The Malta Independent 20 June 2019, Thursday

Għaxaq Tower Becomes council’s responsibility

Malta Independent Friday, 5 August 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

The Semaphore Tower at Għaxaq has been transferred to the local council in a ceremony where parliamentary secretary Jason Azzopardi told those present that the historical heritage of each locality gave an identity to the residents, which made that heritage important.

The devolution ceremony was the sixth this year. It included a presentation by Mario Rizzo Naudi who said the tower was for a time highly important for the defence of the islands. The semaphore Tower was built in a tradition that goes back to the times of the Knights of St John, who built towers mostly under Grand Masters Garzes, Alof de Wignacourt, Lascaris and De Redin.

Dr Rizzo Naudi said the tower was built under the British in 1848 with others in Għargħur and Nadur, Gozo. It was built at the highest point in Għaxaq and from its roof one can see Birżebbugia and Marsaxlokk bays in the south, and Mdina to the north.

It has been passed to Għaxaq council at the low rent of €250 a year and the parliamentary secretary hoped restoration works on it would not be long in starting.

According to historical notes by Dr Rizzo Naudi, the communications system used by the Semaphore Tower and others like it resembled the Morse code and had to be conducted by visible contact, which meant that even the enemy could see messages being exchanged. The system was created by Frenchman Claude Chappe. It was used also by the emperor Napoleon in his wars.

The equipment needed was a 12-foot pole which had three flexible blades fixed to it. Each blade could make only nine movements and a combination of the movements represented the alphabet or numbers. The towers themselves were made up of three rooms one on top of the other, with a spiral staircase leading to the roof.

In time the British started using flags to send messages by the Flag semaphore system.

The Crimean War of 1854-6 saw the use of the telegraph and the commander of the forces in Malta started considering using the Morse Code. The towers were closed for good in 1883, with the Nadur, Gozo tower being the last in use.

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