Assessment: Vincent Sammut
Natalino Fenech writes:
Death is a part of life, but it’s always heartbreaking to see people you have known leave. News of Vincent Sammut’s disappearance, or Ċensu, as he was better known, came like love at first sight, even though he was 88 years old. I have known Ċensu for almost half of his life. A gentle and caring giant, with no scientific background but a source of knowledge, and more importantly, with a heart bigger than those who know him can easily attest. He was very good at giving, sharing and expecting nothing in return.
I first encountered Ċensu in my early years when I joined what was the Ornithological Society of Malta. There was a lot of commonality between us. He was a former hunter and collector of stuffed birds and all things natural history. I too come from hunting families. Ċensu was quickly trying to make up for his past by doing what he could to save the birds. It was a time when bird protection went against the grain. The number of hunters was increasing rapidly as the standard of living increased and people had more time to waste and money to spend, and hunting and gathering offered many what they considered a hobby. viable.
By today’s standards Ċensu was a small entrepreneur, but he used his skills, knowledge and money to help establish Malta’s first nature reserve, Għadira. For a while he was involved in the treatment of injured wild birds. Although he had no formal scientific training, he had extensive knowledge of fossils and found several interesting species, all of which have been described by others, often without acknowledging that it was Ċensue who found them. He was interested in everything to do with natural history, be it orchids, wild plants, seashells, butterflies and birds of course.
He often told me what had prompted him to start collecting stuffed birds. He had just started hunting and the first bird he shot was a male Rusty Duck from Salina. It was a very rare duck at the time. “How I would have liked to miss it,” he said to me. “Maybe I wouldn’t have killed or bought so many birds for my collection after this.” But he more than made up for his venial sins from his early years of hunting, when bird protection laws were still on the horizon.
Ċensu was an unpretentious man. Soft-spoken, patient and kind, arrogant when he needed to accomplish, delivering, without ever seeking or taking credit for himself. Few can take credit for using such words about them, although many do nowadays. Ċensu was one of a kind. A husband to Ines, a father, a father not only to his children Tony, Godfrey and Josette, but to so many people thanks to his guidance, friendship and mentorship. He was a determined man who did things without bragging about.
Fly high together. I’m sure you were more than just greeted at the pearly doors. And continue to take care of us from above. Till we Meet Again. A true gentleman who left at 88 but left too early.
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