The People of Gibraltar
1739 - Francis Columbine - Ye temper of ye inhabitants

Miss Ann Master and Streynsham Masters - General Joseph Sabine
General Jasper Clayton and Major Kennedy - Lieutenant Colonel William Kennedy
Isaac Serfaty and Moses Mageres - Captain Dirk Labee

When last I wrote about Francis Columbine I was unable to discover any portrait of Gibraltar's once upon a time Governor. The one below perhaps more than makes up for this.


Lieutenant General Francis Columbine and his wife Ann   ( The National Portrait Gallery )

The text - in which Gibraltar is wrongly spelt - reads as follows:
The Honble Francis Columbine Esqr Lieut Genl of all His Majesties Forces and Collonel of a Regiment of Foot with His Lady who was Miss Ann Master Daughter of Straynsham Master, Esqr His Majesty's Judge Advocate &c. in Gibralter."; "J. Highmore pinxt. 1741."; "J. Faber fecit" and in crest "Columbine Master".
Columbine is often referred to as Governor of Gibraltar but in reality he never actually seems to have been officially appointed as Governor. He was simply the man on the spot when his boss died in April 1739 and his next one turned up a few months later in October 1740. His connections with the Rock, however, began quite a while before and more than made up for this discrepancy. In 1730 by now a Brigadier-General, he was brought over to Gibraltar by General Joseph Sabine - the Governor at the time - to act as his lieutenant. 


General Joseph Sabine

Here he soon met and married Ann - the lady in the picture -who happened to be the daughter of Streynsham Masters - the Judge Advocate of Gibraltar.


Streynsham Masters  (John Riley )

A year later he was allocated lodgings in a house which had been vacated by Lieutenant General Jasper Clayton - who would later also become Governor of Gibraltar - and immediately ran into trouble. A certain Major Kennedy claimed that he was entitled to the house as his brother William, a Lieutenant Colonel in the 29th Foot had once lived there and had spent a fortune in repairing it. The argument then became a matter of principle and the Secretary at War Lord Harrington, was asked to intervene. According to Sabine:
Allowing officers to keep possession of Quarters for such as are absent will introduce great confusion into the Garrison.
Furthermore he countered Kennedy's argument that his brother had spent a lot of money in repairs by revealing that well before Columbine had taken over, the good Major had dismantled and removed much of the work carried out by his brother. It was enough to convince Lord Harrington and Columbine kept the house. 


A young Francis Columbine (Unknown )

When Sabine died in Gibraltar in 1739, Columbine was understandably keen on taking over. Gibraltar was a veritable goldmine for those in authority throughout the early and mid 18th century and beyond. (See LINK) He therefore decided to send in the equivalent of a modern day job application to the Duke of Newcastle, the Secretary of State for the Southern Department at the time.
I beg leave to recommend myself to your Graces protection. I am forty four years old a commissioned officer and upwards at thirty ranks as Col. As your Grace is not unacquainted how long it was before his Majesty was graciously pleased to give me a Regiment. 
I have been near ten years in this Garrison and am well acquainted with its Constitution as well as ye temper of ye inhabitants, and most humbly beg your Grace's assistance in Recommending me to his Majesty who will I hope in consideration of my long service and Rank as Lieut-Genl. out of his wonted goodness prefer me to be Governor which will enable me to end my days Comfortably and Agreeably.
The answer was no. General Clayton - the man who had previously occupied his house - was appointed instead.  



The North Front    (1740 - William Test from William Skinner - Detail )  (See LINK)

While he was in interim charge he was involved in one or two interesting episode. The War of Jenkins' Ear also known as La Guerra del Asiento in Spain - occurred during this period. It was an artificially instigated attempt by the British to encourage the Spanish not to renege on the lucrative asiento - or permission to sell slaves in Spanish America. Colombine had the satisfaction of proclaiming War on Spain by means of public proclamations.

It was also Columbine who reserved a specific plot of land in the south for the building of the Naval Hospital which was eventually built just above Rosia Bay (see LINK) in 1741. It occupied the site of the old Spanish chapel of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios.


South Barracks on the left and (42) the Naval Hospital on the right (1760 - Unknown )

He was also appointed the principle member of the powerful Vice-Admiralty court. On the very first case to heard he ran into trouble in a complicated mercantile case between two Jewish merchants - Isaac Serfaty and Moses Mageres - and a Dutch sea captain called Dirk Labee. Columbine gave his judgement for the plaintives, the Dutchman appealed on the grounds of a lack of jurisdiction by the Gibraltar court and the Privy Council tossed the appeal out and upheld Columbine's judgement. A few months later he returned to England. He died in 1746