Wilson Picket

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Grand Harbour in Valetta, on the island of Malta, consists of several long creeks of deep, barely tidal water. Because of this and because many visiting ships prefer to moor away from the quays (to save money) a water-taxi was developed for carrying passengers and their small baggage across the creeks and to and from the ships.

This water-taxi is the dghajsa (pronounced “dysa”). It is usually propelled by one man standing, facing forward and pushing on two oars. He stands to one side of the craft probably because by doing so he can provide a larger space for baggage, but most dghajsas are now equipped with outboards.

Over the years dghajjes were used by Royal Navy personnel as they could be employed for cutting across the creeks instead of going around them and they were considered a legal means of sailors returning to their ship if they missed the last liberty boat, so could be used as a means of staying out later when on shore leave. It is because of this direct connection with the Royal Navy, that we have included the dghajsa in our collection.

The high stem and stern pieces seem to be mainly ornamental but they are certainly useful in handling the boat and in the boarding and disembarking of passengers.

The decoration follows a strict pattern. The various symbols, e.g. ‘the hands that defeat the evil eye’ vary from boat to boat and the name is frequently a popular heroine – ‘Queen Victoria’ – or, in the case of our boat, a hero: ‘Wilson Picket.’