Valentin Barbara

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Valentin (Vinc) Barbara (1920-2005) was a Maltese translator and poet in New South Wales, Australia.

Early life

Valentin was born in Cospicua on the 29th March, 1920 and was educated at the Lyceum and at St Thomas Aquinas College (Rabat) where he studied Philosophy and Theology for the priesthood, and was ordained a priest in 1942. He continued his studies in Rome, at the Istituto Pontificio di Musica Sacra where he studied sacred music and graduated Mus.S. Bacc. (Vatican, 1948). He returned to Malta to teach Maltese at St Albert the Great College in Valletta (1948-1964). He was also Chaplain of St Joseph Institute in Żabbar (1961). He left Malta in October 1974 and settled in Sydney. He left the priesthood in 1976 and married Agnes Leong.

Radio, poetry and translations

He was one of the first group of broadcasters in Maltese on Radio 2EA in Sydney with Mrs Josephine Zammit. This involved the preparation of a weekly literary programme. He was also involved in translating pamphlets on health for the Health Department of NSW. He was a member of the Liturgical Commission of the Maltese Ecclesiastical Province and was the official translator of new liturgical books from Latin into Maltese.

He started writing poetry when he was in his twenties and won several literary competitions. He became an academic member of the Akkademja tal-Malti (1944) and was regularly elected to the Council. He was also Editor of the Dominican publication, Ir-Rużarju (1953). He combined poetry with music when he composed the Maltese lyrics to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. This seems to be the only occasion when he put to use his extensive music education.


Valentin Barbara was awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontefice (P.E.P.) decoration from Pope Paul VI in 1974 for his translations of material of a religious nature. In 1993 he was awarded the 1993 Cultural Prize by the Maltese Cultural Society of NSW.


His poetry, written in a traditional style, is to be found in various magazines in Maltese and in two unpublished anthologies Intietef and Intietef Oħra. Some were translated into Italian by V. M. Pellegrini. In these poems he shows great technical skill. Perhaps even more impressive is his output of translations from various languages including Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek versions of the Bible, Latin, Italian, French, and English.


From Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek

  • Translations from the Bible, including the story of Daniel and the minor prophets
  • The Song of Songs (from Hebrew and Aramaic)
  • The Four Gospels
  • The Letters of St John and St James
  • The Apocalypse (from Greek).

From Latin

  • G. Frachet's Vitae Fratrum (1968), edifying passages from the biography and thought of Dominicans
  • Fuq il-Formazzjoni Saċerdotali (1969), Vatican Council II's decree Optatum Totius
  • Fuq il-Ministeru u l-Ħajja tas-Sacerdoti (1969), Vatican Council II's decree Presbyterorum Ordinis
  • Liturgical books published by the Liturgical Commission
  • Għaqda fl-Imħabba (1970), the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Matrimony (co-authored with Fr. Gwann Frendo)
  • Liturġija tas-Sigħat (1988)
  • L-Istqarrijiet (1989), St Augustine's Confessions
  • Innijiet Liturġiċi (1990) for use in Malaysia
  • L-Ewwel Żminijiet ta' l-Ordni tal-Predikaturi (1991)
  • Six volumes of Innijiet Liturġici (1992) for use in Australia

From English

  • M.V.Woodgate's Lacordaire (1955)
  • Shakespeare's Ġulju Cesri (1970)
  • H. Ibsen's Dar ta' Pupa (1990)

From Italian

  • G. Schryvers' Il-Habib Divin (1964)
  • Ommi Marija (1965)
  • Agħtini Ruħek (1966)
  • Erwieħ ta' Fiduċja (1969)
  • Il-Ħajja ta' S. Martin de Porres (1969)
  • Silvio Pellico's Għaxar Snin Ħabs (1965)
  • Carlo Goldoni's Il-Lukandiera (1992)
  • St Augustine's The City of God (1996)

From French

  • M. Philippon's Fis-Skiet Quddiem Alla

From Spanish

  • J.M. Escriva de Balaguer's It-Triq (1971)
  • M. Descalzo's Agħtini x-Xita

He also published Min Kienu (1997).