Ever since my arrival in Malta some weeks ago on sabbatical leave from Australia with my confreres of the Franciscan Order of Conventual Friars, it was brought to my attention that my long time friend Roderick Bovingdon was criticised in a number of letters that appeared in the press. After having read some of them, I feel duty bound to speak out on Mr Bovingdon’s behalf.
I understand that the letter writers took umbrage at Mr Bovingdon’s criticism of aspects of their “grasp or lack of Maltese”.
Mr Bovingdon’s reputation within Maltese-Australian circles as a keen promoter of Maltese high culture and a foremost scholar of Maltese is of legendary proportions. His profound knowledge of Maltese reaches far beyond the guided academic confines of formal language regulation.
Over the years he has voluntarily, single-handedly and without fanfare led the way like a guiding beacon, inspiring many among us in Australia to follow in his footsteps by sheer example. It is also evidently clear to me, as a mere itinerant visitor, the reach of this individual’s linguistic influence upon the local scene.
Not content with having mastered Maltese through formal tertiary qualifications, he further supplanted this knowledge with voluntary additional studies of related languages such as Hebrew, Phoenician/Punic, Aramaic and Arabic, apart from his grasp of Italian, Spanish, Greek and Latin.
Here are only some of Mr Bovingdon’s achievements: the first person to open a Maltese language school outside of Malta at Smithfield, New South Wales in May 1968; the original initiator, lyricist and composer of the Maltese song in Australia; he solely introduced Maltese literature (book/author) Down Under through visiting lectures and exhibitions of Maltese books.
As a spiritual pastor who has ministered to Maltese-Australians for the past half century, I wonder how many individuals within the local Maltese scene would be willing to emanate the selfless, altruistic, humanitarian life of this unique Maltese citizen who makes up proud at every turn of his pen and each utterance.
It is high time this exemplary individual of fine intellectual and cultural talents was suitably acknowledged through the bestowal of a suitable academic honorarium in recognition of his widespread contribution to Maltese studies.
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