The People of Gibraltar
1770 - A Raggle-Taggle of Labourers

James Solas Dodd and Richard Twiss - John Carr and John Irwin
George Augustus Eliott and Henry Cowper - William Green - Robert Boyd
Sergeant Brown and the Sultana of Morocco - Sergeant-Major Henry Ince
The Duke of Kent and William Skinner 
Yet another observer of life in Gibraltar was James Solas Dodd, ( see LINK ) a surgeon of the Royal Navy who wrote a long history of the Thirteenth Siege. He published his book half a century later so one would guess that he was actually describing the Rock as he saw it in the late 1770s.
The town, he wrote, was small and from the nature of its situation he was of the opinion that it could never be enlarged. Gibraltar’s endless land reclamation efforts were still well in the future. It occupied the whole of the small plain on the west side of the hill with some of the houses built along the slope of the Rock itself. The main street, running from north to south had eleven streets or lanes running to the east and nine to the west and was intersected irregularly by five others. There were very few places of note other than the South Port magazine, the new arsenal, the victualling office and the various barracks around the Grand Parade.
Outside the town and about half a mile to the south stood what he called the ‘Grand Barracks’ ( see LINK ) and a little further on above Rosia Bay, the Naval Hospital. When one adds his lengthy descriptions of Gibraltar’ fortifications, a visit to St. Michael’s Cave, then known as St. George’s Cave, and the Moorish Castle, the place is reasonably recognisable even today.

The old Naval Hospital was built in 1730s and was completely reconstructed on 1905 shortly before this photograph was taken.

Shortly after Dodd left the Rock the authorities carried out yet another census. They had belatedly realised that their lack of control over the people who were now living on the Rock as well as their inability to attract those coveted Protestants from Britain had created an unexpected problem. According to law and custom throughout the British Empire anybody born within a Crown territory was entitled to be considered a British subject. This implied the right to both diplomatic and military protection and - far worse in the case of Gibraltar – the theoretical right to reside anywhere within the British Empire.

This ancient tradition known as Jus soli meant that it would be technically hard to expel anybody who had been born in Gibraltar, whatever the nationality of their parents - or their religion. The results of the census confirmed the worst fears of the British authorities; the population was growing and over one half of the three thousand odd people that had registered had been born on the Rock, most of them Catholic, many of them Jews.
Richard Twiss ( see LINK ) visited Gibraltar in the 1770s. Twiss was an English merchant and inveterate traveller. Among other insights he left us his views on the various activities carried out by British officers as they whiled away the hours during their less than onerous tour of duty on the Rock. On one occasion he came across some of them playing a game of golf outside Southport Gate, 
. . . . in the sands, in the same manner as I had seen that game played on the Links. 
A curious comment as it is the first, and perhaps the only time anybody has ever mentioned playing the game of golf on the Rock.  Gibraltar, it must be pointed out, is about as unsuitable a place for the game as it is possible to be. The ‘sands’ must refer to the red variety in the Alameda parade. Hopefully the area they played on was covered by some of vegetation as otherwise it would have meant playing each shot as if inside a bunker – not the most enjoyable of golf shots.
Sandy area just to the South of the Town gate. Not the most likely place to play golf  ( 1796 - George Bulteel Fisher )  ( see LINK
Gibraltar, he also noted, was well endowed with taverns, coffee-house, billiard tables and shops, much as the officers would have expected had they been in England. So much so that he thought it unlikely that they would ever feel homesick for such places. For those who preferred the open air, it was always possible to give golf a rest and visit the ‘Governor’s garden, ‘open to the public and ‘much resorted to’ in the evenings. Unlike Dodd, he liked the Convent.

While on the obligatory visit to the top of the Rock he was told that several officers had actually managed to climb the almost inaccessible eastern side where, he wrote, ‘many apes and ‘monkeys, inhabit its caverns and precipices and are frequently shot.’
A lady tourist on her way up the Rock with the inevitable military presence  ( 1826 - Thomas Staunton St Clair )  ( see LINK
Some people have suggested that this odd bit of information settles the argument as to why these animals were imported into Gibraltar. If correct, then the traditional association of the ‘monkeys’ with British tenure of the Rock  - if the monkeys leave so will the British – is hard to reconcile with the fact that they were only brought over so that British officers could have the pleasure of killing them. Unfortunately, Alonso Hernández del Portillo, ( see LINK ) writing in the early seventeeth century  and remembered for being the first chronicler of the city of Gibraltar, was already of the opinion that they had been there ’from time immemorial.

