To Michael Schiavone, a veteran journalist and a lifelong record keeper, mapping out the biographies of notable people is not just a matter of personal satisfaction but something of a public service.
To date, Schiavone has compiled the biographies of over 4,800 Maltese personalities.
And from July 1, the biographies of some of these personalities will be published online for the first time by Times of Malta on the date that corresponds with the subject’s birthdays.
Without realising it, I had amassed this collection of information about distinct personalities- Michael Schiavone
Amassing a sprawling library of biographies over the span of 30 years, Schiavone said his passion for collecting them started in his youth when his father used to bring home copies of publications from the Department of Information.
“What caught my eye was a series of biographies written by Robert Mifsud Bonnici. I waited for them eagerly and collected all of them, eventually getting them bound as a book,” he said.
“It interested me greatly, and from then on, I just started doing it myself.”
He started keeping newspapers and collecting important information about people in the news, a task facilitated when he began working as a reporter.
“Without realising it, I had amassed this collection of information about distinct personalities and since then I have always done my best to keep abreast of current events and new people who happen to make a name for themselves,” he said.
Author, editor, publisher
Born in Senglea in 1946, Schiavone was educated at St Augustine College and the Archbishop’s Seminary, later graduating from the University of Malta in 1990.
In 1968, he joined Allied Newspapers as a features journalist but just over a year later went to work for the National Press, today known as the PN’s Media Link Communications. He served as editor of in-Nazzjon between 1970 and 1980 and editor of il-Mument between 1980 and 1989.
Following that, he was appointed director of the PN’s publishing house Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza, during which time he oversaw the production of 325 publications.
These include 82 volumes of Il-Kullana Kulturali, 12 volumes of Kullana Għat-Tfal and 18 volumes of Teżori fil-Knejjes Maltin, a religious-cultural series by Toni Terribile.
Schiavone is the author of Maltese Biographies of the Twentieth Century, co-edited with Louis J. Scerri in 1997, as well as the Dictionary of Maltese Biographies, which was published in two volumes in 2009.
He has also authored books about history, statistics and the results of Maltese general elections since 1849.
Schiavone said he gains satisfaction from researching people who lived long ago and about whom very little is documented, establishing their history primarily through parish records.
Duty to tell the story of the Maltese
He even managed to put together a biography of Antonio Azzopardi, better known as Ninu Xkora, a man who in 1907 was sentenced to death for the murder of 30-year-old Ġużeppi Camenzuli, who was romantically involved with Azzopardi’s 15-year-old daughter Stella.
Local legends allege that Azzopardi’s ghost still haunts the prison cemetery to this day.
New generations must keep remembering their past- Michael Schiavone
“They say that before he died he became a reformed man and allegedly blesses those who pray for the repose of his soul, but I can’t really confirm that last bit,” Schiavone says with a chuckle.
Apart from the personal satisfaction he gains from diving deep into research at some of Malta’s greatest libraries, Schiavone feels a sense of duty to tell the story of Maltese people about whom very little is known.
“New generations must keep remembering their past, from the average man in the street to the notable personalities of today,” he said.
“It’s important not only to document Maltese citizens who have made a name for themselves but to also share that information.”