The Malta Independent 26 March 2019, Tuesday

Carmelo Parascandalo of Vittoriosa and Fgura Parish

Monday, 11 July 2016, 13:20 Last update: about 4 years ago

Lorenzo Zahra


Carmelo Parascandalo, better known as 'is-Sur Karm', lived for many years in Fgura and contributed greatly to Fgura's parochial life. Like so many Fgura residents of the past generation, his roots were in Cottonera. Is-Sur Karm was a Vittoriosan whose name will evoke the city that, from time immemorial, has given birth to sons that honoured and upheld its name. This prompted us to find out more about him so that his name will forever be remembered.

Is-Sur Karm was born in Vittoriosa in 1920 in his family home in an alley known as iz-Zenqa in Santa Skolastika Street. His father Cornelio was a Custom's Port Pilot who died young, aged 33, from the Spanish Flu. His mother Maria née Scicluna, was also from Vittoriosa. Is-Sur Karm was only eight years old when he lost his father and at a very young age he befriended a boy, who was about his age and a neighbour, and who is now Cardinal Prospero Grech.

He attended Birgu government school and eventually sat for and passed the English Naval Dockyard School examination, obtaining an apprenticeship at the Naval Establishment in 1936, at the age of 16. Following a student/worker course, he qualified as a draughtsman but he continued his studies and followed a correspondence course on Hydrography with Bennett College in England and successfully graduated. Before long, he was appointed Port Supervisor with the British Admiralty.

During the war, the family was evacuated to Hal Balzan and is-Sur Karm married Maria Caruana, also born in Vittoriosa. Her mother, née Poggi, was born in Alexandria but moved to Malta with her family when she was 23 and lived at 32, Triq il-Majjistral.

After the war, the family returned to Vittoriosa where they had five children: Mary Rose, Lawrence, Ninette, Josette and Anna. He himself designed and supervised the building of the new family house at 20, Triq il-Kwartier, Vittoriosa.

While with the Admiralty, he carved out a brilliant career as a Port Hydrographer and retained his position until the British Services' rundown began in the 1960s and 70s. However, his technical knowhow was indispensable and the government needed his services. Then Prime Minister Dom Mintoff offered him a contract with the government's Port Department on condition that he trained another person to succeed him before he retired. In his capacity as a Public Service official he took part in projects related to developments in Grand Harbour, particularly in the dredging and construction of the New Quay at Ta' Pinto, in Marsa. It was not unusual to be called by high authorities for consultation at all awkward hours. When he retired, Alfred Xuereb replaced him.

Privately, is-Sur Karm, in his capacity as draughtsman, carried on doing architectural and design work. Being an honest gentleman, many a time he refused payment for his work. He was involved in a number of public building works - the most notable being the Mellieha Bay Hotel.

In Vittoriosa, is-Sur Karm helped unstintingly in the restoration and maintenance of the church of San Lawrenz, following the damage it sustained during the war. He also contributed to the restoration of the San Lawrenz cemetery, as well as the planning of the graves and the design of the chapel. For a considerable time during the life of Dean Can. Giuseppe Glivau he did surveying work on properties belonging to the Collegiate of San Lawrenz.

In 1971, is-Sur Karm moved to Fgura, a locality that was fast developing into a new township outside the Cottonera bastions. Even here, he himself designed the new house for his family. In Fgura, he offered his services to the church that had become a parish in 1965. The Carmelite fraternity had long felt the increasing need for a church to adequately cater for the need of the parishioners. Much preparation had been done and construction work commenced in 1976, but the plans prepared by Architect Victor Muscat Inglott, with the help of Carmelo Parascandalo, had to be shelved for many years as a result of different circumstances and lack of funds.

When Father Guido Micallef O.Carm became parish priest, he was approached by Mr Bilocca and Mr Parascandalo, who encouraged him and offered their assistance to realise the dream of a new church. The parish priest received the full approval of his fellow brothers. Mr Bilocca and is-Sur Karm worked incessantly and, in no time, the necessary permits were obtained from PAPB for the construction of the church. A campaign for the collection of donations was headed by Mrs Lilian Plumpton and other benefactors. The architectural firm of Godfrey Azzopardi and Associates was engaged and, in turn, Architect Lewis Busuttil, who was an expert in reinforced concrete, was tasked with the church's construction because the church was to be built entirely of concrete. Finally, work could continue on the beautiful and modern temple dedicated to the Madonna Fjur tal-Karmelu. The new church was completed and consecrated in 1990 by Archbishop Giuseppe Mercieca and today it is scheduled by Mepa as a Grade 1 building.

Is-Sur Karm was of great assistance during the construction period. He also helped find a way to create an extension bridging the church to one side of it. He wisely used a plot of available land for planning a Pastoral Centre and supervised all the work meticulously and with great interest. The beautiful marble used in the presbytery to complement the original church model was imported in 1989. It was thanks to Sur Karm that the marble was laid with great precision.

Every cubic metre of concrete used in the church construction, every piece of marble, every stone and every pane of glass bears the hallmark of Sur Karm. This was said by parish priest Fr Kilian Azzopardi O.Carm to a large crowd of parishioners who attended his funeral.

Carm Parascandalo worked with great enthusiasm for the Fgura parish for 22 years, never for personal gain but for the sheer love he had for the Madonna tal-Karmelu, whose name he bore. On the return of the statue of the Madonna titular, following the gold gilding, Fr Kilian stated that the name of is-Sur Karm will forever be remembered in the history of the Marian Temple, alongside that of Ġuzi Gauci, another son of the city of Vittoriosa who embellished the statue with a beautifully artistic bradella.

As a citizen of Vittoriosa, is-Sur Karm was such a great devotee of St Lawrence that the Lord called him to join him in Heaven on the feast of St Lawrence in 1997.

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