 Barbary ape of Gibraltar having a good look at Ceuta     ( 1850s - W.H. Bartlett )  
( see LINK

By the turn of the century, however, it was prohibited to shoot the animals although as the travel writer Sir John Carr ( see LINK ) relates in his Descriptive Travels  this had more to do with ‘the fear of loosening the stones of these summits by the shot,’ than from any great ‘tenderness to the antic race.’ In fact according to a correspondent of London’s Penny Magazine the monkeys had come to hate the sight of a red coat, and often threw stones at them as they stood sentinel by the sides of the rock. If they did so, wrote the correspondent, ‘it was only fair retaliation, for the soldiers particularly the new comers and young recruits made it one of their principal amusements to hunt and lay snares for the poor monkeys.’

Over the years the apes of Gibraltar have continued to attract the interest of both artists and photographers. Here is a romantic mid eighteenth century view showing them at play amid somewhat exotic vegetation     ( E. Widick )     
Carr also tells a story which he suggests has ‘obtained credit with the most credulous of the inhabitants’. It seems that one of the apes tried to satisfy his sexual urges with a pretty girl who happened by. The ape was apparently placed under arrest court marshalled and subsequently shot for rape. The page in his book in which he describes these ‘experiences’ is given the title of ‘Baboons.’ Perhaps his comment on the ‘credulity of the inhabitant can more likely be attributed to a gullible travel writer being taken in by an imaginative tourist guide trying to amuse.
View from the top of the Rock showing its ‘almost inaccessible eastern side’.
A Governor of Gibraltar - probably General John Irwin - seems to have kept an ape chained somewhere inside the walled gardens of the Convent. His successor, General Eliott continued to tolerate this state of affairs despite the fact that he had always refused to allow the animals to be molested in any way.  There is an anecdote concerning another ape that had apparently fallen from a rock and injured itself. 

It was picked up by one of Eliott’s aides-de-camp and was eventually brought into the gardens to be chained close to the other one to convalesce. The story goes that ‘after contemplating each other for a few seconds’, the two animals ‘rushed into one another's arms, pushed each other back as if to make sure of their recognition’, and after ‘a second mutual examination, again clasped each other to their breasts.’

By the early 19th century however, it wasn’t just the apes that were out of bounds to huntsmen. It was now forbidden to shoot anything at all on the slopes of the Rock. As the place was reputed to have ‘abounded with game’, it proved a ‘great mortification’ to many a local sportsman.

Back in town after his trip to the top of the Rock, Twiss mentions a visit to the ever popular Henry Cowper’s theatre which was obviously still going strong. There he had the pleasure of seeing High Life Below Stairs , a farce by James Townley which includes lines which would be considered nowadays to be rather politically incorrect. 
I would have forty servants if my house would hold them. Why, man, in Jamaica, before I was ten years old I had a hundred blacks kissing my feet every day. 
Farces were obviously the thing at the time. The other play he saw was ‘Miss in her Teens’ which was written by David Garrick.

Both plays, Twiss wrote, ‘were extremely well performed; the actors were military gentlemen and actresses are so by profession.’ One of them was probably a girl called Jane McKenzie. She was 39 years old and listed on the 1777 census as one of Mr. Cowper’s servants. Several other single English girls are also listed as living in his various addresses. Their professions are given as ‘maidservants’. No names are given of the families they may have worked for and the most charitable guess is that they were probably ‘actresses’.

Twiss also gives another recognisable description of the town. Main Street was smart enough but the other streets were still ‘crooked narrow and dirty.’ He noticed that there were ‘a few hundred Moors’ in town. Unlike most other travellers of the period he did not mistake them for residents. They were’ he wrote, the people ‘who continually ‘passed and re-passed’ to and from Barbary’ bringing provisions for both the town and the Garrison. 

There were still considerable restrictions as regards travel. Neither the Moors nor the Jews were allowed to enter Spain and anybody travelling by sea to a Spanish port was allowed to land until they had ‘performed a quarantine of three or four days.’ Entering or leaving Gibraltar by land required a permit

These were available on an annual basis from the Governor but Twiss fails to mention how easily or otherwise these could be obtained. No doubt the officers could count on getting theirs without too much delay so that they could enjoy their frequent trips to the hinterland. Civilians probably found it either bureaucratically impossible or prohibitively expensive. 

