Ħad-Dingli is a small village at the extreme end of Malta, quite remote from the centre. Some time ago it was considered difficult to travel to other localities of Malta. Even nowadays almost everyone feels the need for his own private means of transport.
A glance though the ages, towards the beginning of civilization in Malta, we can notice that Ħad-Dingli had the benefit of being situated near ir-Rabat. In fact, from olden times up to the Middle Ages, the centre of Malta was not il-Belt Valletta (Città Umilissima) but first ir-Rabat and then l-Imdina (Città Notabile).
The Popular Council which governed the Island had its headquarters in ir-Rabat. For many centuries, Ħad-Dingli was part and parcel of the civil administration of both ir-Rabat and l-Imdina (Città Notabile). Ħad-Dingli had the same representatives, the same mayor and the same doctor. It was only with great difficulty that one could find a priest who was willing to accept to live at Ħad-Dingli or at Ħal Tartarni – a place which historical sources have always confirmed had an intimate connection with Ħad-Dingli.
But when the Maltese Church initiated the process of dividing the Island into parishes, the small locality of Ħal Tartarni could not be overlooked and someone had to be found to shoulder the responsibility of the spiritual aspect of the people. Ħal Tartarni, which was the only inhabited area, was in the vicinity of the small forest created by Grand Master Verdala towards the end of the fifteenth century. There was a very small church dedicated to Saint Domenica, which no longer exists. Just before the year 1436, this church was elevated to the dignity of a parish.
For unknown reasons, all the population moved towards the zone called Ħad-Dingli. This can be assumed to have resulted from the fact that the noble family Inguanez possessed vast territories of land in that zone. The farmers employed to work the fields of the Inguanez family found it convenient to go to Ħad-Dingli, thus abandoning completely Ħal Tartarni. This period can be said to represent the origin of this village, noted for its pure and uncontaminated air.
But this village existed and was populated way back to remote times. In prehistoric times there were probably certain quarries from where stone was hewn out for the construction of abodes in various parts of the Island.
Remains have been found which go back to the times of the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians. Graves dug out of the rocks were found hinting to the cremation of corpses. These can be said to go back to almost 2,800 years ago.
The Phoenician and Carthaginian tombs were also used by the Romans, who occupied our Islands way back to 218 B.C.. At Ħad-Dingli there is no clear distinction between one period and another. At Għajn Handful, baths, swimming pools and some instruments of the Roman period were discovered. Even the locality known as Ta’ Baldu, an area lying not far away from Triq Misraħ Suffara, is rightly known for its Roman baths hewn inside caves.
The scarce historical information available about Ħal Tartarni gives some ray of light on the period of the Middle Ages. In those times, the Popular Council, with its offices at ir-Rabat, had the full authority to govern over both Ħad-Dingli and Ħal Tartarni. Justice was meted out by the Capitano della Verga. At the beginning of the reign of the Knights of St John, the population of these villages did not exceed three hundred inhabitants. The name ‘Dingli’ was probably derived from the surname of some Maltese families who owned the land in this area.
Ħad-Dingli is a locality near the sea and is full of cultivated fields, but at the same time stands imposingly very high above the sea. The cliffs reach a height of around 300 metres – the highest place in Malta. Thus the inhabitants do not earn their living by going fishing, but by assiduously tilling their fields.
Dingli Cliffs, in harder times than at present, were also sometimes beneficial. Corsairs found it difficult to climb the cliffs and so the population had time to find refuge when the pirates were sighted.
In 1530, Emperor Charles V bestowed Malta to the Knights of St John as a feud. The pirates besieged and took over Gozo in 1551, and then directed their attention towards Malta. They noticed that it was difficult to land at Ħad-Dingli, and even gave instructions to other pirates to avoid this area.
The sole pride that distinguished the inhabitants of Ħad-Dingli was their devotion to the parish church dedicated to the Assumption of the Holy Virgin. In 1678, the village was declared a Parish Church with its own Parish Priest.
Ħad-Dingli is now a picturesque village looking towards the future with confidence. There is now a sense of well-being, which could not be envisaged in the not too-distant past. The population has increased in number fifteen-fold since centuries ago. Statistics reveal that a century ago, it was difficult to send children to school. The boys used to work in the fields. The girls, from a tender age, helped in the domestic work. Nowadays Ħad-Dingli offers excellent examples of social mobility.
Ħad-Dingli is the birthplace of many eminent personalities who have honoured not only the village but also the entire Maltese Islands. In the literary field, one can mention renowned authors like folklore pioneer Dun Xand Cortis and playwright Francis Ebejer.
The Catholic Church was blessed with the Dominican friar Walter Ebejer, who was ordained Bishop of a diocese in Brazil. In the political field, Notary Ġużè Abela was an outstanding Minister of Finance, who was widely respected for his sound judgement and above all for his integrity.
Nowadays, Ħad-Dingli Local Council deserves praise and encouragement for its great diligence, efforts to promote culture and above all its whole-hearted commitment to embellish the locality, both morally and physically.