Carnival tragedy of 1823

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Carnival tragedy of 1823
Ta Giezu Church 14.jpg
Corridor with stairs where the incident took place
Date11 February 1823
Time18:30
Location Valletta, British Malta
Coordinates 35°53′46.7″N14°30′47.8″E / 35.896306°N 14.513278°E / 35.896306; 14.513278 Coordinates: 35°53′46.7″N14°30′47.8″E / 35.896306°N 14.513278°E / 35.896306; 14.513278
Type Human crush
Deathsc. 110
ChargesNone

The Carnival tragedy of 1823, also known as the Valletta stampede in 1823, was a human crush which occurred on 11 February 1823 at the Convent of the Minori Osservanti in Valletta, Crown Colony of Malta. About 110 boys who had gone to the convent to receive bread on the last day of carnival celebrations were killed after falling down a flight of steps while trying to get out of the convent.

Franciscan Church of St Mary of Jesus Church in Valletta, Malta

The Franciscan Church of St Mary of Jesus is a church in Valletta, Malta, which is dedicated to St Mary of Jesus and is cared for by the religious order of Friars Minor. It came to be popularly known by the Maltese as Ta' Ġieżu. Ta' Ġieżu is a local corruption of Ta' Ġesù.

Valletta capital city of Malta

Valletta is the capital city of Malta. Located in the south east of the island, between Marsamxett Harbour to the west and the Grand Harbour to the east, its population in 2014 was 6,444, while the metropolitan area around it has a population of 393,938. Valletta is the southernmost capital of Europe, and at just 0.3 square miles, it is the European Union's smallest capital city.

Crown Colony of Malta Former British colony

The Crown Colony of the Island of Malta and its Dependencies was the British colony in the Maltese islands, today the modern Republic of Malta. It was established when the Malta Protectorate was transformed into a British Crown colony in 1813, and this was confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1814.

Contents

Background

At the time of the tragedy, Malta was under British rule and experiencing a famine, [1] [2] and it had become a tradition to gather 8- to 15-year-old boys from the lower classes of Valletta and the Three Cities to participate in a procession during the last few days of carnival. After the procession, they would attend Mass, and they would be given some bread afterwards. [3] [4] This activity was arranged by ecclesiastical directors who taught catechism, and its main aim was to keep children out of the riots and confusion of carnival. [1] [5] [6]

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

Famine widespread scarcity of food followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality

A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including war, inflation, crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every inhabited continent in the world has experienced a period of famine throughout history. In the 19th and 20th century, it was generally Southeast and South Asia, as well as Eastern and Central Europe that suffered the most deaths from famine. The numbers dying from famine began to fall sharply from the 2000s.

The Three Cities is a collective description of the three fortified cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua in Malta. The oldest of the Three Cities is Birgu, which has existed since the Middle Ages. The other two cities, Senglea and Cospicua, were both founded by the Order of Saint John in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Three Cities are enclosed by the Cottonera Lines, along with several other fortifications. The term Cottonera is synonymous with the Three Cities, although it is sometimes taken to also include the nearby town of Kalkara.

This activity was organized on 10 February 1823, when children attended mass at Floriana and then went to the Convent of the Minori Osservanti (now better known as ta' Ġieżu) in Valletta where they were given bread. [3] [4] Everything went as planned, and the same procedure was planned for the following day. [1] [4]

Floriana Local council in South Eastern Region, Malta

Floriana, also known by its title Borgo Vilhena, is a fortified town in the South Eastern Region area of Malta, just outside the capital city Valletta. It has a population of 2,205 as of March 2014. Floriana is the birthplace of many famous Maltese, amongst which the composer of the national anthem, 'L-Innu Malti', Robert Samut; former Bishop of Malta Dun Mauro Caruana, the poets Oliver Friggieri & Maria Grech Ganado, the writer and politician Herbert Ganado and Swedish Idol winner Kevin Borg.

Disaster

The same procedure took place on 11 February 1823. Children were gathered and attended mass at Floriana, but the ceremony lasted an hour longer than usual. [3] [4] The children's procession to the convent in Valletta occurred at the same time as the carnival celebrations had ended, so they met with many people who were returning home. [3] [5] At this point, some adults and children from the crowd mixed in with the boys in order to receive some free bread. [3] [5]

The boys entered one of the convent's corridors from the vestry door in the church, and were to be let out through another door in St. Ursula Street. The bread was to be distributed at the latter door. [3] [4] Although the vestry door was usually locked to prevent boys from reentering to receive more bread, this time the door was left open since the boys were late. Due to this, more men and boys entered without anyone realizing. [1] [3] [5]

A vestry was a committee for the local secular and ecclesiastical government for a parish in England and Wales, which originally met in the vestry or sacristy of the parish church, and consequently became known colloquially as the "vestry".

Those who had entered began to push the boys queuing in the corridor, who were shoved to the end of the corridor near a half-open door. At this point, a lamp went out leaving the corridor in darkness, and the people inside began to push forward even more. The boys at the front fell down a flight of steps, blocking the door in the process. [1] [3]

Those who were distributing the bread as well as some neighbours rushed to assist the children after they heard screams. They managed to open the doors, and many boys got out and were revived. However, a number of boys had already died due to suffocation or being trampled upon. [1] [3] [6]

The exact number of casualties is not known. Records of the Sacra Infermeria show that 94 bodies of boys aged between 15 and 16 were brought to the hospital on 11 February, and they were buried the following day. [7] However, contemporary records such as The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle reveal that "no less than 110 boys perished on this occasion". [2] [3]

Aftermath

An investigation led by the Lieutenant Governor took place after the disaster, and a report about the findings was published a few days after the incident. [3] [4] The investigation concluded that the stampede took place as a result of a succession of errors, and no one was accused for the deaths of the children. [4]

Further reading

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hoe, Susanna (2015). "Valletta". Malta: Women, History, Books and Places (PDF). Oxford: Women's History Press (a division of Holo Books). pp. 371–372. ISBN   9780957215351. OCLC   931704918. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 October 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Flashback: Valletta stampede in 1823 killed 100 children". Times of Malta . 18 November 2016. OCLC   220797156. Archived from the original on 7 April 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Niles, Hezekiah, ed. (March–September 1823). "Melancholy Affair. Suffocation of one hundred and ten boys. Extract of a private letter from Malta, of February 21, 1823.". Niles' Weekly Registrar. 24. Baltimore: William Ogden Niles. pp. 189–190.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Vella, Fiona (3 February 2016). "To die for a piece of bread". Times of Malta . OCLC   220797156. Archived from the original on 19 July 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Bond, John (1996). The Hazards of Life and All That: A look at some accidents and safety curiosities, past and present (3 ed.). CRC Press. pp. 124–125. ISBN   9780750303606. OCLC   35001873.
  6. 1 2 Lanfranco, Guido (2000). "It-Taghlim tad-Duttrina fil-Gzejjer Maltin; Ftit ta' l-Istorja" (PDF). L-Imnara (in Maltese). Melita Historica. 3 (24): 104. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2016.
  7. Cassar, Paul (1981). "A note on Three Libri Mortuorum of the Holy Infirmary, the Civil Hospital of Valletta and the Central Civil Hospital of Floriana (1677–1885)" (PDF). Proceedings of History Week (PHW). Melita Historica: 91. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2016.