The Plague’s Hospital

On 7th April 1813, plague reached Malta from Constantinople. Due to a very strict quarantine, Gozo was freed from the epidemic. All of a sudden, when the plague had been overcome in Malta, the plague broke out at ix Xaghra in mid-February 1814. It is presumed that it was carried from Malta in an ghonnella or head-dress smuggle from a plague-stricken house at Hal Qormi.

Ix-Xaghra, was immediately isolated by a double cordon of soldiers and a temporary hospital was set up in a large farmhouse known as tal-Qasam in the area of Ghajn Lukin overlooking the cemeteries. A very long room in the building was converted into the hospital’s main hall. It was spacious but lacked ventilation and light. Four other rooms were furnished with the bare necessities for the hospital’s personnel. The conversion took place under the surveillance of a British physician to the Forces George Mc Adam, who, despite the known risks, had volunteered for the job. It was ready by 19 March and the infected were immediately moved in.

One hundred and four persons died in all. These included Doctor Mc Adam himself who died on 5 May as well as the parish priest Dun Vincenz Cauchi, who passed away on 27 April after being infected or out of fatigue. By 26 July the plague had been stamped out. The great precautions, taken by the authorities saved ix-Xaghra and the whole of Gozo from further devastation. The victims are all burried in a field some distance away from the hospital.

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