The People of Gibraltar
1943 - Journey to Gibraltar - Robert Henry - San Roque


Street in San Roque
Here was San Roque, blistering in the savage sun, on top of its rugged hill. The road forked one side turning left towards Algeciras, the other climbing to the town, and at this fork was a police control, where each traveller had to declare his name and address, and the purpose of his journey, for this is the custom at the entrance to every town since the Spanish civil war. We offered the guards cigarettes, which they accepted with gratitude, and we passed on our way climbing the cruel hill that leads to the Alameda, where there are stone benches under leafy trees, and a war memorial in front of which are iron gates. On the centre gate is written ‘Franco,’ and on the other two, ‘Hitler’ and ‘Mussolini.’ 
Giant sun-flowers grow in the garden. From here a street climbs to the top of the town - a street of lovely houses, through the inner doors of which one may see the most exquisite patios with plants and flowers and fountains making cool oases for those who live within. At the top of the street is the church, built by the Spaniards of Gibraltar when they left the Rock after it had been captured by us in 1704. This church bears the same name as the one they left behind them - Santa Maria la Coronada (St. Mary the Crowned) (see LINK), and in it are to be found the sacred images removed from the church of St. Mary at Gibraltar.

Santa Maria la Coronada - San Roque on the left, Gibraltar on the right 
Adjacent to the church is a little square, very cool and beautiful, where stands the town hall, on the door of which we knocked. It was opened by a boy of six or seven, who had painted fierce moustaches on his girl-like cheeks, and a skull and cross-bones on his forehead. He looked at us with surprise, and ran to fetch his mother, the caretaker, who, being told who we were consented to show us round. Taking a great bunch of keys she led the way upstairs to the council chamber, over which is written in huge letters: ‘Most Noble and Loyal City of San Roque where the City of Gibraltar resides.’

The Town Hall     (From a set of traditional images of San Roque)
The Spaniards who fled from Gibraltar to found the city of San Roque, considering themselves the representatives of the lost city, acted as a government in exile. In 1716 a special Chief Magistrate or Corregidor was appointed by the Spanish Government, together, as declared in the royal patent, with a council, tribunals, officers, and gentlemen of the city of Gibraltar, and in all public acts the people of San Roque are called and still call themselves ‘the inhabitants of Gibraltar residing at San Roque.’ 
The flag of Gibraltar, brought by the proud fugitives in 1704 is in a glass case in the corner of the council chamber. The housekeeper, pointing it out to us, said:  It is kept under lock and key, but the holder is so pro-German that he would not show it to you. He will only show it to Spaniards or to Germans.’ She paused for a moment and added - ‘l am not like that. My husband and I are kindly disposed to the British.’

Flag of Gibraltar - San Roque      
It was clear that she was not lying, for she looked us straight in the eyes, and there was an honest smile on her features. ‘Come downstairs,’ she went on, ‘I will show you the room where the records are kept.’ We followed her out into the hall, and from an open window we could see the beautiful gardens in the patio filled with orange-trees and mimosa, and in the distance was the Queen of Spain’s Chair, nearer than we had ever seen it before. 
 The record room had book-cases tilled with documents in folders dating back to the first days of exile. A picture of Franco hung above the chief magistrate’s chair, and there was a telephone on his desk. There were some fine old prints of the Rock, and some maps on the wall, which I started to admire, when our guide said: ‘You will not find the most interesting period maps here. The Germans sent for them the other day, and they have all gone to Berlin.’ . . . . .

Click on the links below for more quotes and comments:

1943 - Journey to Gibraltar - Robert Henry - Introduction
1943 - Journey to Gibraltar - Robert Henry - Gibraltar
1943 - Journey to Gibraltar - Robert Henry - The Rock Hotel
1943 - Journey to Gibraltar - Robert Henry - El Campo
1943 - Journey to Gibraltar - Robert Henry - La Línea
1943 - Journey to Gibraltar - Robert Henry - The Bullfight