As regards money, most European coins were accepted but all the rates of exchange were poor. The main gripe, however, was the shortage of a Spanish coin called the quarto which had ended up being replaced by the Moroccan falus which was of very inferior quality. It was not the kind of thing that the British authorities were likely to put up with. They immediately issued a proclamation banning the Falus in Gibraltar.

The Moroccan Fallus. In circulation from 1692 to 1901 it was a coin that even the Moroccan authorities found difficulty in attributing any particular value.

Taking an impressionistic view of all these descriptions of the local residents it seems that the predominant characteristic of the population of Gibraltar just prior to the great Siege was its diverse ethnic origins.   Socioeconomic differences were also remarkable yet these were rarely touched upon. The kind of environment created by a large military presence called for a traditional camp-follower population. But the population had long since moved on.

In addition to a few rich and powerful non-British merchants, who were mostly Jewish or Genoese there was already a tiny white-collar middle class made up of clerks, brokers, doctors and teachers. Further down the social scale a larger number were involved in shop keeping and as landlords to coffee houses and taverns. The bulk of the population were the usual mixture of working-class tradesmen and artisans such as the masons, tailors, shoemakers, bakers, butchers, boatmen and so forth. At the bottom of the social scale were the porters and servants and the numerous street hawkers.

The serious imbalance between the history of the Rock viewed as a series of military events rather than that of the development of its civilian population makes one forget that Gibraltar was a place where parallel universes existed side by side - a military Garrison with its own hierarchy and traditions and a civilian population with theirs. They knew of each others’ existence and interacted when strictly necessary yet somehow managed to live their own very separate and very different lives.
According to the historian William Jackson, by the end of the eighteenth century and prior to the Great Siege Gibraltar had become a ‘well-administered and flourishing colony.’ Jackson seems to be viewing the Rock from a purely military perspective, which is not all that surprising as he himself had once been Governor of the place. 

Britain’s overseas successes during the middle of the century had ensured that she would end up with a truly professional army and this was reflected in the type of people manning the Garrison by the end of the century. Money was now being made available for all sorts of new projects and London, with the full support of the Governors of the day had finally decided to make sure that Gibraltar’s defences were finally brought up to scratch. By pure luck more than anything else, they managed to find the right man to do so.
In 1761, Colonel William Green was sent to Gibraltar as Senior Engineer. His father was an Irishman and his mother was a sister of Adam Smith, Scottish moral philosopher and author of The Wealth of Nations.  Green had been educated at Woolwich and had experienced campaigns in both Europe and America. Now a middle-aged man he was, by all accounts a dour Aberdonian Scot without a trace of a sense of humour. His written reports were overly cautious and wearingly pompous. 

 1769 plan of Charles V Wall, probably commissioned by Colonel Green

A small man with a disconcerting habit of staring intently at the person he happened to be speaking to, he probably suffered from a sense of insecurity - engineers were held in scant regard by infantry officers. Not surprisingly he took his Gibraltar appointment very seriously. Soon after his first review of the fortifications he gave evidence of their defects. There was, he wrote, serious cause for concern.
In 1769 another special commission was sent to Gibraltar to examine its defences. They agreed with Green but their findings were undermined by Lord Sandwich who was Secretary of State at the time. According to Garratt, Sandwich was not just ‘ludicrously inefficient,’ but thoroughly corrupt. 

It was said that under his watch money earmarked for either military or naval improvements had a habit of disappearing between the Exchequer and wherever it was legitimately supposed to go to. Horace Walpole memorably called him ’the second most honest man in South Britain.’ Not surprisingly nothing much was done until nearly a decade later when major improvements began under Colonel Green’s direction. The most imposing, and the one that gave Governor General Boyd the most concern was the building of the massive walls of the King’s Bastion.  

