EXCLUSIVE: Martin the Pigeon Man, homeless on the streets of Dublin for many years, is not only Maltese but from a very particular social background

Published: November 25, 2013 at 5:32pm
Martin the Pigeon Man, sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin: his accent shows him to be not only Maltese but 100% what they call 'tal-pepe'.

Martin the Pigeon Man, sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin: his accent shows him to be not only Maltese but 100% what they call ‘tal-pepe’.

Serendipitously, an Irish acquaintance who worked for some years in Malta but who is now back in Dublin saw this interview published today, decided to listen to it during a slow moment at work, and snapped alert.

He not only recognised the accent as being unmistakably Maltese, but also what he called ‘Sliema’, and immediately sent me the link.

Yes, in Martin the Pigeon Man’s generation – his age is given as around 60 – that accent was associated only with a very particular social group. Take what I am going to say next as purely an academic observation and nothing else.

To outsiders, all ‘tal-pepe’ accents and people are much of a muchness and undifferentiated. But to insiders, there are several distinctly differentiated groups within the overarching category, and that accent belongs to one very particular group.

There are really very few families from which Martin the Pigeon Man could have come, making his current situation on the freezing streets of Dublin all the more tragic and mysterious.

While he speaks perfectly coherently and in proper sentences, there are obvious signs of mental illness, like the fact that in his old age he is still excited to wake up every day away from his mother.

As a firm believer in personal liberty, I don’t think anyone has the right to interfere in how Martin the Pigeon Man lives. But if his situation is the result of mental illness or a spiral of financial ruin, he should be helped. The Maltese embassy in Dublin could at least look into it, offer him assistance, and give him the opportunity to refuse it.

But even if he refuses it, the embassy staff should make a point of ‘adopting’ him and keep an eye out for him, making sure he has what he needs.

If there is anyone reading this blog-post who recognises Martin in the photograph, or by his voice, or who has some idea who he might be, please contact me in confidence at [email protected]

There is no way that he could have that accent without actually growing up in Malta among people who spoke that way, and that would mean he also went to school here. So if you are a man of around 60 and went to a certain school (or a certain kind of school), please think hard. The likelihood is that he is one of the many late 1960s ‘Sliema’ escapees to swinging London, who fell through the net.

153 Comments Comment

  1. Gaetano Pace says:

    An English friend, a retired policeman living in Devon, used to tell me about a hobo living on his street. When I visited my friend there, I met the hobo and spoke to him. Gradually I started picking up certain words in Maltese and understanding certain episodes he talked about.

    I got in touch with Malta House to inform them of the case and see if they would be of any help. Later on, if memory serves me right, a student on a visit to England met him too. The story was carried in The Times. Arrangements were made to bring him back to Malta for care, but sadly he passed away just a few months later.

    I appeal earnestly to the Foreign Ministry in Malta to instruct the Maltese embassy in Dublin to offer this man any help he might need or want.

  2. A Montebello says:

    That accent and that age: he would have been at St Edward’s, almost certainly.

  3. Alex says:

    He is an Old Edwardian, without doubt.

  4. ciccio says:

    This accent is similar to that of Mr. Kevin Valenzia (PWC). I do not know the background of Mr. Valenzia, and whether he comes from Sliema or elsewhere. I also don’t know if Mr. Valenzia belongs to the social group you mean. But maybe this observation corroborates what you say.

    [Daphne – You’ve nailed it in one. That is exactly what I meant. And no, I don’t think Kevin Valenzia will mind at all if I upload this comment. We were in the same class at primary school round about when Martin the Pigeon Man was working in London.]

  5. Edward says:

    Yes, I heard the St Edward’s accent too.

  6. Hmmm says:

    He could be Maltese, but I wouldn’t go as far to say ‘unmistakably’ so.

    [Daphne – That accent is the accent of my particular social group in that generation. It is rare, unusual and literally unmistakable. Please understand that I know exactly what I am talking about here. All of us, wherever and whoever we are, recognise the accent of our group like a beacon in the wilderness. I have lived in Bidnija since I was 26, but even now I can’t tell the difference between the Bidnija accent and the Mosta accent, and yes, there is one because the older people can tell them apart even though only a couple of miles separate them. The odds are that Martin the Pigeon Man will turn out to have come from a family round the corner from where I grew up, with a father or grandfather in the military or similar, a mother who drifted off, and a childhood spent boarding at St Edward’s. Not only is he definitely Maltese raised in Malta, but from that accent, you can profile him almost completely. Or at least, I can, as a native. You see, this is what I meant when I wrote – trying to be as diplomatic as I could – that people on the outside can’t identity the various accents or distinguish between them. I even noticed that he starts speaking with one accent (a more basic Maltese English one when he’s still half asleep and groggy) and after two answers when he is more alert, slips into the way he was raised/trained to speak. Listen out for the vowel sound in ‘most’, for instance.]

    • Hmmm says:

      Not disputing your assertion that he sounds exactly like a Maltese from that particular background (although I am an indeed an ‘outsider’ unfamiliar with that specific type of accent). Just saying that there is a small possibility that his accent is the result of something else other than his social background and upbringing. There are such things as coincidences (however ridiculously unlikely they may be). I, for instance, have a foreign accent (confirmed by various natives) even though I’ve never stepped foot in the region from where this accent originates.

      Having said that, I hope he divulges his place of birth. If he is indeed Maltese, one has to wonder how he ended up where he is.

      [Daphne – Absolutely, indisputably not. People recognise the accent of their particular group with the familiarity of recognising their own mother. There are actually TWO accents in that video, they both belong to the same group, and they are used in different circumstances. There is no doubt about this. That accent can be pinpointed precisely.]

    • Victor says:

      I totally agree with you Daphne. Especially about the vowel sound.

      And since I am practically of the same age as Martin, and also brought up in Sliema, I would say that you are right in your assumptions.

  7. Iro Cali-Corleo says:

    His voice struck a familiar chord but unfortunately did not trigger any memory of someone I knew in my youth. It could also have been just the accent I recognised.

    I have not worked in psychiatry for over two decades, but I am reasonably certain that this gentleman is suffering from a psychosis, probably schizophrenia. It is not unknown, unfortunately, for those who are well controlled on medication to move away from their familiar circle, usually abroad, stop taking their medication, relapse and end up living rough.

    I do hope that someone from your wide readership does recognise him. One should not rely on his declaration of age as he is likely to be more in his late 50s than 60s and he may have only ‘fallen off the grid’ a few years ago.

  8. La Redoute says:

    St Edward’s, and at that time, a full-time boarder. Without a doubt.

  9. Maws says:

    Sounds like a Micallef Eynaud I know. Same social background you described.

    [Daphne – Well yes, but it’s hardly any one of the brothers you have in mind. I know them all.]

    • Maws says:

      I agree – while listening carefully to the accent it was the first surname that came to me. Fascinating stuff accents in Malta – in Australia there is little difference in accent moving 100’s of miles away whereas on our crumb of an island you find more than one accent per small town/village.

      [Daphne – Yes, except that this accent does not belong to a town or village, but to a social group, regardless of where in Malta they happen to live. It just so happens that until the 1970s most of them lived in Sliema (Stella Maris and less frequently, San Girgor) and the neighbouring ‘new areas’. In any case, that accent doesn’t only belong to a particular group, it belongs to a particular generation and that generation’s parents.]

      • Maws says:

        Brainwave – call Kenneth Zammit Tabona. I’m sure he would love to help you.

        [Daphne – I don’t think this is a matter for flippancy or jokes; do you?]

      • Maws says:

        No it’s not time for jokes (not under the current administration) Having read a couple of Kenneth’s books he seems to know the Stella Maris area quite well. He might be able to recognise the gentleman.

        [Daphne – Of course he knows the area quite well. We lived literally round the corner from each other, growing up (eight years apart). How else do you think we know each other?]

  10. hmm says:

    Yes, I agree – either an Old Edwardian of the generation who boarded there full-time, or a proper Sliema background from a family of a certain standing with British/colonial administration ties or being part (upper middle class) British and part (upper middle class) Maltese.

  11. helen says:

    Please if anyone knows the address of the Malta Embassy is Dublin, do let me know.

    [Daphne – Helen, it’s the internet age: http://www.foreign.gov.mt/default.aspx?MDIS=382 ]

  12. helen says:

    Thanks so much Daphne.

  13. helen says:

    Just am stuck in Galway with a big problem and internet link is very weak.

  14. p says:

    I’d say you’ve nailed it.

  15. albona says:

    I have to admit that now that I have listened to it all there were parts that were not St Edwards. I too can tell the subtle differences both based on school attended and area of origin. Not always though.

