involved in helping with the dismantling of this clock with their father. They were able to overhaul the mechanism and complete work in time to the satisfaction of the Admirality.

Their success led to official recognition of Sir Charles van Straubenzee, the Governor of Malta at that time, who awarded them a certificate of commendation. This was the start of the renowned partnership of the Suban brothers of Vittoriosa.  They were also entrusted with the repair and maintenance of other dockyard clock such as the Senglea Bastion Clock, and the ancient Vittoriosa Tower clock.

The brothers studied technical subjects in order to keep up the technological advances of the time. They were also entrusted with the overhaul and calibration of various precision instruments such as chronometers, barometers, sextants and other equipments. They were the only people rewinding small motors and transformers, repairing and calibrating all manner of electrical measuring instruments for the Royal Navy.

Lorenzo married Lorenza Quirolo from Vittoriosa and they had seven children. Ġużè, his brother fell in love with a married woman, Vincenza Grech, but remained single for some years, and eventually married her in 1879, after she became a widow. They never had any children.

Ġużè’s interest in photography was one of his passions. He was also a keen student of mathematics, astronomy and electrical engineering. He designed and built regatta boats, and was known as the first power-boat designer and constructor. He was successful in introducing whistles in fireworks.

Some time in 1910, the brothers Suban transferred their business activity from their house to a shop at 105 St Lawrence Street in Vittoriosa wharf.

It was in this workshop that no less than seven large clock mechanisms were designed, built and later installed in their respective churches and public buildings. These include the ones at Qormi’s St Sebastian church in 1905, at Qala church in 1924, the Safi church in 1926, at the St Joseph Institute in Ħamrun in 1929, and at the Marsaxlokk church in 1936. The most advanced was the one installed in the parish church of Marsaxlokk which was made in 1936. One of their clocks was exhibited at the British Empire exhibition held in Wembley in 1924.

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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