Marjorie de Wolff ( 1895 – 1997 ) by Charlotte de Trafford

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JULY 2005 VIGILO – DIN L-ART ÓELWA 40th ANNIVERSARY ISSUE 43

Ada Marjorie de Wolff who died in 2006 aged 102, is the first person in the 35-year history of Din l-Art Óelwa to have made a bequest to the society.

She married Major Charles Esmond de Wolff CBE on the 14th August 1920, and it was his appointment to Malta in 1933 which brought her to the island. The de Wolffs first took up residence in St Julians and soon Marjorie was involved in the social whirl of those hectic pre-war years as well as taking part in the many cultural activities.

Possibly animals and animal welfare were her greatest passion. In England, she had been an ardent animal welfare campaigner and she continued this work in Malta where she founded the RSPCA. Marjorie’s interest in amateur dramatics led her to be an early member of the MADC. and she was a frequent visitor to the Manoel Theatre. She loved music but in particular Opera and never missed an opportunity of seeing a new production.

Arts and crafts had always played an important part in her life so by the time she settled in Malta she was already an accomplished craftswoman with always something new and interesting for the visitor to admire in her workshop. Precious metals and stones held a special fascination for her and she created some exquisite and unique jewellery.

Through her apprenticeship at one of the Mdina workshops, she became a very capable guilder and decorated many of her own pieces of furniture.

When the war was declared in 1939, Esmond was once again called into active service. His career in World War 1 had been very distinguished but the injuries he sustained left him almost totally deaf. Yet despite that handicap, he served with great distinction once again. Meanwhile, Marjorie was contributing to the war effort by working in the victory kitchens as well as organising help and refuge for the many families evacuated from Valletta and the Three Cities to the outlying villages during the bombing of the Grand Harbour areas.

By now they had moved to Balzan and once the war was over, 151 Main Street became the venue for many memorable parties. Marjorie was a marvellous hostess and an inspired flower arranger. The house was always filled with the colours and scents of her lovely garden.

Besides the formal parties when Janie, her loyal maid, reigned supreme, there were also more intimate gatherings when Marjorie would regale us with stories from her life in six reigns; she was born a Victorian and lived through the reigns of two Edwards, two Georges and Queen Elizabeth II.

She was a great character with a tremendous joie de vivre which was wholly infectious. I remember when aged 98 she asked me to buy her a dozen rose bushes and how secretly I wondered whether she would live to see them bloom. The following year, while we were enjoying a cup of tea in her sitting room, my eyes lit upon a vase of magnificent scented roses. She noticed me admiring them and enthused how thrilled she was with the rose plants I had bought her.

When Marjorie first arrived in Malta she had been a keen horsewoman and loved to ride or drive her pony trap through the unspoilt Maltese countryside. In later years she was saddened and alarmed by the rampant and haphazard development everywhere, and I believe that her bequest to Din l-Art Óelwa was a last effort to preserve the unique character of the Maltese landscape and architecture for future generations.