The weather has not been conducive to folly-spotting, so The Folly Flâneuse is looking back to a trip to the Mediterranean island of Malta, where this imposing monument to Sir Alexander John Ball can be found. Situated in the Lower Barraka Gardens, it was erected by public subscription to commemorate Ball’s role in governing a peaceful Malta in the first years of the 19th century.
Ball (1757-1809) chose a naval career and served under Nelson, playing an important role at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. He was then sent to Malta as a diplomat, where he lobbied in favour of the rights of the Maltese people. He served as Civil Commissioner on the island from 1799 and, apart from a brief interruption, he held that role until he died in 1809. There was great mourning when news of his death broke, and he was given a grand funeral followed by 3 rounds of 11 cannons. Admiral Lord Collingwood, with whom Ball had served as Midshipman, wrote that ‘the Maltese adored him’ and praised his ability to keep ‘all quiet and in good order’ on the island in turbulent times.
There were immediate calls for a monument to be built and this neoclassical temple was erected the following year. It carries the inscription ALEXANDRO IOAN BALL EQ. BAR. MELITENSIUM PIETAS ET SUORUM DESIDERIUM SIMBOLIS PRIVATIS OB MER P. P.* The design is attributed to the Maltese artist and architect Giorgio Pullicino, although no records are thought to survive. On the central column there are four sculptures by Vincenzo Dimech, representing War, Prudence, Justice and Immortality.
A second inscription records that the monument was restored in 1884, and the city of Valletta continues to care for the structure and the lovely garden in which it sits.
*The respectful regards of the people of Malta and the sadness of their loss are with these personal memorials offered to Alexander John Ball Esq, Bart., now deceased