    [Daphne – There is no such thing as a St Edward’s accent. It’s the accent of the social group who were most likely to send their sons to that school in that generation: Stricklandjani from Sliema/Valletta.]

    • Catherine says:

      He has picked up hints of a Dublin accent, as would be expected if he has lived there so long.

    • albona says:

      As I said, I may be wrong but I for one believe that the various schools also impart particular accents or at least influence the accents of those children coming from families from certain areas – as you said, Stella Maris, Cathedral Street, Tower Road, Dingli Street, Three Trees etc. Indeed even Lazy Corner is important in that it is an area where the Maltese/English variant is/was not spoken, often used as a contrast to the former, thereby acting as ‘other’. Every community needs an ‘other’ and that was Lazy Corner.

      I am not contradicting you. All I am saying is that I know a number of people that swear that they can distinguish between a former St Dorothy’s girl, St Joseph’s or a Sacred Heart girl.

      [Daphne – No, not at all. I’m sorry to be a stickler about this, but it’s something that really annoys me. Social groups have accents. Schools do not. What would have been a St Dorothy’s accent? Mine? The girl from Mellieha who could barely speak English? The girl from Attard who rolled her RRRRs? The girl from St Andrew’s who said u ejja, ma, come on, you’re really cheeky? As for the Lazy Corner, it wasn’t considered part of Sliema. Sliema ended in Dingli Street. The rest was whatever. The people who tell you that they can distinguish between former pupils of St Dorothy’s, St Joseph’s or Sacred Heart on the basis of accent are completely wrong. Again, they are mistaking the accent of a social group for the accent of a school, and even then they are probably unable to distinguish between the diverse variants of so-called posh accents. Why do you think so many people imagine I was at the Convent of the Sacred Heart? Because they think schools have accents. Yes, you can definitely tell the difference between a St Dorothy’s ‘girl’ and a Sacred Heart ‘girl’ (I only know a couple of women who went to St Joseph’s in Sliema and none at all who went to the Blata l-Bajda school) but I assure you that it is not on the basis of their accent. I won’t go into it, because I will upset far too many people – you know, for a change – but simply put, St Dorothy’s girls tend to be highly opinionated and forceful ballbreaker types. Now that, unlike the accent, is definitely something a school can shape.]

      • albona says:

        Yes, it is true that the family group is the strongest influence on accent. As you said in another reply to a comment families tended to send their children to one school or another. It is also influenced by the fact that families tended to have easier access to one school over another.

        Of course, in every class there are always the children from non-English speaking backgrounds or even the ‘Italian ones’ who perhaps didn’t have the best English or who did not speak with that stereotypical Pepe accent due to the reluctance to speak English at home.

        Surely even in the 50s up to the 70s there were still remnants of the linguistic question (English used by the lower classes to stick it to the Italian-speaking gentry families, later adopted by the bourgeoisie when they realised that Italian did not give them the status or power they were used to) in these schools. Any comments welcome.

        [Daphne – The ‘lower classes’ as you put it did not speak English at all. The first groups to adopt the use of English in the 19th century did so for pragmatic, not ideological, reasons. Those who were fluent in the language got the top positions in the colonial administration and commissions in the army. And because trade then shifted towards Britain and its empire, merchant families began to speak it too. And there you have it: the precise origin, nature and identity of the people who speak with that accent and who as late as the 1970s still formed a distinct group. It’s also the reason their use of English is completely different from that of any other Maltese person. The fact that most of them voted for the Strickland Party was effect not cause. The other came first. Incidentally, this group had no qualms about speaking Maltese, whatever the received wisdom to the contrary.]

        As for Lazy Corner, yes perhaps I know St Julian’s better than Sliema which of course was the hamalli backwater of Sliema (trust me, I found that hard to say). Still, Balluta, Prince of Wales, Old College Street, Strada Kirscia are part of that linguistic psyche. Just out of curiosity, how did you use to rate the people who lived around those areas? Anyone can feel free to answer this. No offence taken.

      • Enrica says:

        No they don’t! I went to St Dorothy’s and I can’t think of a single person I knew there who fits that description. My grandmother went there and she is the exact opposite of ‘highly opinionated and ballbreaker’ type.

        [Daphne – A school that turned out a 100 highly opinionated ballbreakers into Maltese society every year would be a very trying thing, Enrica. However, if you look at the ex St Dorothy’s girls who are in public life, you will see exactly what I mean. Sometimes it is positive, as with Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg (Pace) and the Nationalist Party’s Ann Fenech, and sometimes it is negative, as with Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi. The decisive factor seems to be whether the opinionated, ball-breaking self-confidence finds a breeding ground in natural intelligence and a certain kind of home background, or whether it falls on fallow ground so that you get an unfortunate combination of opinionated, ball-breaking self-confidence with stupidity and poor manners.]

      • Jozef says:

        Excuse me Enrica, my wife and her sister went to St.Dorothy’s.

        Ballbreakers, independent and determined in the most laid back of manners.

        [Daphne – Ah yes, your sister-in-law. We were classmates for around 12 years. But that must have been one of the worst years, actually, because a class reunion is like Ballbreakers United.]

      • Mattie says:

        “I am not contradicting you. All I am saying is that I know a number of people that swear that they can distinguish between a former St Dorothy’s girl, St Joseph’s or a Sacred Heart girl.”

        Albona: one can guess but not distinguish.

        As Daphne precisely pointed out – St. Dorothy’s ex pupils are usually very highly opinionated and forceful ballbreakers. And may I add that they are so to the extent that they could even make a man cry.

        And usually they’re the ones who cope very well with difficult men.

        I know what I’m saying. They are tough.

      • Mattie says:

        St. Dorothy’s ex pupils are nowhere near submissive.

        Private / Church schools back then, built women of strong character and they succeeded.

      • Jozef says:

        Albona, Sliema was designed by the British as the ‘New Town’ to create an English-speaking community close and discerning of its influence.

        The same idea backfired around Cottonera, when hasty reconstruction was the perfect opportunity to create social hotspots. You’ll get Union Jacks in all bars and tea rooms, it definitely meant work, but no one speaks the language or is in any way willing to do so.

        Could also be that the old gentry, as you call them, the ones who’ll use ch instead of the q in Maltese maintained very close relations with the working class.

        And don’t underestimate the variance in iconography, just compare the crucifix in Bormla’s church to the one in St.Patrick’s.

        Both Catholic, but only one is British.

      • Dale says:

        Schools do have social accents. Possibly in this context, no, but in much of the world, yes. Especially in Canada, I can often tell which residential school a person went to by their accent – the school often has an even stronger influence on the language than the person’s native language.

  16. stephen says:

    There used to be a shop in Depiro Street called Martin’s. I was very young and don’t remember his accent too well but his name was Martin and I calculate that his age today would be around 65.

    [Daphne – Oh dear. There really isn’t only one Martin in Sliema, you know. And it is definitely not that Martin because I know him fairly well and he is nowhere near 65.]

    • johannes says:

      Definitely not that Martin, Stephen. Not his age and not his accent!

      [Daphne – Quite apart from the fact that he runs a business here in Malta and that I saw him only a few months ago.]

  17. Donald Gouder says:

    I’m Maltese like Martin living in Co Carlow for the past seven years.

    In the next few days I’m going to make sure that the Maltese embassy in Dublin makes contact with him and offers him all the support that he needs, and in the meantime I’ll make sure that I find him and offer him all the help he might need or want.

  18. Dana says:

    This just seems like a guessing game from most.

    I hope someone does recognise him; there must be someone missing him and I hope social media works in a positive way this time. But it’s amazing how positive he is about life. We should all learn a lesson from him.

    I hope it will be a Christmas miracle for him and his loved ones.

    [Daphne – That is not positivity about life or even happiness. It is something else: resignation. Resignation is often the path to serenity if not exactly happiness, but if it is resignation brought about by the belief that you can’t change your lot in life, when you can, then that’s tragic.]

    • John says:

      How do you know everything, Daphne?

      [Daphne – Actually this is considered normal for an educated adult of my generation in civilised countries other than Malta, John.]

  19. Joe Aquilina says:

    What a touching story. If more can be found out about him then maybe we can help if he wants it.

    • Susan says:

      Some people are, believe it or not, happy to be without a roof over their heads – so make sure you are not going to force him into something he does not really want.

      Maybe if he is Maltese, it will embarrass him to know that the whole island is talking about him. Be very careful how you handle any contact with him.

