The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

Appreciation: Carmel Apap Bologna

Sunday, 26 September 2021, 08:57 Last update: about 3 months ago

Baron Carmel Apap Bologna Sceberras D’Amico Inguanez was a teacher to many who encountered him without possibly ever intending to do so. He did so by being true to his upbringing, through his practice of medicine (Orthopaedic surgery, for he belonged to that generation where medicine was a vocation rather than a career), his philanthropy and his judicious and wise advice to many. He was a prime example of the Socratic adage “An unexamined life is not worth living”, for he examined life from many an angle, as well as ameliorating the lives of others through his Hippocratic Oath.

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Born in 1939 at the cusp of the Second World War, he lost his mother at a young age, a trauma for any child that, in his case, had two effects: his solicitous care for his younger sister, Marlene, and his passion for collecting. The emotional loss of the irreplaceable mother often manifests itself in a desire to recapture some emotional certainty. In his case it may have been books: thousands of them, that he devoured voraciously and remembered keenly, for they were perhaps an attempt to recover a long-lost voice across time.

The doyen of the local aristocracy, he also descended from a family line of professionals. His father studied naval engineering in Britain. Carmel studied medicine in Malta, proceeding also to Britain (Slough, Windsor, Ascot, Harrow, Wembley, and Dundee) to specialise in orthopaedic surgery. He thoroughly enjoyed his time in 1960s Britain, from whence came his English grandmother (who also died young), and from whom he probably inherited his cerulean blue eyes. As a young man he had the good looks and easy bearing of a Cary Grant, and in 1962 he married his sweetheart to the end, the vivacious, silvery and stunning Ann Cassar Torreggiani with whom he had four children, Francesco, Kristina, James and Stephanie.

On his return to Malta, he threw himself into his work at St Luke’s, obliged to work long hours as he was, for a while, one of the few orthopaedic surgeons, a branch that requires meticulous attention and much physical exertion while standing. This probably contributed to his back problems later in life. And like many medics of his generation, his handwriting was frustratingly undecipherable, a challenge to its recipients that contrasted with his directed and clarifying intellect.

Carmel was heavily embedded in local culture. In his family tradition he acted as honorary patron of the L’Isle Adam Band Club in nearby Rabat. He was an avid collector of Melitensia and an unostentatious benefactor of many local charities. One of his enduring contributions was to vitalize the Maltese Committee of Privileges. For him, any “privilege” meant an obligation to serve and assist others. As president of the Committee, he had the foresight to guide it towards membership of CILANE (Commission d’information et de liaison des associations nobles d’Europe). He was a man of immense dignity, kindness and generosity, a true aristocrat in the classical Greek sense of aristos, that is, nobility of character, for the true aristocrat is one with no pretences. In him, descent and character blended harmoniously. Possessing an encyclopedic knowledge that he wore lightly, he had a quicksilver crossword-solving mind and an extraordinary memory. One could converse with him on practically any subject from the ancient world, science, the classics, biography, literature, contemporary history, and (surprisingly) film. It was always a delight to dip into his many worlds, emerging stimulated and richer. He was widely travelled and had a natural curiosity.

He was perhaps never happier than in his study, visited by his children and grandchildren. Many will visualise him as they fondly remember him: in this twilit room, a contented cat curled in his lap, surrounded by impossibly perched towers of books, with his warm smile and benign blue eyes lighting up a welcome, as he lays down his latest book to greet you.

 

Paul Sant Cassia

 

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