The People of Gibraltar
1878 - Jules Verne - The First Visit

Jules Verne was a French author best known as the pioneer of science fiction literature. Books such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Around the Worlds in Eighty Days were world best-sellers making him one of the most translated authors in the world. They also made him a very rich man.

Jules Verne ( Unknown )

On the 19th of June 1878 the Gibraltar Chronicle carried the following announcement -

'R.Y.C. steamer St. Michel (J.Verne Esq., owner on board), Mr. E David ( Captain ), 4 hours from Tangiers - cleared to sea.

Verne's Yacht- the Saint Michel II (Unknown )

Jules Verne had arrived for his first short visit to Gibraltar. He was 50 years old, at the height of his fame and already enormously rich. He was accompanied by his brother Paul. As mentioned by the Chronicle, he had arrived from Tangiers and his intention was to have a quick look round Gibraltar and then continue his voyage to Malaga, Tetuan, Oran and Algiers.

Verne disembarked by tender at Water Port and found no difficulty clearing customs and quarantine, a perk no doubt of his wealth and fame as both could be rather tedious affairs for visitors to Gibraltar. Despite the constitutional changes brought about by General Don in the 1830s the Rock was still very much a fortress town.

Waterport wharf ( Unknown )

He then took a quick tour of the town taking an unusual route. He turned right at Waterport and walked along the Line Wall. Verne had always been fascinated by fortifications of any sort and the impressive display of ordinance along the shore batteries will undoubted have persuaded him to have a closer look.

The Line Wall with Waterport in the middle distance in the centre of the picture. Verne will have enjoyed inspecting those formidable cannons ( Geeorge Washington Wilson )

More or less half way up he stopped at the Convent and paid his respects to the Governor - Lord Napier of Magdala - presumably entering via the back door. Normally Verne would also have visited any French dignitaries or diplomats but there were very few of the former and France had no diplomatic representation on the Rock.

Lord Napier of Magdala
It must have been a relatively short visit - he was not invited to stay for lunch - and Verne was soon on his way towards the South. At the Grand Parade in the Alameda he paused for a while to listen to some Scottish military music from the bands of either the Black Watch or a Regiment of the Highland light infantry, both of which were stationed in Gibraltar at the time.

Refreshed he made his way back into town through South Port Gates, viewed the Convent once again, this time from its front entrance and then reached the centre of town which was then called Commercial Square. A stroll through the busy stalls selling all sorts of bric-a-brac must have put him in the mood for a good diner.

The facade of the Exchange and Commercial Library building facing Main Street. The Royal Hotel was on the other side of the road.

Fortunately one was readily available at the Royal Hotel which was very close in Main Street just opposite the Exchange and Commercial Library building. The table d'hôte was served at 7 pm. Three hours later he was back on the Saint Michel. It had been a hot and tiring day. Next morning on Thursday the 20th of June the yacht was cleared by the Captain of the Port and set sail for Oran. Verne's first short visit to the Rock was over.