      [Daphne – Adults can’t be forced into doing anything they don’t want to do unless it is illegal not to do it. But to notice this situation and not even try to offer assistance would be reprehensible. To somebody who is living that rough and sleeping outdoors in Dublin in February, being talked about is hardly going to be high on his list of concerns. Also, people are not gossiping – they are actually concerned. And the only people who are happy without a roof over their heads are those who are mentally unbalanced. That is in itself a problem because you can’t force anyone to take treatment and you can’t force them indoors, and yet you know all the while that they are in no fit mental state – by definition – to decide for themselves. I really hate the ‘some people live outdoors because they prefer it’ mantra. It’s a form of self-soothing when we couldn’t be arsed to at least try to help.]

      • Susan says:

        I was not suggesting no one helps the guy – but I did know a man in London who because of certain circumstances found himself homeless – after a while, he found he was happier than ever as he had no worries – no one knew him – he used soup kitchens and other such charities in London; the few nights he spent indoors in a homeless charity, he found he could not wait to get back out in the open air. He needs to be approached carefully and with respect.

  20. Christopher Farrugia says:

    I had worked on the case in Sidmouth and identified the person concerned. I had done that in collaboration with The Times and The Malta Independent.

    I see quite a few similarities.

  21. Angie says:

    I’m living near Dublin myself. The guy has a strange accent and it’s definitely not your typical Maltese accent. I can get that a mile away. The video is doing the rounds on Facebook. I posted it on the Maltese in Ireland page. So hopefully Martin will get the help he needs.

    [Daphne – No, it’s not your typical Maltese accent. It’s the accent of the 1% of the population who are mocked by the rest. It was, however, typical of the only Malta I knew as a child, so to me it is, yes, a typical Maltese accent.]

    • A Montebello says:

      Raised in Victoria Avenue, in a Stricklandian family, I’m very much part of that 1%. I remember the mockery very well.

      • hmm says:

        Why remember the mockery, forget the past tense as we are mocked till this very day. The intended mockery stems from ignorance, envy and their fellow traveller, fear.

  22. NGT says:

    Assuming he went to a private school in the 60s, that accent could also have been from any Sliema-raised boy who went to De La Salle or St Alo’s (pre-ballot/lottery days) and not just St Ed’s – that would be narrowing it down a bit too much.

    [Daphne – There is no such thing as a school accent. The confusion arises from the fact that, in earlier generations, different social groups sent their sons and daughters to different private/church schools. The accent belongs to the social group, not to the school. Very often, as with St Edward’s and St Aloysius’s, you would get a preponderance of one kind of group at the school, creating the impression that the accent was the school’s rather than the group’s. I have a ‘St Edward’s accent’, but did I go to school there? Obviously not. My father has a ‘St Edward’s accent’, but he was at the Lyceum. My sons have a ‘St Edward’s accent’, but they were at San Anton School. St Edward’s was set up by Lady Strickland. For the first couple of generations, the boys who were sent there were predominantly from Valletta/Sliema families of Strickland supporters, who were in business, the military or the senior echelons of the colonial administration. Families of Nationalist supporters who tended to be lawyers, doctors, architects and so on sent their sons to St Aloysius’s. Also, in that generation, boys did not board at St Aloysius’s, but they did at St Edward’s – so the social mix at St Aloysius’s was much greater. There were some exceptions, but they were the exceptions that proved the rule.]

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      Are you seriously equating St Edwards’ and St Aloysius’, NGT?

      It’s two different worlds entirely.

      • NGT says:

        Ok, seems like I wasn’t clear here. I was not talking about a particular ‘school accent’. My point was that although he sounds like someone who was raised in Sliema that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s an OE. De La Salle was also a boarding school at that time and students were only allowed to speak English. Many, though not all, DLS students of that era have similar accents.

        [Daphne – Not really. De La Salle and Stella Maris weren’t schools anyone I knew went to, with a couple of exceptions. Otherwise, all the boys who lived in our neighbourbood were at St Edward’s, and a couple were at St Aloysius. By far the biggest collection/drop-off for our neighbourhood was St Edward’s. That is just a factual statement. Read nothing else into it.]

    • albona says:

      Daphne, yes I agree. Certain families exclusively sent their children to one school over all others, and yes, that too influences the forming of accents. So yes, the ‘school accent’ is a partial fallacy.

      Having said that, do not forget that in other countries such as the UK, Australia and NZ private schools do indeed have accents, and the children are from all over the country, not a particular street in a tiny town.

      [Daphne – In fact, they don’t. There really isn’t such a thing as a school accent. The most a school can do – and then only if you are a boarder and so in its clutches – is teach you some received pronunciation and iron out the roughness. But then what you will get is a ‘neutral’ accent that collapses in moments of extreme stress into your home accent. You can always tell when people have adopted an accent that is not their natural own: their pronunciation is very considered and deliberate.]

      • albona says:

        I always chuckle when someone who has a learned accent, from let’s say Newcastle or East London, gets pushed to the point of no return and just loses it. Invariably, their childhood accent comes out. The same happens in any country where one accent is associated with a certain desired status.

    • hmm says:

      Furthermore their parents/grandparents were taught at the Italian School or the private school in the three cities.

  23. anthony says:

    He certainly sounds Maltese.

    I was in London in the late sixties and have tried very hard to revive my memories of the Bunch of Grapes which was then the Sunday lunchtime “Maltese” club.

    It is more than forty years ago.

    Unfortunately I can only remember people who eventually returned to Malta or ones who have done well in UK.

    My former schoolmate Martin was in England then.

    However he made it to the very top in the UK banking/accountancy/insurance world on a par with Marcus Agius.

    It would be super if this poor guy could be helped.

    As Iro said above the man is probably schizophrenic and could be controlled remarkably well on treatment.

  24. beingpressed says:

    This guy obviously wants to be left alone. If any of his relatives recognise him they now know where to look. He’s definitely tried to shield his nationality and I doubt very much his name or surname is Martin. I hope this poor man is truly happy and wish to God that his family or friends manage to live with this situation this Christmas.

  25. Julian Mompalao de Piro says:

    I’m 61 and went to St. Edwards but I don’t recognize him. However, one didn’t really notice or remember boys in lower classes so I hope somebody a year or two younger than me might.

  26. cikki says:

    He could also have gone to public school in England so maybe someone his age who went to school in England might recognise him

  27. La Redoute says:

    It’s not just the accent that’s Maltese. The intonation is very Slimiz. Picture him saying “ay” after

    I don’t
    I’ve achieved most of them

  28. R.Camilleri says:

    Mrs Daphne would you be kind enough to call me !

    [Daphne – Bit difficult, as I don’t know your number or even who you are. If you need to get in touch, please email [email protected]]

  29. tim says:

    Daphne, interesting story. Not to hard to do first pass. Google or linkedin the photographer that interviewed him. Get in contact, show him this url, and ask him to ask Martin if he is from Malta.

    [Daphne – Yawn. Try stating the obvious for a change. Not to be rude or anything, but honestly.]

  30. Anthony Pace says:

    What a load of crap, Daphne.

    Why was this man singled out for help? Not because he is homeless; there are countless other homeless people roaming about all over the world. Nor is it because he is Maltese; other Maltese people are right now in need of help. No, the only justification for putting this particular case forward is because he is from what you call “a particular background”. It’s as if his imagined line of descent makes his situation all the more tragic, all the more unfair.

    All this just gives you an opportunity to stress your belonging to a tribal group, one which simply defines itself by an accent. And helps its own…

    [Daphne – Thank you for popping in to prove my point, made earlier, that this is the accent of the 1% of the population who are mocked and derided by many of the (generally bitter and envious) rest. I shall answer you in terms as simple as possible, to ensure that you understand.

    1. I am a journalist by instinct, with an instinctive feel for a story and an instinctive understanding of what people want to read. This is not my personal assessment. It is my track record, which is why people of your sort (all kinds, really) are still bitching madly about me as though I am the new hot topic even after 23 years. And this is a story.

    2. This man is conspicuously, obviously Maltese. I work in Malta, writing a blog read by Maltese people. Maltese people, because there are so few of us, take a direct and personal interest in other Maltese people. This interest is generally negative, but sometimes, like this time, it is positive. My readers are not interested in any random homeless man in Dublin, but they most certainly are interested in a Maltese homeless man in Dublin.

    3. It is the fact that he is Maltese which makes the story. The social background indicated by his accent is a sidebar, but with two angles that make it more interesting. These are (a) that it is much easier to identify somebody with that accent because there are so few of us, therefore the accent itself becomes an identifier (and I don’t apologise for the use of ‘us’, because quite frankly, if you don’t like it, you can just f**k off), and (b) the story assumes a more tragic angle in the Greek sense of the word, as the extent of the personal catastrophe is by definition greater.

