Martyr of the ‘Sette Giugno’

Carmelo (or 'Karmenu') Abela was born at the Manderaggio, Valletta, the son of Spiridione Abela and Concetta née Sghendo. Carmelo, a boatman in the Maltese harbours, married Elena née Abela on1 February 1902 and they had six children: Spiridione, Antonio, Giuseppa, Carmela, Irena, and Julio.

Carmelo Abela was one of the six victims of the ‘Sette Giugno’ disturbances of 7 and 8 June 1919.

On Saturday 8 June 1919, an angry crowd attacks buildings hosting the Union Jack and the properties of those accused of supporting the British administration, three Maltese were shot dead by British soldiers. At the same time the second meeting of the Assemblea Nazzjonali was held at the Giovine Malta.

On that day shops were closed, posters calling for a national mourning were printed, Maltese flags were hoisted half-mast, and wreaths were laid on the spots where the three victims had died the day before. In the afternoon the crowd had planned an attack and asked the soldiers to assist them to attack those ‘dogs’ who has stolen their bread and starved them to death.

The crowd tried to force the main door of Francia’s residence with crowbars, but did not succeed. They turned their attention to the side door and the mob rushed in the building, ransacking the property and throwing furniture out of the windows. A group of soldiers of the Royal Malta Artillery had tried to disperse the crowd but failed miserably until the marines finally cleared the building and arrested a group of persons.

In this mayhem forty-six year old dockyard worker Carmelo Abela was standing near the side entrance to Francia’s palace. Abela tried to run away from the scene once the marines arrived and surrounded the building, but was hit by a bayonet in his stomach. He was escorted by a policeman and rushed to the Central Hospital, where he eventually died of his wounds on 16 June.  He was completely innocent.

His funeral, held separately from the one of the other three victims which had been held on Monday 9 June, had been attended by crowds. He was buried at the Addolorata Cemetery.

On 8 June the Comitato Nazionale pro Maltesi morti e feriti il 7 e 8 Giugno was immediately set up to raise funds for the families of the injured and dead. Helena, the wife of Carmelo Abela and his six children received ₤697, by way of compensation from the committee.

His remains were buried on 9 November 1924 in a grave on which a monument to the design of Ġanni Vella and sculpture of Boris Edwards and Ġużè Abela, was set up and inaugurated on 8 June 1925 at the Addolorata Cemetery, Paola.

A ‘Sette Giugno’ monument the work of sculptor Anton Agius* was inaugurated at St George's Square, Valletta, on 7 June 1986. Carmelo Abela with the other victims had his name inscribed on this monument.

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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