Vincenzo Bugeja (1820-1890) Businessman, Philanthropist
His profession was that of a businessman, but he seems to have made most of his fortune in the gambling rooms of Monte Carlo and elsewhere in Europe. It is said that he practically bankrupted the bank in Baden. Professional gamblers called him The Maltese Matador.
Vincenzo was, however, very charitable with his money and he donated large sums to charity to help the sick and the poor - a sum of 20,000 sterling was left for this purpose (a very considerable sum in those days). He was particularly charitable towards young orphan girls, and for this purpose he built and ensured continued support to the Conservatorio Vinzeno Bugeja in Hamrun so that these girls could be properly looked after by the Sisters of Charity. This was officially opened in May 1880 and is functional to this day.
He also established the Bugeja Fund for Migrants. He left 500,000 French franks in his will (equivalent to 20,000 sterling of those days) to assist those wishing to emigrate. Conditions for applicants were that they must be Maltese nationals, male, 17-26 years of age, unmarried, healthy, of good conduct, able to speak English, Italian or French, with a basic knowledge of arithmetic and calligraphy, and belonging to the middle class.
As in the case of Pappaffy fund, these were very restrictive conditions, with the curious proviso of restriction to middle class individuals. In spite of this, between 1909 and 1911, there were already 69 applicants who received help from this fund, including a number who went to Winnipeg (Canada), which was proving attractive to migrants at the time.
In recognition of his generous donations, he was made a marquis by the Pope, and a knight by Queen Victoria. A monument was erected in the Mall in Floriana
[For further information see: Profiles in Maltese Migration by Fr Lawrence E. Attard, 2003, PEG, Malta]