    4. My social group isn’t tribal at all, though you would think that, not belonging to it. It is riven by hatred and enmity and includes, in fact, the people who are most aggravated by me (the sentiment is largely reciprocated). And no, this group is not defined by its accent – only outsiders think that, which is why they try to mimic it. It is defined by other things which need not be gone into here because they are too complicated and I prefer to leave that sort of thing to those who like to bore on endlessly about it, like Kitten from Malta and a few others.

    Now please go and congregate with your fellows in some other space you might enjoy, like the comments-board of Malta Today or Times of Malta. This website is open to people of all ages, social groups and accents, and permits the use of both English and Maltese as long as proper sentences are written, but you are clearly unhappy with the person who writes it, and I do not approve of masochism, so please go and be happy with my blessing.]

    • Catherine says:

      Anthony, that’s a massive chip you’ve got on your shoulder right there. Poor you.

    • maws says:

      Anthony is correct in that right now the whole nation is in need of help.

      [Daphne – Oh, I wouldn’t tell him that. He might get upset, being obviously a Laburist with a whacking great chip on it.]

    • TinaB says:

      Trust a staunch laburist to fail to comprehend something written in simple English and then dare to come out with such a silly comment.

      I hope that Martin will get all the help he may need or want sooner rather than later.

    • bryan sullivan says:

      Mr. Pace, should you know of other cases please bring them to Daphne’s attention seeing as she is the only journalist worthy of the name on this island. She will give other cases the same exposure which Martin’s case is deserving of. On the other hand you might take matters in hand and sort out other cases yourself.

  31. Eric Soames says:

    Kudos on this effort of yours. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be 50, give or take a couple of years, after a haircut and a shave. His skin tone and voice would indicate a younger person than 60, especially considering his lifestyle.

    [Daphne – That is exactly what I thought, but then decided against saying it: that he has the voice timbre of somebody younger than 60. The reference to ‘communications and graphic design’ is foxing, too, because communications was not a study discipline in the period he is talking about, indicating that he is probably MY contemporary. It’s freaking me out, because it’s the voice itself, not so much the accent, which is unnervingly familiar, and I can’t shake off the feeling that it may well be somebody I once knew, even if only as a child.]

    • ciccio says:

      I have the same feeling about the age. He must be around 50. And yes, it is his voice, and especially his facial complexion that tell me so.

      Considering that he lives on the streets, his skin, especially that on his face, is likely to age more than normal. His face doesn’t look that of a 60 year old. And especially not that of a 60 year-old who lives on the streets.

    • Chris Ripard says:

      I think you’re quite right, Eric. Apart from pronounced crow’s feet, his skin tone looks much more 50s to me than 60s. Also, I doubt someone in his 60s would have the constitution required to remain in good health sleeping rough in Dublin.

      And Daphne is also right about the timbre of his voice.

      This accentuates the tragedy: if he isn’t helped fairly soon, his health may start to decline rapidly, as the wear-and-tear of his lifestyle surely can’t be held at bay much longer.

      Even if he is in his 50s, he seems to be in remarkably good nick, all things considered. God knows how unbalanced his diet must be.

      This would seem to be quite conflicting with his claim to have been working in Dublin in 1967 – unlikely for a 5 year old.

      Sadly, I can’t guess who he may be, however, given the massive upheavals of the mid to late 70s in Malta, it may be possible that he is the son of some family whose life was turned upside down overnight and who left for England in a hurry at that time. There were many such cases.

      The culture shock/forced displacement could also have been a factor in his going off the rails.

  32. A.P. Gambina says:

    All this serves as an eye-opener to help homeless people, whoever and wherever they are. Good on you for exposing all this, and so much more that this ‘Martin’ guy could well be Maltese.

    [Daphne – IS Maltese, not could well be Maltese. That accent is unmistakable. You don’t acquire that kind of tiny-minority-group Maltese accent in any way other than having come from that tiny minority group. It’s not like, say, an East London or New York accent, which people sometimes pick up or at least try to mimic.]

  33. Oscar II says:

    Anthony Pace, seek help NOW.

  34. Mallia says:

    Daphne, if you’re so sure, why don’t you take a flight to Dublin and meet the guy in person? As readers we would be delighted to follow the story.

    [Daphne – Because I don’t run a newsroom, Mallia. This is a one-woman blog run as a hobby, and not a news organisation.]

  35. Anthony Pace says:

    My dear lady,

    You take great pride in your ability to read trough people, their intentions, their motives. Every one is an open book to you. Or so you say.

    In reality I am an avid reader of your blog and I have in every election voted Nationalist. I can’t see how you can infer my political views from my comment. I can’t wait to tell people that Daphne has called me a Laburist I know they’ll split their sides laughing.

    The fact is that you can’t take criticism and you pigeonhole everyone who shows mild dissent a Laburist.

    And please don’t think your belonging to this much vaunted 1% qualifies you as a better or more intelligent person. Your language gives you away.

    [Daphne – ‘You pigeonhole everyone who shows mild dissent a Laburist’. That rather gives you away, doesn’t it? We were not talking about politics, so it can’t have been about dissent. Yes, I do have rather a good ability to read people and situations. I do it, in a way, for a living. For example, I have a pretty good idea about the way you speak already, from your unconscious spelling of ‘trough’, by which you clearly don’t mean that thing with the Labour snouts in. Other give-aways:

    My dear lady
    I have in every election voted
    Every one

    As a side note, if I were unable to take criticism I would long ago have hanged myself or got out of the kitchen. You may have failed to notice, but I am – after the prime minister and the former prime minister and a couple of other individuals, the most heavily criticised person in Malta.

    What I really can’t take is bitchy sniping that I clearly detect – and you are not the only one to do it – has absolutely nothing to do with the issue in question, but rather the issue in question is used as an excuse to get at me about something far more emotional and fundamental. People of your mindset do it not because you wish to criticise me but because you wish to engage with me and get my attention, even if only by trying to score points. However, I am not interested in engaging in this perverse manner. It has far too many echoes of the teenage years when boys and girls who couldn’t get one’s attention and who felt somehow inferior or rejected entered into what they thought was an alternative form of engagement by ‘revenge’ – bitching and point-scoring. People who do this in adulthood are psychologically ‘stuck’ in that period. If it stays at that, fine, but if individuals with this personality problem get to feel more and more rejected in whatever manner by the object of their fixation, the obsession gets worse and turns to irrational rage with quite dangerous consequences at times. Saviour Balzan at Malta Today, for example, is the most spectacular example of this. And there you have it: another brief lesson in human nature. You can’t say you visit this blog for nothing.]

  36. Javier Leite says:

    Hello, I am a friend of Donal, the photographer who interviewed Martin on the street.
    I am very curious about this social group you keep mentioning.
    Is there anywhere where I can find more information?

    I hope Martin gets offered help, but most of all, I hope Martin keeps on being happy. Or even better, happier.


    [Daphne – You can get any information you want right here. Oh, and I don’t think he’s happy. I think he’s resigned and has found a sort of serenity in his resignation to his fate, which is different. It is the sort of resignation you find in people on their death-bed. You can’t call it happiness by any means.]

    • Gaetano Pace says:

      Agreed, Daphne. It appears that his experiences in life have levelled him down to a state of helplessness. This is why I too feel that he needs help in whatever manner it could be.

  37. Lawrence Attard says:

    I actually think that his comment about waking away from his mother was an intended pun:

    Interviewer: “Are you happy within yourself doing this?”

    Martin: “It’s very exciting when you wake up.”

    (Obviously tongue in cheek. Martin is obviously building an argument and fishing for a retort from the interviewer.)

    Interviewer: “Really? In what way is it exciting? It’s a new world? You don’t know what to (expect)?”

    Martin: “It’s away from your mother, if you like.”

    (The punchline comes as an anticlimax, unexpected, direct. Very witty, if you ask me.)

    I agree with you that this gentleman should be helped, but, I would add, irrespective of whether he is Maltese or not.

  38. Hi,
    I am the photographer who discovered Martin last week and subsequently interviewed him yesterday. Apologies for the interview but pictures are my thing and not words :-)

    There seems to be a lot of evidence here as to his background and I can assure you that if I can track him down tomorrow I will mention Malta.

    I have spoken with the Times of Malta and have asked them to get the Maltese Embassy here in Dublin to call me first before going in all guns blazing.

    This is a very delicate situation and I want what’s best for Martin without others forcing the issue.

    I can assure you all that I will help him in the most appropriate and intelligent way possible. My Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/donalmoloneyphotography and I will post updates if anything occurs or as soon as I speak with him.



  39. One final thing I should have mentioned.

    I sat no more than two feet from his face and he had not the eyes of a 60 year old man. He had not the hands of a 60 year old man. Behind his hair, beard and clothing I think lies a man 45-55. Of course I could be wrong.