Early plans for King's Bastion - they still hadn't decided on a name ( Unknown )   LINK
Robert Boyd, who was Governor at the time, was worried that the destruction of the sea wall that would be required during its construction would tempt Spain to attack Gibraltar’s weakened defences. He made this plain in a letter to the Secretary of State Lord Rochford. 
There is the idea of glory, in the thought of being killed in defending a breach made by the enemy, but to be knocked o’ th’ head in the defence of one of our own making would be a ridiculous death.
Construction began almost immediately after the plans were sanctioned although Green found it difficult to do the work properly with ‘the raggle-taggle of labourers’ at his disposal. In most modern histories of the Rock the impression given is that these workers were a bunch of lazy locals who were just not up to the task.  

In fact local inhabitants were never employed by the army. Up to 1772 all the work was carried out by qualified civil mechanics that were brought in from elsewhere. Some were from other countries in Europe but most of them were English. They were not contracted for any particular length of time and could, if they so wished leave both their work and the Rock whenever they pleased


Colonel William Green
According to T.W.J. Conolly who wrote a history of the Sappers in 1855, they tended to be ‘indolent and disorderly.’ Not being military men there was little the army could do other than reprimand or dismiss them. Even the better class of artificer - who were all British and known locally as ‘guinea men’ because of their high wages - were unreliable. Green therefore hit on the idea of forming a company of mechanics from within the army to do the work instead. It would be made up of men from the various regiments who were already well accustomed to having to deal with this kind of work.

He convinced the Governor who in turn wrote to the Secretary of State who also thought it a good idea. A Royal consent in 1772 led to the formation of a company of artificers which was given the name of ‘Soldier-Artificer Company’. The civilians were discharged and the English ‘guinea men’ were sent packing.
The creation of the forerunners of the Royal Engineers was actually very well received by the non-British inhabitants - something which would not have been the case if some of them had been thrown out of work because of it. They were in fact ‘esteemed because of their good conduct and civility,’ something not to be sneezed at in a place where such attributes were not part of the vocabulary of the mass of the soldiers of the Garrison. In fact when the corps decided in 1788 to change the colour and style of their uniform several local merchants offered to exchange the yellow tape that formed part of their kit for one made of gold lace. Unfortunately ‘deviations of this kind’ were not allowed so it came to nothing.

In 1797 the Gibraltar Soldier-Artificer Company were incorporated into the Royal Military Artificers.They lost their scarlet coats in exchange for the blue ones of the Artificers.

Perhaps one tale about the famous artificers is worth the telling although its connection with Gibraltar is tenuous to say the least. It refers to one of the original Gibraltar Sappers called Sergeant Brown. In the 1780s Seedy Mohamed, Sultan of Morocco thought it prudent to improve the defensive fortifications at Fez. Well aware of the skill of the British engineers he asked the British Government to help him out. The result was that Brown was sent over to give Seedy a hand. 

The good Sergeant was a great success. He stayed on in Morocco and worked for the Sultan for many years. When he died, his wife, a pretty Irish girl who had originally also lived in Gibraltar, sought an interview with Seedy Mohamed. She thought she might be entitled to a pension or at least enough money to allow her to return to Ireland. She got far more than she had bargained for. The Sultan was so taken by Mrs Brown that she became the Sultana of Morocco.

Another sapper who, unlike Brown, is always given a prominent mention in every history of Gibraltar is Sergeant-Major Henry Ince. ( see LINK ) It seems that during the Great Siege of Gibraltar Sergeant Ince happened to be somewhere in the vicinity when the Governor rashly offered ‘a thousand dollars to anyone who can get guns to the Notch.’ This was a reference to a ledge on the sheer north face of the Rock. The Governor hoped that his gunners would be able to use these guns to fire down directly onto the enemy lines.
Sergeant Major Ince proposed the idea of tunnelling through the Rock in order to site the guns at the appropriate place.  The Governor agreed with this ingenious idea. Ince took on responsibility for the work, the tunnels were built and the guns were duly put in place. All histories of Gibraltar are quite rightly full of admiration for both Ince and his formidable subterranean passages but they often fail to mention that most of the main chambers were never actually used during the Siege and that serious doubts have always existed as to their usefulness. Even at the time they were being built it was felt that the report from the guns inside these artificial caves would be deafening. There were also fears that the smoke from the gunpowder would be blown back into the galleries by the wind and suffocate the gunners.
The galleries have always been displayed as a work of military genius right up to the present day where they form part of Gibraltar’s many military tourist attractions. But they have never been put to the test. In 1804 a single salvo was fired in a futile attempt to dispel the yellow fever that was afflicting Gibraltar at the time but no report was ever made about its success or otherwise - at any rate none was made public.
Inside Sergeant Major Ince’s main gallery known as St. George’s Hall 

