Parlatoria at Malta

Parlatoria at Malta

James’ illustration of ‘Parlatoria : Landing Place and Palings’

Monday 1st February – weather variable. Wind favourable but changeable. At 9 saw the island of Gozo bearing SE, distance 20 miles.  At 3.30 we entered Malta Harbour, and took up our station at the same buoy as last year. At first we did not see any Quarantine Boat and I began to entertain hopes that the regulations of last year had been annulled. But alas just as the Captain had ordered a gun to be fired, the hateful boat was descried advancing with all speed, and in a short time longer she came alongside. The Quarantine Master asked several questions, and after letting us know that we were still to be subject to Quarantine, he left us and almost immediately afterwards, M.r Geach, as the captain was confined, by the Gout, went to the Parlatorio with the Mails. I accompanied M.r Geach and this had an opportunity of seeing more than I had yet seen of Malta. I was extremely pleased with every thing I saw – with the picturesque houses – with the gay gondolas, passing and repassing like arrows – with the odd dresses and uncouth gibberish of the Maltese. After having rowed past nearly the whole of the city – we reached the Parlatorio, which I found to be a small building, with an access or landing place from the sea for those who came there while actually under Quarantine, and another – from the town for persons who were desirous to converse with friends placed in the said predicament of being considered suspect. A considerable space intervened between these two very different descriptions of persons – so as to preclude all risk of infection or contagion. For first of all a strong wooden railing traversed the whole of the building, a few yards from the landing places, and beyond thus we could not go. On the inner side of this again, with about a yard or two of distance between was a second and similar paling beyond which were the people from the Town.

If you wanted to purchase anything, one of the guardians, who stood in the intermediate space took the article required and placed it on a support in the centre of the 1st paling and there leaving it retired to a distance, while you were then to approach slowly and remove it into your own possession. When again you wished to make your payment, you first deposited the money in a box, which had been fumigated and then the Guardians conveyed it to the seller. Should however you find the goods you have bought to be very inferior to what you had been told they were you have no remedy for it but to be content as it is utterly impossible that it can be taken back, without subjecting the taker to Quarantine, as well as yourself.

While we were engaged in looking about us, we had an opportunity of seeing how they act with regard to the letters. First of all one man, who was to go into Quarantine with us, took the Mail and delivered the several parcels to another person, who received them with a pair of tongs and dropped them severally into a box in which had been burnt brimstone & some other fumigatories. After being well fumigated the letters were next carried into an inner apartment and there arranged for delivery. If there happened to be any parcel with brown paper, they opened it at once and in order to allow the smoke to pervade the contents thoroughly.

As soon as our Mail had been fully overhauled, we returned to our vessel and spent the evening very pleasantly in the society of our passengers, who had been asked by the Captain to spend such time of their Quarantine on board, as we were allowed to remain in harbour, instead of going at once to the Lazaretto, where there existed a lamentable lack of conveniences and comforts.

Tuesday 2nd February – this day we had fine pleasant W.r All hands were busy in preparing the various parcels, packages and trunks for conveyance to the Lazaretto, where they must remain till the expiration of five days from the date of our arrival. As I myself did not go on shore, and observed nothing new to be mentioned, I think I cannot do better than introduce to your notice our three passengers, Captain Ferguson, the Earl of Rothes and the Reverend Joseph Marshall.