    [Daphne – I think you are right, Donal. His voice is definitely not that of a 60-year-old. And ‘communications’ would not have been a field of study for somebody who is now 60.]

    • La Redoute says:

      His reference to Mother Theresa , and to having been there with her in the 1950s, may have been a fantasy derived from direct or received experience. The formation of the Missionaries of Charity was authorised in 1950.

      Martin doesn’t look or sound any older than 50. Maltese people aged around 50 today would remember Mother Theresa’s veneration as a sort of living saint, in the Malta in which they grew up.

      Some, in their late teenage years, would have volunteered to work with Mother Theresa’s organisation. No one ever referred to the Missionaries of Charity, the organisation’s formal name. Everyone referred to the group as “Mother Theresa of Calcutta”.

      Martin may have been one of the volunteers, or was around other people who were volunteers, say, in sixth form.

      Any part of that direct or received experience could explain Martin’s claim that he was in Calcutta with Mother Theresa.

  40. bob-a-job says:

    It could easily be someone who used to hang around ‘Granny’s’ in Tigne Street, for those who remember it.

  41. omar says:

    def sounds maltese and i get what your saying about the accent and the 1% thing, i followed the original clip on youtube i wonder if you could get in touch with the guy who published it and see if he could ask martin if he is acually maltese and see what reaction he gets …jusst a tought, well thats if the guy who uploaded it is the same guy who interviewed him

  42. He may not have studied communications. It’s hard to work out what’s he invents and what is real. I hope to get a better sense of that next time I chat with him.

    [Daphne – I mean to say that a Maltese man of 60 wouldn’t think ‘communications’. It did not exist as an academic subject in their day and it’s not a field that would occur to a 60-year-old anyway. Even graphic design is pushing it for that age group.]

    • D S says:

      After listening to the interview I strongly believe that Martin is psychotic.

      Schizophrenia is commoner in immigrants whatever their nationality, and would explain his being ill in a foreign country, his lifestyle and his fall down the social ladder.

      If his behaviour has not been obviously or totally bizarre, people will be less likely to realise that he is mentally unwell unless he is spoken to. I agree that adults should not be forced into anything against their will but if he is indeed suffering from schizophrenia, which is nowadays treatable, it would be inhumane to leave a mentally ill person living on the streets without enforcing treatment should he refuse it whilst being psychotic.

      Excellent detective work, Daphne.

      [Daphne – Yes, I agree that he is quite obviously schizophrenic, but I really didn’t wish to go into that. It is, however, the reason I felt compelled to flag this up in the hope of finding his family or at least getting some help from the authorities in Malta through the embassy. He speaks coherently but what he says doesn’t make sense, even though he speaks in a rational way. That is quite a big indicator. Yes, it is inhumane to leave somebody in need of treatment out on the streets, and I also think that this ‘some people want to live like that’ is just a panacea for our souls, so that we don’t feel in any way obliged to do anything. Of course nobody wants to live like that. By definition, only a mentally ill person would actively choose to sleep out in Dublin in winter when there is an alternative. This man has fallen so far that he literally can’t come home even if he wanted to. He’s a vagrant. He’s ended up really badly. Who does he call? This is a terrible story, and that’s only on the basis of the deductions we can make from the accent that gives away an original background of quite some privilege. Even in that situation, his manners are perfect – did you notice that?]

      • curious says:

        Daphne, you mention his manners. I don’t know why but I keep going back to hear the interview/conversation and I am fascinated. Much better than the vox pops and interviews we are used to hearing by people who cannot answer one simple question properly.

        [Daphne – I have just written a separate post about that.]

    • Gaetano Pace says:

      Daphne, I agree with you when you air your views about “communications” and “graphic design”. The first notions of graphic design were introduced in these islands by studios that were set up to undertake advertsing in the late 1960`s. I was a radio ham in the 1960s and I can only remember that communications in those days meant little more than radio, Morse, Rediffusion and the first TV sets scattered all over the islands. Graphic design found its forte with the advent of computers in the very early 1980s when the first computers were becoming available after a decade of resistance from the then Labour administration which made computers a taboo.

      [Daphne – Well, actually, graphic design was a professional field in Malta at least from the 1970s. In those days they had to be really professional and creative, because they did everything by hand.]

      • Tabatha White says:

        If he was originally from Dallas, Texas – let’s say, or had links there – then Communications and Graphic Design may not have been that new a notion.

        It all depends on the entry point.

  43. A.P. Gambina says:

    Martin could well be Maltese, but his could also be a neutral, but posh, south / central England accent.

    [Daphne -That man is not only Maltese but he is from the 1% of the Maltese population that gets mocked by others. If you can’t see that instantly, then you are from the other 99% and have never been close enough to notice. This is not a matter of opinion but of fact. I have no idea what accent and intonation you grew up with, but trust me to recognise those I grew up with. You miss the subtleties, but I don’t. Nor, you might have noticed, do others who have commented here, and who, while not having grown up with that accent, have been perfectly able to match it exactly to others they knew or know from that exact same background I am talking about.]

    • Neil says:

      Daphne is absolutely correct – stop flogging a dead horse. It is that ‘particular’ Maltese accent, quite obviously affected by his many years abroad. Its initial utterings were pure Dublin in fact.

      But it’s there, as clear as day.

    • A.P. Gambina says:

      I do know the folk to whom Martin’s voice is being matched to here. Actually, no one mentioned Edward Briffa whose local voice also matches that 1 per cent population segment being referred to. However, I’ve come across quite a handful of folk in the U.K. with similar speech accents. What’s not typical of our 1 per cent lot is the ‘hmmmm’ which Martin keeps saying during the interview. But he may have picked that up somewhere along the line, but certainly not during his Malta living days. Whatever, may such people get noticed more and offered assistance. Alas, many of them refuse help too !

      [Daphne – God, how tiresome. There are days when I wonder why I’m doing this. Why would anybody mention Edward Briffa? Why him – because he is the only example of the species that you happen to have heard speak? His voice does not ‘match’ that population segment. It is OF that population segment, precisely because he is OF that population segment.

      There is no way on earth you can have come across British people with this homeless man’s accent. It is absolutely not in any way British, but screamingly obviously Maltese. You just don’t know what a proper tal-pepe accent is, in these days when every Byron, Clayton and Shaniah is ‘from Sliema’. As for the ‘hmmm’ not being typical, you are so very wrong. It was, in fact, the first thing I noticed as being ‘Anglo-Maltese’. Now I am going to be really strict and rude: it is the height of stupid arrogance and presumption to imagine you know more about something than somebody who is actually IN it. I can’t imagine myself lecturing or contradicting an East Londoner about the identification of an East London accent, or its various subtleties. Or to be more graphic: half the world thinks an Australian accent is a homogenous thing and that it sounds like a South African accent. But you can bet your house that they sound completely different to natives of those countries.]

      • Tabatha White says:

        The “Hmmmm…yes” and the “away from mother” are in fact what reminded me most of expressions that markedly lonely former boarders at St Edwards did and do use.

        “Away from mother” as a specific concept would have been prevalent in any boarder. If he was not a boarder then, judging by his younger than 60 year old appearance, his father may have been. Certainly, his use of these expressions would have been more prevalent in say a person who is today around 80 years old.

        Martin’s use of “away from Mother” as analogy offers many insights. Curiously, it is those who were boarded at say age 5 or 7 who would have a strong awareness and use of it. It would normally indicate a formal admirable formative presence, or even place, they essentially crave but is not/ was not around.

        Same in a sense for the “Hmmm….yes.” I have heard this particular usage most frequently by the set of person, where the degree of toning out of the Maltese accent is normally stronger. This particular set would have boarded at St Edwards, or with few exceptions at St Aloysius. The likelihood of a younger man boarding at St Aloysius would have been less probable than him having boarded at St Edwards.

        Martin’s strong underlying Maltese accent is retained, and not toned out.

        I agree entirely with Daphne. This – the interpretation – is all about social set not school.

        To me Martin is infinitely sad, with acquired wisdoms. A person of this social set would rarely expose his innermost feelings but would be trained to entertain discussion at a marked safe distance from the core.

        To Donal directly I would say: the tougher a particular type of Maltese woman appears, the more she cares. She probably understands this social set far better than a Times of Malta journalist would. After the interview the unanswered question that lingered in my mind was: How long has it been since he lived in a home environment of his own?

      • Bubu says:

        A.P. Gambina, Daphne is completely right in this. I’m not tal-Pepe’ and I hven’t been brought up in that enironment, but my formative years I’ve spent in Sliema schools (St. Benhild’s and Stella Maris) so I’m reasonably familiar with the accents albeit mostly not of that generation, and I can usually tell apart a genuine “tal-pepe'” and a “new Slimiz”, for example.

