The People of Gibraltar
1895 - John Miller Adye - Recollections


The following is taken from General Sir John Miller Adye's  Recollections of a Military Life which was published in 1895.


John Miller Adye
Soon after my return from the expedition to Egypt I was appointed Governor of Gibraltar, and on January 2, 1883, took over the command from my distinguished predecessor, Field Marshal Lord Napier of Magdala. 
. . . On the whole, although the position of Gibraltar may not in all respects be an ideal one, its general conditions remain very much as they always have been; and to a great naval, colonial, and commercial nation such as Great Britain it is of the highest value, not only in war, but also in peace. Its possession gives us a place of rendezvous and of observation for our fleets; so that in time of war, with ordinary vigilance, no hostile vessels can enter or leave the Mediterranean without our knowledge. 
. . . Its value, however, is not limited to a period of war. Gibraltar has been for many a year to a certain extent a centre of trade, not only with the neighbouring towns of Spain, but also with the ports along the coast of Morocco. And since the opening of the Suez Canal its mercantile interests have greatly increased, the number of trading and passenger vessels of all nations calling in daily for provisions and coals and other requisites being much larger than of yore, as will be seen by the following table, giving the number and tonnage of vessels calling at Gibraltar during 1868 and 1893 respectively. 
As a proof of its commercial activity I may point out that Linea, which five and twenty years ago was a mere Spanish village at the other end of the neutral ground, is now a town of twelve thousand people, large numbers of whom visit Gibraltar daily, bringing in supplies of food, forage, vegetables, and fruit, &c., and leaving again at night with English goods. In fact, it has become a suburb, as it were, of the city. The trading facilities of Gibraltar are beneficial to the country round, and are fully appreciated by the inhabitants of that part of Andalusia.
It is an elegant if perhaps patronising way of mentioning contraband. The people of La Línea may have brought in legal produce into Gibraltar but the stuff they took back home was contraband. The Governor's approach was to turn a blind eye on the obvious. It was not at all surprising when one considers the amount of trouble the topic had caused his predecessor, Lord Napier.


Taking all these matters into consideration, it will, I think, be apparent that the value of the city and fortress to this country are greater now even than in former days. 
. . . In considering the two-fold aspect of Gibraltar as a fortress and a commercial city combined, it is sometimes argued that its dual interests are antagonistic, and that the presence of a large civil population would add to the difficulties of its defence. To a certain extent no doubt the position is anomalous, as in other fortified cities. Should hostilities occur, and should the fortress be seriously threatened, its trade would certainly suffer and a considerable proportion of the inhabitants would probably seek temporary refuge elsewhere . . .
When it came to the crunch some fifty years later at the start of World War II there was no question of the inhabitants seeking refuge elsewhere - they were forced to evacuate the town whether they wanted to or not . But to be fair that would not have been Adye's fault.
The shipping trade of Gibraltar in the present day is subject to one disadvantage, from the absence of any wharves for coaling the numerous steam vessels which call daily throughout the year. In order to remedy this deficiency, the coal reserves of the mercantile marine are stored in large old wooden hulks, about thirty-five in number, which are moored in Echelon down the bay, inconveniently crowding the anchorage.
He does not mention the numerous other hulks that were used as warehouse for tobacco awaiting to be smuggled into mainland Spain. But then again, he was perhaps remiss to introduce the topic of Contraband in his 'Recollections.' 


The town looking towards the Moorish Castle with one or two hulks and other craft on the northern end of the Bay    (G. Washington Wilson )   (See LINK)
. . . Ever since the days of the great siege (see LINK) it had been the custom to close and lock up all the gates of the city at sunset, and to prevent any communication with the outer world until the following morning . . . One consequence of this extreme vigilance was that all vessels arriving after dark had to remain at anchor for many hours before their wants could be supplied.  
A deputation of merchants represented to me that great advantage would arise if the detention could be avoided. Their request seemed reasonable enough, and as on inquiry it appeared that their wishes could be met by permitting a few coal-heavers to leave the city at night, orders were given accordingly; and the result not only obviated the inconvenience, but led to an increase in the vessels visiting the port, thus adding considerably to the harbour dues . . . . 
During my residence at Gibraltar, I obtained permission from the War Office to convert some old store-houses within the city into reading and recreation rooms for the garrison . . . The chief room was capable of seating 1,200 persons; and every week a free smoking concert or entertainment was given, open to all soldiers, their wives, and friends; each regiment taking its turn to arrange a programme. 
Ladies and officers were sometimes kind enough to take part in the concerts, which were always crowded. The institution also contained a library, a billiard room, and was provided with games, such as bagatelle, chess, draughts, &c .Tea, coffee, and non-intoxicating drinks, at moderate prices were sold all day at a buffet; and after sunset until roll-call a bar was opened, at which the men could get glasses of beer, &c. 
I may add that during the visits of the Channel fleet the seamen and marines were invited to make free use of the rooms, and did so in considerable numbers: the institution thus contributing to promote that friendly association between the men of the two services . . .  
In March 1885 Zobehr Pasha, accompanied by two sons, an interpreter, and several servants, arrived at Gibraltar from Egypt as a state prisoner by order of the British Government, and he was detained there during the remainder of my period of office. I had many conversations with him on the subject of the Soudan, and found him to be a man of considerable ability . . .

