Secrets of Dom Mintoff’s bedroom revealed in new biography of Labor PM
Unprecedented access to his personal memories and confidants has given us Mark Montebello’s biography of the man behind Mintoff – Dom – giving us passage into a secret world.
In a unique biography of Labor’s “salvatur” entitled The tail that wagged the dog, Montebello returned to the Mintoff people, the fiery, anti-colonial, anti-clerical, patriarch of Maltese socialism, as a human being, subject to frailties and existential fears, as a man of imperfection striving as much as possible to s ‘stray away from the fall, a man of action trying to keep death away from the door with every word spoken, every burst of energy, every political action.
But that door in the mind of the energetic, uncompromising, petty, miserly, iron-fisted, Oxford-educated socialist visionary, brings home the personal life of Dom, a man of excessive self-esteem: as with her fixation on health, sports and daily swimming, so was her quest for power and her mastery of public worship coupled with a thirst for attention, variety and female passion. Brinkmanship-Dom, Dom the risk taker, the challenger … how could monogamy even exist in this psychological bandwidth?
In a four-page special in Malta Today Sunday we document extracts from Montebello’s biography of Dom’s life at home, with his long-suffering wife Moyra.
Montebello displays the contrast between the modest, humble and pious Moyra and Dom the great suitor, larger than life but “the too human Dom that hardly anyone could know”. In the years to come of his marriage and immersion in a lucrative profession and full-time politics, as well as his sporting passions, Mintoff’s brash and domineering demeanor was part of family life at Les Olives in Tarxien.
“Moyra may have just blamed her husband’s bullying on culture… she was an extremely sweet person. However, her husband’s attitude was not just a question of severity. Back then, sitting was also the mystifying way Dom treated his wife and daughters, keeping them on their toes for fear they would irritate him. “It was like living in the shadow of a volcano,” one of her daughters graphically stated many years later. He rarely, if ever, praised them.
“Anything could irritate him or trigger his fury … Moyra never cried back.” She loved him dearly, and it was almost impossible for the terrified children to understand why she put up with him as he launched into these terrible slurs, bellowing incessantly wherever he was, downstairs or upstairs. Although the bullying is usually more verbal than physical, at times Dom did indeed go so far as to hit his wife, very often by kicking her hard. Moyra only screamed her eyes. She slipped into a corner and cried alone. Sometimes at night, maybe when her patience was at its height, she would collapse next to her eldest daughter’s bed.
“Moyra couldn’t have been happy …”
She would leave Dom again in the years to come, returning after promises from him. But as Montebello makes clear, Dom’s political battles during those years and into the 1970s put a strain on family life. “Dom seemed very often to value work rather than [Moyra]. Following the departure of her daughters to England, especially between 1963 and 1966, Moyra felt terribly alone. Her husband’s chronic infidelity, which must have been too obvious to her, did not help. Dom could easily choose from the hundreds of worshiping women who flocked to his meetings, ready to accommodate any request. And he did. ”