        To complete “outsiders” it may sound like just another British accent, but even though I do not speak the accent, I also recognized immediately that this man’s roots were Maltese. I did not make the connection to St. Edward’s, but his Maltese accent, while modified from years of living abroad is quite unmistakable.

        [Daphne – Thanks for that, Bubu. But the point is that his accent has not been modified at all by years of living away. It is perfectly intact. And that tells me that he hasn’t been away for as long as we assume. Also, I now think that he is around a generation younger than 60 – that reference to communications, the timbre of his voice, and most of all, that in the Mother Theresa bit, he says “When I was a baby, like“. The like is swallowed up, but it’s there.]

      • A.P.Gambina says:

        Of course she’s right. Those are accents associated to certain local folk. However, I’ve come across several persons, outside Malta, not Maltese, who spoke with similar accents and intonations. God bless them all.

        [Daphne – Do please stop labouring your point. Local folk? God bless them all? What on earth are you on about? The way you write is an indicator of the way you speak, which in turn is an indicator of the fact that you haven’t a clue about any of this. Let it drop, for heaven’s sake. People recognise their own accent, you know, with the familiarity with which they recognise their own mother.]

      • Bubu says:

        Daphne, as I said I’m not a native speaker of the accent, so I defer to your better judgement regarding the foreign influence on his way of speaking.

        [Daphne – That is what is most striking, actually. That despite his claim that he has been away for years there is absolutely no influence on his accent. None whatsoever.]

      • Catherine says:

        I thought there was some Irish there. Maybe that is me picking up what I am familiar with from my background. Anyway this is all pretty sad really.

        I can’t understand how nobody recognises the accent you’re speaking of. I’m 30 and definitely not of that background and I know what you’re going on about. It’s an accent I’d noticed before and asked about.

        [Daphne – Plenty of people have recognised it, Catherine, with precisely my own shock of recognition. Not just the accent, but the actual intonation and inflection, the whole voice. My friends, associates, old neighbours, people from my growing-up years: they have emailed me privately and are using their networks to try and work out who he is. There is also a huge amount of discussion going on on Facebook.

        You’re working here with a bookie’s odds. If that accent belongs to 1-2% of the population, then it is going to seem that ‘nobody’ recognises it, while in fact all those within that 1-2% group will have done so and communicated the fact to each other.]

      • Catherine says:

        Sorry, I meant so many people on here don’t recognise it. Anyway, I hope there can be a happy resolution for Martin.

      • Dom says:

        I agree with Catherine here, I can definitely pick out Irish inflections here and there – ‘tink’ and the way he says ‘commyounicaition’ with a stress on the second syllable.

        Which probably indicates he has been in Ireland for some time.

        I would have never picked out his Maltese background unless you mentioned it, and yes I think you are right about his origins now you have placed it. And yes I have come across a few people with exactly the same accent as his. And to link to your next post, I think his manners are more of definitive indication of his background.

        It’s hard to come across in Malta, given that I sometimes feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand you have the manners and mores of the unevolved medieval peasants, and on the other you have the snide, appalling manners of the pepe arrivistes who are defined by their acquisitions, and their connections, think nothing of giving you their back in a group conversation, make no effort to introduce you to people you may not know, make no effort to bring you up to speed on an ongoing conversation so you may perhaps join in. I have had daily exposure to it for years on the dreaded school run. Better stop there in case I sound like Anthony Pace.

        [Daphne – You have left out the 2%. In any ostensibly ‘tal-pepe’ gathering, where you can’t distinguish between one sort and the other on any basis you can think of, watch the manners. The 2% will do all the things you quite accurately describe the people you generally encounter as failing to do. I too find the behaviour you describe to be appalling, and avoiding it is one of the reasons I no longer socialise as much as I used to do. One reaches the end of one’s tether, I suppose.]

      • Dom says:


        Your 2% are as rare as hen’s teeth and very easy to miss. And since my background is most certainly not from that 2%, then it’s purely by chance that I come across any member of that group.

        The place is overrun with the other sort, unfortunately. And the accent is more braying and affected. It’s usually terrible English in any case.

        You couldn’t even make a case for a breakaway variety of English.

        Poor Martin has perfect English, and it’s nice quiet English, if you know what I mean. I wouldn’t mind talking to him for a few hours, but I always feel the need to come up for air or a stiff drink with the other sort.

        Anyhow, I hope your network gets together and you manage to identify him and get him the help he obviously needs.

      • Bubu says:

        “That is what is most striking, actually. That despite his claim that he has been away for years there is absolutely no influence on his accent. None whatsoever.”

        I’m acually not completely surprised by that, Daphne. I noticed that Maltese expatriates who emigrate when they possess a reasonable education and already speak and write English are influenced a lot less in their manner of speaking by the accent of wherever they have settled, even if they’ve lived there for decades.

        On the contrary, those who emigrated, say, to Australia, not knowing a word of English and having very little formal education quickly seem to acquire a pronounced accent which becomes so ingrained that it goes so far as to heavily affect their Maltese.

        I don’t know if this is a universal phenomenon, but it would seem to me to be likely a result of learning the new language completely phonetically with little reference to the written form.

    • jacques balzan demajo says:

      I definitely agree with you, Daphne. I hope he gets the help he needs so badly. Winter in Dublin outdoors!

      [Daphne – Jacques, please talk to people about it, because it might trigger a memory. You know those situations where everyone is sitting around reminiscing and then somebody says, ‘I wonder what became of X’ and everyone falls quiet because it suddenly occurs to them that nobody knows.]

    • bryan sullivan says:

      easy, Daphne, easy!

      [Daphne – Hallini, Bryan, it requires the patience of a saint to deal with the constant, relentless sniping of idiots and fools who are so laden with chips that it’s a wonder they can walk. There’s always somebody around who thinks there must be an alternative explanation to the obvious because if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck then it must be the prime minister and god forbid you should say that it is in fact a duck. And quite frankly, all this bitching…what ARE these people on about? Here you have a man on his uppers, on the streets, freezing in winter, eating off hand-outs, who clearly once lived among us, who must be known to somebody here in Malta, and all they want to do is kvetch about how I can’t possibly be right about his accent – because they really are the experts on how people they don’t know speak. Typical Maltese arrogant stupidity, that manifests itself whatever the issue might be.]

      • Neil says:

        Tyrell has copied and pasted his expect comments on both The Times and The Independent, stating that he doesn’t recognise the chap’s accent as Maltese. Well he’d know, coming from Co. Antrim.

        I’m positive he just saw your named referenced in the article Daphne, and immediately auto-switched to contrary mode.

      • Neil says:

        *expert. Apologies.

  44. I would appreciate that if anyone here is Maltese and living in Ireland to please not go rushing into the city to hunt Martin down.
    Too much attention may well freak him out and he could move on to a location where it may be difficult to find him.
    I have asked the Times to contact the Maltese Embassy here and to call me. I will then help them with whatever they deem appropriate.


    • Meath says:

      Donal, it would be nice to know where he is. If he is Maltese (and I’m not too sure he is) a bit of help from the Maltese community here in Ireland would surely be welcomed by him. It’s not hunting – its generosity, a virtue we are brought up with.

      [Daphne – He’s Maltese, Meath, unless there are people around who are in the habit of assuming the speaking voice of 1% of the population of a small Mediterranean island, just for kicks. Contradicting somebody about their own home accent is defiantly arrogant. Who is more likely to know – they or you? I feel like going out tomorrow with a recorder and telling my old friends and neighbours to speak into it so that I can play it back at you all and perhaps you’ll just stop the chat. What stuns me, really, is the accent and intonation I and so many others take for granted as normal is completely alien to the rest of the population who don’t even recognise it as Maltese, still less are able to pinpoint its origins. Was there really such great separation between different social groups that the accent of one group is completely unknown to the rest? It’s incredible. But as for the rest of it, you’re right.]

  45. Dumbo says:

    Daph, by any chance do you remember a Martin DeGiorgio? Going back to those times of Fortizza. Just a vague gut feeling.

    [Daphne – The only Martin DeGiorgio I know of is the one who runs Mondial travel and used to run the Azzjoni Nazzjonali or whatever it was called.]

  46. jackie says:

    Try asking Michael, Daphne, seems like from his circle and time.

  47. maverick says:


    “I can’t imagine myself lecturing or contradicting an East Londoner about the identification of an East London accent”

    This phrase of Daphne’s says it all.

    People, if you do not have anything better to do just net to the boring cheap Maltese news web portals and have fun there. The latest news there is very exciting.