Another view. The engineers are still digging  ( 1800s - Rev Cooper Willyams ) ( see LINK
It is not clear whether the ingenious Sergeant ever got his thousand dollars but the existence of Ince's Farm to the south of the town, suggests that he may have been paid at least part of his reward. He definitely received the odd extra bonus here and there. On one occasion when he was out riding at an easy pace up the Rock, possibly on his way to his ‘farm’  he was overtaken by the Duke of Kent, ( see LINK ) who was the Governor at the time.

‘That horse’, said Kent ‘is too old for you. I will give you another more in keeping with your worth.’  The Sergeant was duly presented with a ‘very valuable steed’ which unfortunately he found very difficult to handle and soon reverted to his old nag. When the Governor met him again soon after, he asked him the obvious question; why was he not riding his new horse? A rather embarrassed Ince explained that he just could not manage the beast and offered to return it to the Duke. ‘No, no’ said the Duke. ‘If you can’t ride him put him in your pocket.’ Ince took the comment literally and sold the horse ‘for his worth in doubloons.’
Although all the honour for the improvements to Gibraltar’s fortifications during this period are usually attributed to Colonel Green, it is probably fair to say that much of it should also go to Lieutenant-General William Skinner, ( see LINK ) who was himself chief engineer in Gibraltar in 1741. Most of the plans submitted by Green were only accepted after they had been revised by Skinner.

William Skinner from a portrait in the Convent. He was a young captain at the time

In general terms it is almost certain that the money spent on improving the Rock’s fortifications - as well as the presence of a more disciplined and well organised military establishment - had a positive knock-on effect on the economic life of the civilian population. Bland’s articles were slowly being put to rest and the general restrictions on movement and of corruption in high places, although still rife, were not quite as rampant as in the past. It was also the decade described by Ignacio Lopez de Ayala in his Historia de Gibraltar. ( see LINK

Ayala had little reason to admire the ‘English’. Yet his glowing picture of the Rock during the later part of the 18th century made sure that no historian, British or otherwise, has ever been able to resist quoting him at great length. This one is no exception although a closer reading of his history suggests that he may not have been quite as admiring of Gibraltar as he is often made it out to be. Ayala published his book in 1782 but his descriptions refer to what he had either personally observed or had obtained by hearsay several decades prior to publication.
The main thrust was that things were no longer the same as when Gibraltar had been under Spanish rule. This was hardly a surprise considering that half a century had gone by since its capitulation. There were numerous new buildings and the more prominent military bastions had drastically changed their outwards appearance.
As a Catholic, Ayala was also understandably upset by the sacrilegious use of certain places which he felt should have been regarded as sacred. The British, it seemed, had gone out of their way to be as profane as possible. He felt that they were trying to make a Protestant point not just to the local inhabitants but to themselves.
He was right. Most of the churches and convents had been converted into barracks and storehouses. The Church of Saint Sebastian in Cornwall’s Parade had been transformed into Officers’ Quarters. The Church of the True Cross now belonged to a Genoese merchant, a certain Brecciano who used it as a warehouse. The Chapel of Christ was a soldiers’ barracks and the Church of St. Jago near Southport Gate ( see LINK ) had been changed into an ordnance workshop.
The beautiful monastery of Our Lady of Grace in Calle de la Merced - today called Irish town - had once housed a community of White Friars who specialised as ransom payers and go-betweens. They had been much in demand as negotiators in the recovery of Christians kidnapped and threatened to be sold as slaves by Barbary pirates. The place was now a storehouse for the British Navy with apartments for officers and clerks.

White friars paying a ransom to release Christians captured by Barbary pirates.
The main Franciscan Convent had long since become the Governors’ residence. At the time, the Convent was situated near the sea and had fine commanding views over the Bay. As had most other visitors Ayala was impressed by the fact that it still retained ‘a delicious garden attached to it serving as well for recreation as for the supply of the Governor’s table.’ The other couple of dozen or so religious buildings – except of course the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned which was still used as a Catholic church - had likewise long been taken over for secular purposes.

