Prince George of Cambridge and General George Don
Major Hort was an officer in the British Army. He was attached to the 81st Regiment of Foot which was stationed in Gibraltar from 1836 to about 1845. In 1840 he published his book - The Rock - in which he described his experiences there at length. The book is no longer in print and old copies are hard to come by, but various magazines found it interesting enough to review it at length. This is what the Metropolitan Magazine had to say about it.
Among all the places on the globe over which the flag of England floats, there is scarcely one spot more interesting than Gibraltar; or, as it is called by the inhabitants, and by soldiers and sailors, The Rock - the rock par excellence. Its history, from the time when El Tarif the conquering Moor, first planted the crescent on the heights, down to the memorable siege of which old Elliot was the hero, is exceedingly striking: its excavations, its fortifications, and natural caverns, are all curious in the extreme; as a bold picturesque object, it is very remarkable ; and it commands some of the most lovely scenery in the world, almost constantly lighted up by a most glorious sun.
The Rock from Spain ( 1846 - G.F.Weston )
As it lies out of the beat of our troops of tourists, we have heard less of these beauties than of those of the Rhine, and Switzerland, and Italy ; but the man that knows what the picturesque and beautiful really are, and that has stood on Europa Point at sunset, looking towards the magnificent mountains of Africa, and the scarcely less grand sierras of Spain, or that has seen the sun rise from the signal-house on the top of the Rock, or from O'Hara's Tower, will never forget the glorious sight, and will agree with us in affirming that there is and can be nothing more grand and beautiful upon the face of this beautiful earth than that commingling scene of Europe and Africa, mountain and plain, land and water, straits, ocean, and Mediterranean.
It will sound like a bathos to speak of the dear monkeys; yet these monkeys (found wild in no other part of Europe) would in themselves furnish matter for a little book. The human population of Gibraltar, English civilians and red-coats, Catalans, Andalusians, Portuguese, Genoese, Minorcans and Majorcans, Moors, Barbary Jews, skippers, smugglers, bare-legged African porters, - form altogether a most varied and amusing picture. . .
Gibraltar ( 1840 - W Hughs )
We have the Rock drawn in various parts and from various points of sight, extending from the Neutral Ground, as they call that narrow sandy isthmus which connects Gibraltar with the continent of Spain, to the hills in the rear of the old Moorish aqueduct behind the romantic Spanish town of Algeziras.
There are, besides, within the limits of the Rock, very pleasant views of the Exchange and Spanish chapel, the quarters of Prince George of Cambridge and Trinity Church, the Moorish mosque and old castle, and the large and moresque-looking convent, which has been converted into the palace of the residing governor, and which is one of the most commodious and picturesque dwellings we ever chanced to enter.
The Convent . . . perhaps not quite 'one of the most commodious and picturesque dwellings' . ( from an old postcard )
Our recollections date from the time when the good and frank old General Don (peace to his honoured ashes!) made it a place of ease and happiness to everyone that entered its gates. And, in addition to all these, we have views of Castellar, a small hill-town, which resisted the French invaders for months, and then drew them off to be cut to pieces by the guerrillas; and of the famed old convent and the cork wood, where, in our time, there was more feasting than fighting, for it was the chosen spot of all pic-nic-ites from the Rock, whether civilians or military, or mixed.
The old convent in the cork wood ( 1923 old postcard )
The natives from St. Roque also feasted there, as well as prayed. Near at hand there was a glorious valley for mushrooms; and well do we remember how the pursy old corregidor of St. Roque was scared away one fine evening, after a pic-nic, while gathering wherewith to make a supper, by the sudden descent of a pack of wolves, that ate one of the hind legs of his borrico.
'Pic-nic-ites' from the Rock ( 1877 )
But we must not get into old stories. Our business is to describe what is in Major Hort’s book. We fear, however, that we have mentioned all that is good. The songs, both words and music, are third-rate, having nothing to do with the Rock, and being awkwardly introduced by a he-soldier. Some of the prose, as we have hinted, is pleasing; but the Major would have made a much better book if he had adopted a wholly different plan, or kept more to narrative and the description of real objects.
Still the book will be acceptable to all who know the localities. There is one little fact which we have learned from it, that may interest our readers. It is, that the young Prince George of Cambridge was very popular with the garrison of Gibraltar, where he was serving, and very fond of shooting over the romantic country which adjoins our possessions.
All of which is more complimentary to Gibraltar than to the literary style of the author of the book. Another magazine, The Athenaeum, was even more critical. . . 'we regret to say that a sillier book has yet to come before us. . .'
El Tarif should read Tarik, the cork wood was the Almoraima, and although the 'monkeys' may have been worthy of a book, the residents were simply amusing. General George Don, the Governor for many years right up to 1831, receives the usual good press, although I would suggest that his residence - the Convent - hardly qualifies as the most picturesque dwelling place ever chanced upon. Brown-nosing the young Prince George of Cambridge also seems to have proved irresistible. The engravings which were by Lieutenant William Lacey - by all accounts the highlight of the book - are sadly not available.