    I cannot speak or argue about that 1% accent, but the way he speaks, at least for me, he is absolutely Maltese.

    [Daphne – Thank you. But I feel consoled by the fact that the Irish equivalent of these Maltese quibblers are just the same. Look at the way they are flocking beneath Donal Moloney’s piece on The Broadsheet, absolutely indifferent to the tramp and his plight, and all of them fighting over whether Moloney should have asked for permission before or after the interview or before or after the photograph, and when he gave him his coffee & c & c. People are just so weird.]

    • maverick says:


      Yes very true, but the difference from Moloney’s piece-followers to yours is quite dissimilar, for beneath Moloney’s there is no political or other stupid intentions, just weird people trying to kill their boring time or life, call it as you like.

  48. Elizabeth says:

    Martin mentioned working in a shop called Sloan’s of Parliament Street. This shop did indeed exist and was on the corner of Parliament Street and Lord Edward Street in Dublin.

    I remember this shop in the 50s or early 60s, not too sure when it closed down.

  49. tinnat says:

    I agree he sounds very Maltese. If the Maltese connection fails to bear fruit, consider that he may be Gibraltarian. Some Gibraltarians talk English with an accent which sounds very much like this particular Sliema accent.

  50. La Redoute says:

    The interviewer called the accent English. It isn’t English at all. It’s what non tal-pepe people (who were around tal-pepe people to be familiar enough with the accent) would have called an accent (c bit-tikka) tal-Union Club.

    People have lost sight of what a tal-pepe accent is because anyone who lives in Sliema now calls themselves a Slimiz/a, so the real Slimizi tal-pepe are now a scattered demographic, and no longer a tribal social group living in close proximity. But they still all know each other.

  51. Kelinu says:

    Not sure if this story is about identifying Martin or Daphne.

    [Daphne – Please leave your chips at the door when you enter this space. They reflect poorly on you, not me, and make you sound bitter.]

  52. Elizabeth says:

    Whitehall is where Martin says he studied. Whitehall is an area on the north side of Dublin where there are private colleges since circa 1967.

  53. Conservative says:

    Definitely Maltese, can’t say where he was educated, but he doesn’t say “ay” (which is so annoying). The “tank you” rather than “thank” and the “oh-right” rather than “all right” is also very indicative of Maltese well-educated speech.

    I have often been in Gibraltar on business and there are around 20% of Gibraltarians descended from Maltese people. Curiously enough their English has a Maltese-tinged accent much like this chap.

    Tramps and homeless people make me so incredibly sad. Often it’s a tragic one-time event that gets them onto the streets and they don’t have the impetus to get the help they need because a “direct offer” isn’t made to them.

    Thank you for fishing this out. Best of luck to Martin.

  54. David Galea says:

    Daphne, another angle that might be worth looking at is if in his next conversation, maybe Donal can find out if his affinity with pigeons is new, or whether he liked them as a boy.

    If the latter is true you may find a lead through the pigeon fanciers of that era. If I’m not mistaken, back then it was quite an elitist hobby.

    I’m certain you’re right about his accent, while not a Slimiz myself, I had many friends who were in or close to this circle, and even though a decade or two younger, it is still a very distinctive accent.

    Ten points for the initiative. Nice to see blogs like this leaving the politics behind and being used for common good once in a while :p

    [Daphne – Pigeon-fancying was never elitist, but pigeons in public were part of our lives in that generation, as was Mr ‘Feed-Da-Burrrds’. We grew up feeding them in public areas, with handfuls of corn bought from the man with the basket. It was considered normal. They were not the rats of the skies back then.]

    • David Galea says:

      It was just a thought, as I assumed that back then only the wealthier families had pigeon fanciers who could afford to spend on the racing pigeons, unlike today where there are many more people who can afford (or sometimes can’t but do anyway) to spend thousands on racing and breeding pigeons.

      I wasn’t aware that pigeons were more common in public back then. You learn something new every day.

      • Feed the bird says:

        ‘Feed the birds’ man was a fixture in Queen’s square in Valletta in the 1970s. No trip to Valletta was complete without a visit to the square to buy a handful of feed for the pigeons.

      • Tabatha White says:

        In Japan and in Kuwait pigeon-fanciers were/are frowned upon. Though each culture is quite different, the classic pre-nuptial process will check seven generations back to ensure that families did not include pigeon-fanciers.

        Pigeons were thought to carry disease.

      • Yanika says:

        Well, pigeons do carry diseases with them, and they predispose to lung fibrosis too, so they are not exactly the healthiest or safest pets one can have.

      • La Redoute says:

        X’ghandu x’jaqsam?

  55. Kevin says:

    Here’s a note to some of the people visiting this page, particularly those coming here to denigrate that cross-section of Maltese society which is characterised by just this accent and a very particular socio-economic background.

    Please do set your pettiness aside and, instead, tune yourself to the tragic nature of this story.

    Daphne flagged this story for its humanitarian dimension and because Martin is clearly Maltese. He may actually be someone who you know. An old acquaintance, perhaps, someone with whom we shared some memory.

    Martin is vaguely familiar to me and I cannot stop thinking about his eyes and the way his cheeks are set.

    It seems to me that Martin is sad but has managed to maintain his humour despite whatever hardship he’s faced in life. His face shows deep laugh lines and the conversation struck up with Donal shows him to be a charming man with subtle, slightly mocking wit.

    For all we know, Martin’s family may be worried sick and this story might serve to heal some severe rifts. If this person is as resigned to his lot in life as seems to be the case, then this article might usher in hope and healing for him and his family.

    So quit the ‘tal-pepe’ insults and disparagement, please. We all have a background and we all need to accept that background as being formative to what we have become.

    Show respect to those people who are trying to do something and to Martin who, despite his background, appears alienated from society.

  56. Gaetano Pace says:

    I have had the occasion to be on courses in Yorkshire where Englishmen from all over Britain attended to study.

    I also travelled to and from England for six years repeatedly. I heard Jordies, Cockneys, Yorkshiremen and practically all accents and inflections one could hear at one gathering. None of them sounded like Martin`s. I have no trace of doubt that Martin IS Maltese, and that by his accent alone.

  57. rupert19 says:

    Kristina Chetcuti wrote that “the homeless man has what sounds like a Maltese accent of the English-speaking variety.” The Times is fast becoming a Maltese newspaper of “the non-English speaking variety.”

  58. claire says:

    This is a very interesting article.

    I also enjoyed reading about the different accents among various Maltese groups when speaking English. Honestly it has never crossed my mind that accents could vary from group to group although it is very obvious that the English spoken in the private schools is not the same English spoken in the state schools for example.

    Not to mention the different cultural levels of each and every family in Malta.

    I know people who come from humble families with a low educational and cultural background and who frequented the most famous private schools in Malta and still they haven’t picked the accent of the school they frequented. At home they wouldn’t pronounce one single word in English. That’s why I think that all depends on the family background.

  59. Sophie says:

    One thing he said was that his mother was from Dallas, Texas.

    [Daphne – What he said was that he was born there. What followed was a brush-off.]

    • ken il malti says:

      Martin sounds like a wandering Maltese misfit in the grips of untreated mental illness and all that goes with that.

  60. Eric Soames says:

    I do not like posting too many comments on a topic as I find this usually leads to wandering off subject but I did want to pick up on the point DS made regarding schizophrenia, or bipolarity, and immigrants.

    It’s not the emigrating but the wandering away from care givers that leads to a decline. I’m reminded of the story of a homeless person living in a makeshift shelter outside a town in New England. He was ‘adopted’ by the townspeople as to basic needs and casual jobs here and there but authorities can only force medication/treatment if the person is perceived to be a danger to himself or others.

    After his [lonely] death information was found identifying him as a former college professor who had wandered away from home and family. Obviously emigrating usually takes you away from family and support circle. The average age of onset of schizophrenia is 18 in men and 25 for women so it’s likely that some one known to be bipolar would have been treated and only later does the stop-start pattern emerge. Not sure how this applies to ‘Martin’ but could help determining a sequence of events.

  61. David says:

    I once read (I think in Rajt Malta Tinbidel) that in Sliema Italian was the language spoken before World War II. After the war, English took the place of Italian.

    [Daphne – You were seriously misinformed.]

    • albona says:

      It was definitely widely spoken in Valletta, Floriana and the three-cities by the upper classes. Sliema, being the summerhouse getaway may have had Italian-speaking families having a house there. As far as I know, Sliema originally grew out of the transfer of the upper-classes from the aforementioned towns to their summer houses to escape the effects of the war. These same towns were hardly worth returning to after the war.

