A historic naval crest lay in Irish homes for over 60 years with the owners oblivious of its significance to Malta’s heritage.
The crest was finally passed to a man from Youghal, Co Cork, whose father had, by coincidence, served in the British Navy at the actual ‘stone frigate’ base in Malta. And, very shortly, the LÉ James Joyce, on a humanitarian migrant rescue mission in the Mediterranean will return the crest to a Malta naval museum.
The handing-over ceremony will take place aboard the Irish patrol ship.
The crest represents the Maltese heritage site, Fort St Angelo. It was one of only two such forts categorised as ‘stone frigates’ by the British.
Two original crests were created for the fort, with the other now in private ownership.
Fort St Angelo, about 1,000 years old, served as a British garrison from 1800 to 1979, during which time it was first classified as HMS Egmont (1912) and later HMS St Angelo (1933).
Malta regained the fort in 1979 and it is now on a tentative list of Unesco World Heritage Sites.
Made of solid bronze/brass casting and still mounted on its original base, it was created either during or shortly before WWII.
It was discovered in an antique drawer chest brought from England to south Tipperary by a returning emigrant. The item gathered dust in a Tipperary home for 20 years.
However, it came into the hands of a Youghal-based inspector of fisheries, Michael Faul.
He retained it in his garage for 25 years before passing it to David Cooley, a member of Cork County Council’s outdoor staff, who collects memorabilia.
Mr Cooley stored the crest for three years before asking a friend and local businessman Hugh Carson to research its history.
By peculiar coincidence, Mr Carson’s father, also named Hugh, had served as a British Navy warrant engineer at Fort St Angelo, aboard the HMS Chequers during the Palestine crisis of 1948/49.
Mr Carson had the crest’s authenticity confirmed by Fort Angelo museum curator, Mathew Balzan, who was delighted at he discovery and the plan to return the crest.
Through the recommendation of Lt Gary Delaney of the Irish Naval Service, the crest is currently aboard the LÉ James Joyce.
When the ship berths at Valetta shortly for storing, rest and restoration, Mr Colley will formally present the crest to Mr Balzan.
The ceremony will form part of a reception by the Irish embassy to which the Cooley, Faul, and Carson families have been invited.
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