1877 - Frederick Whymper - A Mongrel Population
Frederick Whymper was a British artist and explorer. He produced many engravings for publication and some of his landscapes were exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. He travelled through much of Canada and Alaska and published The Heroes of the Arctic and their Adventures after his experiences there.
Frederick Whymper (Bradley and Rulofson )
Just after 1871 he returned to England and wrote The Sea: Its Stirring Story of Adventure, Peril and Heroism of which two entire chapters are given over to Gibraltar. Both deal mainly with its history, most of which is of which is taken either from John Drinkwater's History of the Siege ( see LINK ) or Sayer's History of Gibraltar ( see LINK ) and is of little interest here.
The following are therefore direct quotes from those rare sections in which he comments on other matters. The engravings are from the book and were presumably done by Whymper himself.
Gibraltar from the mainland
Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
Bluish, ’mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
In the dimmest north-east distance dawned Gibraltar, grand and gray;
‘Here, and here, did England help me—how can I help England?’—say
Whoso turns as I, this evening, turns to God to praise and pray,
While Jove’s planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.'
The Rock from the Mainland
And the poet is almost literally correct in his description, for within sight, as we enter the Straits of Gibraltar, are the localities of innumerable sea and land fights dating from earliest days. That grand old Rock, what has it not witnessed since the first timid mariner crept out of the Mediterranean into the Atlantic—the Mare Tenebrosum,—the 'sea of darkness' of the ancients? Romans of old fought Carthaginian galleys in its bay; the conquering Moors held it uninterruptedly for six hundred years, and in all for over seven centuries; Spain owned it close on two and a half centuries; and England has dared the world to take it since 1704 - ( see LINK ) one hundred and seventy-three years ago.
The Great Siege of Gibraltar, ( see LINK ) its very armorial bearings, which we have adopted from those given by Henry of Castile and Leon, are suggestive of its position and value: a castle on a rock with a key pendant—the key to the Mediterranean. The King of Spain still includes Calpe (Gibraltar) in his dominions; and natives of the place, Ford ( see LINK ) tells us, in his 'Handbook to Spain,' are entitled to the rights and privileges of Spanish birth.
The Great Siege of Gibraltar
It has, in days gone by, given great offence to French writers, who spoke of l’ombrageuse puissance with displeasure. 'Sometimes,' says Ford, 'there is too great a luxe de canons in this fortress ornée; then the gardens destroy ‘wild nature;’ in short, they abuse the red-jackets, guns, nursery-maids, and even the monkeys.' The present colony of apes are the descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Rock. They have held it through all vicissitudes . . . . . .
Gibraltar has had an eventful history even since the great siege. In 1804 a terrible epidemic swept the Rock; 5,733 out of a population of 15,000 died in a few weeks. ( see LINK ) The climate is warm and pleasant, but it is not considered the most healthy of localities even now. The Rock itself is a compact limestone, a form of grey dense marble varied by beds of red sandstone.
It abounds in caves and fissures, and advantage has been taken of these facts to bore galleries, the most celebrated of which are St. Michael’s and Martin’s, the former 1,100 feet above the sea. Tradition makes it a barren rock; but the botanists tell us differently. There are 456 species of indigenous flowering plants, besides many which have been introduced. The advantages of its natural position have been everywhere utilised. It bristles with batteries, many of which can hardly be seen.
Moorish Tower at Gibraltar
Captain Sayer tells us that every spot where a gun could be brought to bear on an enemy has one. 'Wandering,' says he, 'through the geranium-edged paths on the hill-side, or clambering up the rugged cliffs to the eastward, one stumbles unexpectedly upon a gun of the heaviest metal lodged in a secluded nook, with its ammunition, round shot, canister, and case piled around it, ready at any instant . . .
The shrubs and flowers that grow on the cultivated places, and are preserved from injury with so much solicitude, are often but the masks of guns, which lie crouched beneath the leaves ready for the port-fire.' Everywhere, all stands ready for defence. War and peace are strangely mingled.
The Neutral Ground Gibraltar has one of the finest colonial libraries in the world, founded by the celebrated Colonel Drinkwater, whose account of the great siege is still the standard authority. The town possesses some advantages; but as 15,000 souls out of a population of about double that number are crowded into one square mile, it is not altogether a healthy place—albeit much improved of late years. Rents are exorbitant; but ordinary living and bad liquors are cheap.
The Neutral Ground
It is by no means the best place in the world for 'Jack ashore,' for, as Shakespeare tells us, 'sailors' are 'but men,' and there be 'land rats and water rats,' who live on their weaknesses. The town has a very mongrel population, of all shades of colour and character.
Alas! the monkeys, who were the first inhabitants of the Rock—tailless Barbary apes—are now becoming scarce. Many a poor Jocko has fallen from the enemy’s shot, killed in battles which he, at least, never provoked.A flat, uninspiring and uninformative account of the Rock in the late nineteenth century. The 'finest Colonial Library' was the Garrison Library ( see LINK ) . It was not in the Neutral Ground. The total population was nowhere near 30 000 and the Moorish Tower shown in the Picture was in Spain. Nor were Gibraltar's armorial bearing given to it by any Henry but rather by Queen Isabel of Castile. As for the KIng of Spain he does not include 'Calpe' in his dominions. He calls it Gibraltar.
Whymper was obviously much more interested in Gibraltar's war-like heritage than in the rest. Blaming the locals for leading British tars astray is par for the course as is quoting Ford at length on French dislikes. An odd criticism as it is quite obvious that neither he nor Ford cared much for the place either.
His account does offer one original idea. The notorious floating batteries used so ineffectively by the Franco-Spanish forces during the Great Siege were the precursors of future ironclads and indeed the warships of today. Their failure made naval strategists in France and elsewhere realize that warships needed some sort of protection to be able to withstand sustained attacks from land.
Ironclads off Gibraltar ( Unknown )
Curiously, his obituary concludes that the cause of his death in 1901 was 'failure of the heart, probably due to indigestion, arising from sedentary pursuits'; an ironic end for a man who was supposed to have always been on the move, travelling all over the world.