The People of Gibraltar
1829 - William Mein Smith - A Scholarly Gentleman

William Mein Smith was born in Cape Town in South Africa in 1799 and was raised in the Scottish Borders. He went to school in Devon, entered the army as a gentleman cadet at the age of 14, and obtained his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in 1822 while stationed in Canada. In 1827 he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and a year later married Louisa Bargrave Wallace in Kingston, Ontario. The couple had nine children, of whom only five survived infancy.


William Mein Smith ( Unknown )

Two years later he was transferred to Gibraltar where - soon after he arrived - he became involved in a diplomatic mission to Barbary. The newly appointed British consul in Tangier had asked the Governor of Gibraltar, General Don (see LINK) for two officers to help him.  The consul was keen on having a medical man and "another whose science in various departments' might enable him 'to collect many valuable facts for which I might not be able to depend upon my own unassisted observation . . ' The Governor gave him James Edward Williams, the Assistant Surgeon of the Ordnance Medical Department in Gibraltar - and Lt. William Mein Smith.

While in Gibraltar Mein also established a library in a forlorn attempt to save soldiers from drink's 'disgrace and ruin'. He returned home on half-pay in 1842 and was made Captain in 1839, the same year that the New Zealand Company engaged him as its first surveyor general. It was here that he made his name for himself.

Mein Smith comes over as "a scholarly gentleman" both religious and diffident yet always manageing to command respect from of his fellow settlers. It was said of him that he was always ready to make 'a path for others'.

Today he is best remembered for his exact sketches and watercolours of Wellington, the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa - all of them created during his long stay in New Zealand. But it is his simple but appealing watercolours of the Rock that are of interest here as they offer subtle insights into the Gibraltar of the early nineteenth century as well as of the character of the artist himself.


The Rock 


The Harbour


Governor's Cottage 


North End from Eastern Beach


Catalan Bay (See LINK)


A Sketch in the Queen's Lines


The Moorish Castle  (See LINK


Selling Asses Milk


The View from Lower Crutchett's


A Sketch near San Roque


Storm


Courtyard ( Probably Gunner's Parade )


Windsor Galleries (See LINK


Rock from the South



People in Gibraltar