Part of the ‘Line Wall’ fortifications that surrounded the town. The sea lies just below and the trees in the background at belong to gardens of the Convent   ( 1830s - Frederick Leeds Edridge )     ( see LINK

Ayala also gives details of other buildings besides the churches and monasteries that had been either enlarged or rebuilt over the years. There was a new hospital for seamen outside Charles V Wall and another for civilians near the center of town. Various gardens were also described such as the one laid out by Green ‘at his own expense’ and ‘well stocked with a variety of exquisite plants, shrubs and fruit trees’. There was another one near the Esplanade – where now stands the Garrison library - which almost unbelievably produced enough grass to feed the Governor’s own horses and cattle. He was probably referring to the Huerta Riera already mentioned elsewhere. Most of the gardens were cultivated by local Genoese men. 
Like others he was also impressed that even the humblest town houses usually had small courtyards - a typical feature of Andalucian homes - often adorned with a variety of different flowers usually growing on trellises, giving them a very agreeable appearance. Ayala was amazed that all the major maritime powers maintained consulates on the Rock and attributed this to the fact that international trade was the town’s main activity. Many of the more prosperous looking houses, however, belonged to the ‘English’ merchants or civilian personnel employed by the Garrison: other ‘Englishmen’ ‘kept inns’ or taverns.
Ayala gives his cultural anti-Semitism an outing when he describes the Jews of Gibraltar as being for the most part ‘shop-keepers and brokers, as much given to cheating and to lending money at exorbitant interest there as their brethren elsewhere.’ They were managed by someone whom they styled ‘King’, whose power was ‘more arbitrary and despotic than that of the King of England.’ It was through him that the various Governors collected taxes and duties owed by the Jewish community.
This ‘King’ is a translation of the word ‘Rei’ which is the one used by Ayala. It presumably refers to the Chief Rabbi. Serfaty in his book The Jews of Gibraltar suggests that Ayala may have picked – and misinterpreted - the term Resh Gelutha, which refers to somebody who was a chief of any group of Jews who happened to be in exile. Others have suggested that he might have been referring to Isaac Aboab, the previously mentioned merchant who was unfortunately better known for his bigamy than for the fact that he was one of the richest men on the Rock.
Whatever the meaning of the term, Ayala was correct. All Governors since Bland had followed his example and dealt directly with the rabbis rather than with Jewish individuals. Taxes were collected in this way and Jewish Sergeants kept the peace. As regards the Chief Rabbis despotic powers, the kindest comment would be that Ayala had been misinformed.
The Spanish historian was also struck by the barren appearance of the Rock and its serious lack of manufacturing or agricultural possibilities. The frontier with Spain was closed and the traffic with the Barbary Coast insecure. Was it possible, he asked rhetorically, that the whole thing was sustained through contraband with Spain? As he himself appreciated, Gibraltar was a free port and this meant that there was no such thing as a customs house. 

Vessels from everywhere came and went landing their goods and taking other merchandise aboard without paying a penny in duty. Its ‘excellent situation’ made it an ‘Emporium for Africa, the Mediterranean and the Ocean’. Ships from the North of Europe exchanged their goods for those of India and the Americas. Fresh produce was imported from Africa to feed the Garrison.
Another contemporary view - Ayala would not have been too enamoured with that huge Union Jack.

These comments have often been mirrored by later writers who have found it irresistible to offer their readers mouth-watering lists of goods and supplies entering and leaving the port. Drinkwater recollecting his years in Gibraltar prior to the Great Siege writes about the ‘Moors in times of peace’, supplying the Garrison with ‘ox-beef, mutton, veal and poultry, on moderate terms’ and ‘fruits of all kinds such as melons, oranges, green figs,’ all ‘brought in abundance from Barbary and Portugal.’ The ‘very good wines’ available ‘from Spain were drank at very reasonable prices.’

In fact the records of the Colonial Secretariat in Gibraltar suggest that trade was beginning to expand during this period with literally hundreds of boats bringing in barley, straw, wood and olive oil from Tangier, brandy, macaroni, chestnuts, lemons, salt, candles, muslins and soap from Italy and sugar, biscuits, charcoal, ducks, chickens and eggs from Spain.

