Eric Arthur Blair - better known to just about everybody as George Orwell - needs no introduction here. As one of the most influential British writers of the 20th century I will leave it to the reader to research his biography elsewhere.
George Orwell ( Unknown )
In 1938, however, convalescing after a serious injury received during his involvement in the Spanish Civil War, he and his wife took a six months trip to French Morocco. Luckily he was an inveterate diarist and among his copious notes are several that refer to his short stay in Gibraltar while on his way to his villa on the road to Casablanca. Here are some of them. The date is the 8th to the 10th of September.
Newspapers in Gibraltar
. . . Local English daily Gibraltar Chronicle & Official Gazette, 8 pages of which about 2 ½ advertisements, 1d. Current number 31,251. More or less pro-fascist. Local Spanish paper El Annunciador and El Campanse, each four pages lrgely adverts. 1d daily. No very definite standpoint politically, perhaps slightly pro-Franco. Ten or eleven Franco papers sold here, also three Government papers including Solidaridad Obrera. The latter at least six days old when obtainable . . . also two pro-Government Spanish papers published in Tangier, El Porvenir and Democracia. . . Impossible to discover sentiments of local Spanish population. Only signs on walls are Viva Franco and Phalangist symbol but very few of these.
The stance of the Gibraltar Chronicle (see LINK) was in line with general British Government policy - officially neutral but pro-Franco in fact. No newspaper called El Campanse has ever been published in Gibraltar - Orwell was probably referring to a local rag called El Calpese. Solidaridad Obrera was the mouthpiece of the anarchist labour movement - the CNT.
Population of town about 20,000, largely Italian origin but nearly all bilingual English-Spanish. Many Spaniards work here and return to Spain every night. At least 3000 refugees from Franco territory. Authorities now trying to get rid of these on pretext of overcrowding.
Spanish refugees in North front ( 1936 )
Impossible to discover wages and food prices. Standard of living apparently not very low, no barefoot adults and few children. Fruit and vegetables cheap, wine and tobacco evidently untaxed or taxed very little . . no English sugar or matches all Belgian . . . Some of the shopkeepers are Indians and Parsees.
José Luis Díez
Spanish destroyer José Luis Díez lying in harbour. (See LINK) A huge shell-hole probably four or five feet across, in her side, just above water-level, on port side . . . Flying Spanish Republican flag. The men were apparently prevented from going ashore, now allowed at certain hours to naval recreation grounds ( i.e. not to mix with local population ). No attempt made to repair the ship.
The José Luis Díez off Catalan Bay
Overheard local English resident: 'It's coming right enough. Hitler's going to have Czechoslovakia all right. If he doesn't get it now he'll go on and on till he does. Better let him have it at once. We will be ready by 1941.'
The Barbary Ape is said to be now very rare at Gibraltar & the authorities are trying to exterminate them as they are a nuisance. At a certain season . . they come down from the rock and invade people's houses and gardens. . .
About four years later, Britain now in the middle of a World War, the authorities changed their minds. When the ape population dwindled to just seven animals Winston Churchill ordered their numbers to be replenished immediately from both Morocco and Algeria. Churchill's decision was based on the popular belief that as long as the apes exist on Gibraltar, the territory will remain under British rule.
The breed of goat here is the Maltese . . . The goat is rather small and has the top half of it body covered with long & rather shaggy hair which overhangs it to about the knees giving the impression it has very short legs. Ears are set low & drooping. Most of the goats are hornless, those having horns have ones that curve back so sharply that they lie against the head & usually continue round in a semi-circle . . .
Goatherd - Looking Across the Straits (1856 - Richard Ansdell )
Udders are very perpendicular . . . colours black, white and (especially) reddish brown. Goats will apparently graze on almost anything. e.g. the flock I watched had grazed the wild fennel plants right to the ground.
Donkeys . . and other animals
Breed of donkeys here small, like English. The conveyance peculiar to the place a little partly closed carriage rather like the Indian gharry with the sides taken out.
The Gibraltar gharry - Orwell's sketch and the real thing
Hills steep and animals on the whole badly treated. No cows. Cows' milk 6d a pint . . Prickly pear grows very plentifully on poor soil. Few hens here & eggs small. 'Moorish eggs' advertised as though a superior kind. Cats of Maltese kind. All dogs muzzled.