Author and Trade Unionist

Born in Cospicua, Joseph was the son of Joseph Orlando Smith and Elisa née Sammut. He co-founded a workers’ union officially called the Malta Trade Union Council or  Għakda tas-Snajja’ Maltin. In 1922 he founded the Għakda tal-Ħaddiema tal-Gvern - the Civil Government Workers’ Union.

Until World War II Orlando Smith worked hard in the local industrial scene. Although a commission agent for agricultural produce, he dedicated his energies to the workers. In 1925 he accepted an invitation to reunionize the Dockyard apprentices and ex-apprentices. Two years later he appealed to the boatmen to form a branch of the Għaqda Maltija and in 1928 he helped organize and was elected secretary of the Maltese  Chauffeurs Union. During this period and for years after, he was general secretary of the Civil Workers Union.

Orlando Smith presided the Malta Trade Union Council (1933-1942) and in 1938 was elected secretary of the Dockyard and Imperial Workers’ Union. In 1941 he represented the Għaqda tal-Ħaddiema mal-Gvern on the Malta Trade Union Council. In 1943 he was elected the Għaqda’s honorary president. As editor of Il-Ħmar, Il-Ħmara, Il Cotra, and Il-Berqa, Orlando  Smith lost no opportunity in defending and promoting the working class interests.

From the start of World War II till his retirement, he was attached to the agricultural department as a district official.

Orlando was deeply involved in politics.  He was general secretary of the Partit tal-Ħaddiema (Labour Party) (1924-1928) and represented it in Parliament (1928-1930). He edited the party’s official organ Il Cotra  (1931-1932). In 1924 he organized the May-Day celebrations and in 1931, in London, he raised the constitutional crisis with the colonial authorities. On the pretext of spreading seditious propaganda, Orlando Smith was tried by jury and convicted to two months’ imprisonment and a fine of £10. but through Lord Strickland’s effort he was granted free pardon in 1938. Since the early twenties he had been on the front line for the promotion of the Maltese language and orthography.

 Joseph married Rosina Frendo on 25 July 1940 and they had two children, Carmen and Marlene.

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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