Ayala was also impressed that a group people of such a different cultural backgrounds and religions were able to tolerate and avoid quarrelling with each other. He attributed this to the ‘severity of the military government’. The locals knew what to expect if they broke the law.  The civilian population, he argued, seemed to accept that those regulations which were imposed on them were both ‘good and just’ and believed that the British authorities were incorruptible. They had come to recognise that ‘their own security was best guaranteed by not disturbing that of others.’
These last somewhat surprising observations should be taken not so much with a pinch as with a lorry-load of salt. They obviously did not quite relate to the reality of what went on in Gibraltar at the time. The reason for Ayala’s generous conclusions stemmed from the fact that as a Spaniard he was a man well ahead of his time. The War of the Spanish Succession had brought a new Bourbon dynasty to the throne of Spain and with it the start of a belated Age of Enlightenment. Ayala’s History of Gibraltar – despite its staunch defence of Catholicism and anti-Semitic undertones reflects this philosophy. He approved of the idea of the incorruptible yet benevolent dictator who was always strict but never unfair.
To attribute incorruptibility and benevolence to the men who had actually governed Gibraltar since 1704 seems absurd to put it mildly - until one realises that the administration of Gibraltar, particularly in the later part of the 18th century, was the epitome of fairness and justice in contrast with other comparable towns in Spain. In any case the relatively long periods of peace that Gibraltar had experienced during the few decades after the Gunner’s War, seemed to have slightly mellowed the relationship between the British authorities and the locals.

Gibraltar    ( 1770s -William Henry Toms )

The building of a barracks outside South Port Gates ( see LINK ) may have helped by removing at least some of the friction caused by soldiers quartered inside the town itself. The natural contempt of the Briton for the foreigner was often tempered by curiosity. As one soldier put it when he arrived on his first tour of duty, the inhabitants seemed to come ‘from all nations under the sun; a greater contrast in features and manners is nowhere to be found, and any person that wishes to see the dress and customs of all the world, let him go to Gibraltar.’
Following up on this idea of a thoroughly cosmopolitan port, Ayala also makes a rather tantalising observation: all residents apparently spoke a mixture of English and Spanish as well as a dialect or ‘jerga’ which seemed to have been common to most ‘Southern’ nationalities. It is difficult to decide what kind of dialect he is referring to but the rest sounds suspiciously like the typical linguistic mixture of English and Spanish – with a good sprinkling of other influences – which goes by the name of Llanito and is still used by Gibraltarians to this day. ( see LINK
This was also a period in which oddly inane and sentimental stories were much in vogue and were doing the rounds in various London magazines. Unusually for stories about Gibraltar individual local inhabitants of the Rock were given center stage. In one of them a British vessel called the St Michael was captured by a Spanish Guarda Costa as she was entering the Bay on the pretence of searching for contraband goods.  After much abusive language the master of the vessel was ordered to pull down his English colours at which ‘a young lad of Genoese parents, but a native of Gibraltar’ immediately intervened. Under no circumstances would he pull down the flag. ‘Pull down the colours: what for?’  

In what must have been one of the very first examples of the curious ‘British we are and British we stay’ syndrome that often afflict Gibraltarians the young man ended his heroic stand with the words ‘England for ever!’ At which four of the Spanish guards raised their rifles and ‘killed him on the spot’. There was of course the usual ‘happy ending.’ A British frigate captured the Spanish boat, killed the crew and brought the St Michael back to Gibraltar.

Another even more absurd anecdote was that of a local inhabitant of Greek origins. As captain of a merchant ship he had made the mistake of taking a cargo of wine to America. The wine became vinegar and he lost every penny he had invested . When he returned to Gibraltar he was unable to pay his debts and was thrown into prison from where ‘he only escaped with the loss of his reason.’  

On his release he made his ‘home’ in a rent-free hovel on the roof of Cowper’s theatre and refused to associate with ‘any creature other than with dogs’. The slightest mention of America would set him off ‘swearing like a trooper in a ‘not very genteel Spanish’. A forerunner of several other more recent Gibraltarian eccentrics the old Greek had obviously become something of an institution on the Rock.

In 1777, while Ayala was still writing his famous history, the equally famous General George Augustus Eliott - eventual British hero of the Great Siege and of whom Ayala himself thought of as 'un soldado de gran tesón y conducta' -  became the next Governor of Gibraltar.

General George Augustus Eliott. Supposedly ‘'un soldado de gran tesón y conducta', something that is not immediately apparent in this portrait  ( Johann Zoffan )