Governor's Cottage - where Zobehr Pasha and his sons spent their captivity in some comfort
( 1828 - H.A.West )   (See LINK)
Gibraltar has a population of about twenty-four thousand persons, of which between four and five thousand are military, and as it is said to be one of the most thickly inhabited places in the world its sanitary condition is a matter not only of importance, but under the circumstances one of some difficulty. 
In the early part of the century it was frequently visited by severe epidemics of fever, and more recently by serious attacks of cholera. Of late years, however, its sanitation has been under the careful supervision of a Sanitary Commission, which during my period of office consisted of twelve members, four official, and eight civilians selected from the grand jury list, and all unpaid. They had charge of the drainage, water, gas, and general improvements of the city; and, under the authority of the Governor, levied an annual rate on the inhabitants to meet the necessary expenditure. It is, evident that their duties were arduous and responsible. 
The Sanitary Commission may be said to be the only form of representation given to the people, and it is one which should be carefully preserved. However necessary it may be that the governor of a city, such as Gibraltar, enclosed within a fortress should have full power and authority, still it must be an advantage to him and to the public service that in a matter of vital interest to the people, in which also their local knowledge can be utilised, they should be consulted and associated with the Government.  
I may go farther and record my opinion that at Gibraltar, as elsewhere, it is desirable that representatives of the people should be freely consulted, not only in regard to sanitation, but also in commercial and other matters; and during my residence there I derived much assistance from their knowledge and friendly co-operation . . . The results of the care bestowed, for many years past, on the sanitary arrangements at Gibraltar have been very satisfactory. 
. . . there always has been a considerable trade in water brought from Spain in barrels and sold in the streets; but as on analysis it was found to be very impure, its introduction on the appearance of cholera was stopped. Fortunately, my predecessor, Lord Napier of Magdala, with a view to the possible requirements of a state of siege, had commenced in 1882 the erection of works for distilling sea water in large quantities; and, as they were just completed, they were put into operation, and for some weeks about 8,000 gallons a day were distilled and sold to all comers . . .  
The cases (of cholera) at Gibraltar nearly all occurred among the poorer inhabitants living in very crowded dwellings; and the families attacked being at once sent to the camp and supplied with pure water, the disease was immediately checked. Their houses were temporarily closed, the drains disinfected, cisterns emptied, and rags and rubbish burnt; and in the course of a few days they returned home, and the cholera, so far as they were concerned, was at an end. 
The epidemic at Gibraltar lasted for about two months, and great misery resulted amongst the poorer classes, owing to the city being placed in quarantine by the other ports of Europe. As a consequence very few vessels called, and large numbers of the inhabitants were out of employment. So great was the poverty that public soup kitchens were established, and for some time about 2,000 persons a day received free rations of soup and bread. In the meantime the disease was raging at Linea and other neighbouring towns 
The story of my 'Recollections ' now draws to a close. Whatever vicissitudes or occasional hardships I may have experienced during my long service in various parts of the world, I was in great measure free from them during the period of my government of Gibraltar. There were, of course, numerous duties, and sometimes anxieties, connected with its administration, but these were rendered comparatively easy by the warm support of all classes which was so heartily given during the four years of my residence amongst them. They are a loyal people, and were most grateful for any efforts of mine to promote their welfare. 
I left Gibraltar with much regret, feeling deeply the kindness shown to my family and myself by the inhabitants who came to bid us farewell on our embarkation for England in November 1886.

Gibraltar from the Queen of Spain's Chair ( From the Book - John Miller Adye )

If his 'Recollections' are anything to go by, Adye was a decent individual who seems to have recognised - at last - that civilian population of Gibraltar deserved to be acknowledged  and that life generally would be made easier if people were consulted about matters which affected their lives. 

When he left he was given a campaign silver service made by E. Hutton of London. The text on the plate read as follows:

Presented to his Excellency General Sir John Miller Adye, G.C.B etc by the inhabitants of Gibraltar as a token of the great esteem which he was held by all classes of the community and as a recognition of his care for their welfare and of the valuable services he rendered in initiating and carrying into effect many beneficial measures and works during the time he was Governor 
November 1886

A wee bit over the top perhaps - but then he never did anything to disturb the staus quo in so far as the all powerful Gibraltar merchants were concerned. Anybody who did that would always be considered as a 'good governor' by 'the people of Gibraltar.

Neverthe less by my book any Governor who found the time and had the skill to paint as many attractive watercolours of the Rock as he did during his stay, deserves anybody's respect. (see LINK)





Campaign silver service given to Governor Adye on his departure from Gibraltar