  62. cikki says:

    @ Albona – Balluta and Lazy Corner grouped together? I don’t think so..

    • albona says:

      No, what I wanted was for people to fill us in on how they were considered, not lumping them all together. My apologies if I was not specific enough there.

  63. cikki says:

    @ Albona Balluta was built before Sliema so it can’t be a backwater

    • albona says:

      I see the mention I made of Balluta has hit a nerve. It was not my intention.

      I was just asking for people to fill us in.

      You could still add your comments on how Balluta rated other parts of town for example. Very often, whether one belongs to one area or another is a social construct. The purists still say, as Daphne more or less hinted earlier, anything below it-torri is St Julian’s. Most people I know do. To others it would be anathema to say such a thing.

  64. Mark Micallef says:

    I am 57, from Sliema and was at St Edward’s until 1972. This Martin was definitely not in my class and I doubt very much that he was there at all as we knew our seniors well – unless he is younger.

  65. Jane says:

    I was at De La Salle sixth form between 1975 and 1977. There was a group of boys from St Edward’s. About 1980 an ex-classmate and I were chatting and she said, “By the way, do you remember so and so? He went off to …… to preach about Jesus.”

    I can’t remember the guy’s name or where she said he went. He was most probably from Sliema; the whole group were. I found it odd that he should do this as he looked more like a hippie than a preacher type.

    He was quite handsome, tall with a pale complexion, shoulder length black hair, curly but not the afro type. I’m mentioning him as Martin said he actually knew Mother Teresa and there may be a connection.

  66. Walker says:

    I am 58 from Sliema and was at St. Edward’s but I don’t seem to recognize him as someone in a higher class than me. But his accent is definitely of an Edwardian.

  67. Kira says:

    He might be mentally unstable but he is happy, so why try to change his situation and get him to Malta. I think everyone should let him be. After all we live with the aim of being happy and he’s achieved it.

    [Daphne – That’s resignation, not happiness. Learn the difference. Have you ever seen/heard an old person on his/her deathbed, going over their life while being resigned to death? That’s what you’ve got right there.]

  68. Greenhouse says:

    I find it particularly narrow-minded that you are convinced that this man could only be from your Anglo-Maltese 1%. This man could just as easily come from any travelling British colonial or Foreign Office family and attended a private English public school in England or abroad.

    Besides the slight Irish lilt that he has attained, the subtleties, nuances and intonations of this accent seems particularly familiar to me as it does to you. I highly doubt that this man is Maltese and would bank on it. What’s more, i would agree that this man seems resigned to his lifestyle to the point that he is contented with it, but to brandish him as being mentally ill and schizophrenic is particularly premature and unfair based on the 7 minute recording that you have heard.

    [Daphne – What is it about this business that you people just don’t get? I am not an outsider hazarding a guess at somebody else’s accent. I am somebody who has instantly recognised my OWN accent and that of an extended network of familiars. It’s like recognising a face. When you recognise a familiar – your own sister, for example – you do so beyond doubt. And you get extremely annoyed with total strangers to your family who come along and say, ‘You know, you might be wrong. That’s not necessarily your sister. It might be just somebody who looks like her’.

    You have no idea of the identity of some of the people commenting here. And even where they have used their real names, you haven’t a clue who they are. But I do. And know this: everyone, but everyone, from the neighbourhood in which I was raised, which was practically socio-culturally homogenous, has recognised that intonation and accent beyond doubt. You know why? WE GREW UP WITH IT AND LIVED WITH IT ALL OUR LIVES. And you and all these others who are speculating did not. So who is better placed to be the judge of that? WE ARE.

    You have a situation here which is unequivocal. Everybody from that 1% of the population who has heard that man speak has instantly recognised him as ‘one of us’. Everybody else is busy doubting and speculating. So who is right? Go on, answer that.]

  69. Kira says:

    I know the difference but I dont see what you see. He sounds happy. He probably had it all before he was homeless and felt unhappy. Im not saying its normal to be content when being in his situation but he is, so who are we to judge how and when ppl can be happy.

    [Daphne: ‘Who are we to judge how and when ppl can be happy’: a good start is warmth, comfort, regular food, a roof over your head in bitter weather, and medical treatment, Kira. Without those, it is impossible to be happy, whatever the conscience-salvers say. Give vagrants a choice between their own room and the street, and they’ll take the room. But give them a choice between a crowded shelter and the street, and quite frankly, I’d take the street too.]

    • Kira says:

      you’ll be surprised how many ppl dont need the above to be happy. Maybe not so much in Malta, I only know 2 ppl in Malta that chose to be homeless as it made them happier. Granted the weather conditions are different here but at the end of the day everyone thinks differently. I personally wouldnt be happy without food water and shelter but I dont know this person so I can only go on what he said and how he said it. Saying ‘its impossible to be happy without warmth, comfort, regular food, a roof over your head in bitter weather, and medical treatment’, its def untrue but ur entitled to your opinion Daphne.

      [Daphne – Thank you for letting me know that I am entitled to my opinion. Like many others of your educational level who write in SMS language, you confuse the right to express an opinion (which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights) with the right to have one. Rights do not enter into the latter as there is no government which has yet invented a device for seeing what opinions you hold before you express them. And please forgive me for saying that your view of life is far too simplistic.]

      • Kira says:

        ‘your educational level’ haha, i am very much capable of writing and also have diplomas and other qualifications. Once again you judge with no proof. The reason as to why I write this way is because its quicker, not because of my educational standards, hoping someone with your level of education understands. With regards to being simplistic, I far from it. You are the one assuming he is not happy after he clearly said he was, because u have a dictionary that explains happiness and what it consists of. Guess what happiness can mean many different things to many people, it is unique to every individual. There is no set rule as to what triggers happiness that can be generalised. It is far more complicated than what you invision it to be. I suggest you spend some time with these people before you comment in such a manner.

        [Daphne – Exactly how is it quicker to write that way, Kira? Because in the time you save writing ppl instead of people you can go and make yourself a nice cup of tea, perhaps? ‘You judge with no proof’ – on the contrary, I have plenty of proof right here before me. ‘I suggest you spend some time with these people before you comment in such a manner’. There are no such people in Malta, Kira, which is just my point. When offered a space in a shelter, they take it. And that is why we do not pick our way over prone bodies on the pavement at night, as happens elsewhere, even though the weather in Malta is milder and should make living outdoors as a lifestyle choice even more popular and fun, resulting in many happy tramps.]

  70. Greenhouse says:

    So what you are effectively saying is that without doubt you are 100% certain that you identify yourself with a homeless tramp. Sorry, a cheap shot but I couldn’t resist.

    [Daphne – Not cheap, Greenhouse, just ignorant. And that is why you haven’t noticed the man’s graceful manners, the fact that he can carry on a polite conversation even while avoiding questions, and the other fact that he has the linguistic skills of the properly educated. Or perhaps you have had several conversations with tramps who discuss books by saying “it’s all very subjective, really”. Your average person wouldn’t even know the word, let alone understand the entire concept it embraces.]

    In all seriousness, despite this man’s origins, I can not see the value of this exercise, it is particularly voyeuristic and unfair on this poor man, who most likely wants to be left alone that he is being commented about en-masse, online and has become some sort of local or international internet meme, as well as a rather perverse type of guessing game for the enjoyment and fascination of others.

    [Daphne – The fact that some people might view this as a sort of fiction or entertainment, Greenhouse, does not mean other people’s motives are not those of real concern. I do not subscribe to the theory of minding one’s own business when others are clearly in trouble. That is exactly the attitude that, for generations, led to a lot of suffering and abuse going undiscovered and unresolved because those who suspected there was something bad going on just closed their eyes to it and said they should not interfere. But I do agree with you that unnecessary prying is out of order. In fact, there are several leads to this man’s identity which are being looked at, and they are not being looked at in public, but with total discretion.]

    It seems to me vastly unfair on this man, and something that could easily get out of control and disrupt the way of life that he appears to have chosen. Whatever the origins of this man are, whether he requires this singled-out international aid and mental help or not, it seems frankly to be of no concern as a guessing game to the voyeuristic internet masses.

    [Daphne – It’s unlikely to get out of control. The only people who are interested, with the exception of Mr Moloney, are in Malta, not Dublin. And how you can have concluded that anyone actively chooses to freeze in a bag under a railway station and live on random food hand-outs is beyond me. The widespread poverty of insight into human nature and situations, despite all the advantages we have in acquiring that insight, never fails to astonish me. If you don’t want to freeze under a railway bridge, rest assured that nobody else does, either. This is not a liking for football or travel that we are talking about, but two of the human fundamentals: food and shelter.]

  71. Xifajk says:

    Re Kira, “I far from it”

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