Charles Mattei (1864-1939)


A controversial figure in the history of Maltese migration, Charles Mattei graduated as a medical doctor in 1887 having studied in the UK and Ireland. He was appointed as Medical Officer of Health in Malta and was became honorary Secretary to the newly created Malta Emigration Committee in 1907.

He travelled widely, working as a medical practitioner in places like Alexandria and Kalgorrlie (1892). He took part in the Boer War (1901) and worked also on the Transvaal railway (1904). Back in Malta (1904-1907) he worked as a general practitioner. He spent time in Canada in an effort to organise migration to that country and wrote a report with his recommendations (1912), which was largely ignored by the authorities back home. He organised a group of Maltese migrants to go to Canada, but the project ended in a fiasco. After this he left directly to Australia. He enlisted to serve in the First World War and was mentioned in dispatches and by 1918 he had reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Wherever he went, Dr Mattei became interested in the Maltese community whom he tried to organise. When in Malta he tried to organise migration to various places, particularly to Winnipeg and British Columbia. He recommended migration to California and made several attempts to organise migration to the US. His special way of ensuring that unaccompanied (mainly illiterate) migrants found their way to their destination was to give them a placard which they hung around their neck, with details of address where they wished to go, so officials and others could help them on their way!

After the War he went back to NSW (Australia) and became again involved with the Maltese community there in an unofficial position. In 1931 he moved to Queensland where he was involved in launching "The Maltese Farmers and Settlers Association" with himself as president.

In spite of all this energy, many of his schemes seems to have foundered, and in the process he alienated the authorities to the extent that he was refused official recognition and never managed to obtain an official position as a representative of Maltese migrants.

[For further information see: Profiles in Maltese Migration by Fr Lawrence E. Attard, 2003, PEG, Malta]

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