The People of Gibraltar
2015 - El Patio Schott - "El Gato de Marchenas"

Mary Bosano Lane and Francis Ferro - Charlie Bosano and Moses Benzaquen
Mr Bonnici and Mr Suarez - Widow of Mr Johnston and Marchenas the greengrocer
Evaristo and his monkey - El zapatero Silvestre, Cassaglia, Pedro and Carter


El Patio Schott  in Castle Road  (1930s - Lucien Roisin )  (See LINK)

Although most people in Gibraltar would be hard pressed to tell you who the Schotts were, (see LINK) their surname has been locally immortalised by a particular set of buildings which lie along Castle Road just opposite the Church of the Sacred Heart. They are referred to by everybody - to this day - as El Patio Schott.

But perhaps the best way to demonstrate the affection which these buildings have held for their many residents is to quote a series of "conversations" between several Gibraltarians who lived there during the post war years and in which they recall with nostalgia those things they were told by their parents and grandparents and those which they remembered themselves. It is a conversation which reveals that the old aphorism still holds true - there is certainly "no place like home".
Mary Bosano Lane - It sounds as though a large number of the population lived at Schott's buildings. These 3 buildings (patios) were large, well designed and built (with German efficiency???), and quite modern for their time (they included a fire escape). They consisted of three + kitchen, two + k, one + k, and well administered. 
. . . In the Johnston's Passage Patio Schott there were two "pompas" (bombas=pumps). Each family was entitled to a certain number of 'cubos' (buckets) on certain days. La Casera (caretaker) held the key to the padlocks. You did not have to pay for these. 

Johnstones Passage



Showing a healthy disregard for keeping to any kind of spelling consistency, the name of this passage has appeared in official documents, directories, street signs and lists - as well as being known to the people who actually lived there - as Johnstone's, Johnstones, Johnston's or Johnstons Passage. In the 1871 census No. 10 was occupied by Moses Benzaquen. The address given was Johnson's Passage
I suspect the correct name is "Johnston's" named after a local merchant called Robert Johnston  . .  or could that be David Johnston!
The cisterns were inspected every year by the City Council Sanitary Inspectors who took samples for examination by the City Council laboratory. At the start of the rainy season the down-pipe which collected the water from the roof into the cistern would be disconnected by the Casera to prevent the first collection of dirty water going into the cistern. After this, the pipe would be reconnected to allow the water to fill the cisterns. During the summer months you could hear the squeaking of the "pompas" on "pompas" days. 

Castle Road looking south with el Patio Schott on the right   (Late 19th century)
Francis Ferro - I can recall the cistern underground bordering the Schott Patio designated 7 Johnstone's Passage. I seem to recall that once a year near the autumn and thus before the first rains, the inside of the cistern was cleaned out and given a coat of "cal" (lime). As an aside, patio "estates" like these, had their own "caseros" or "caseras" (caretakers) and these laid down the "law" on behalf of the owners of the estate.  
 . . . Some of the chores consisted in closing the inter patio gates at 2300 hours and switching off the communal lighting at around the same time. Thus, if in the middle of the night there was cause to call an ambulance, the caretaker had to be woken up and requested to switch on the lights for the particular patio!  
In time every corridor devised their own "lighting arrangement" and had control of the corridor lights! Incidentally, the closing of the inter patio gates was a ritual carried out very precisely, and it took a very good explanation to delay the closing even for a couple of minutes!
Mary Bosano Lane -The Casera was the 'supremo' of the three Schott's patios - she was very strict. As well as all the things you (Francis Ferro) have mentioned, if you wanted/needed to go to the "zotea"  (azotea=flat terrace) you had to ask her for the key and return it promptly. As for the cleaning of the cisterns, my father was assistant to Mr Suarez, the City Council's Health and Sanitary Inspector and it was their job once a year to check the cisterns for mosquito larvae etc.  
 . . it was the roof of the Sacred Heart church that channelled its water for one of the cisterns in the Schott's building. I understood that it was a quid pro quo - Schott paid for the roof of the church (the funds for the completion having run out) and the church channelled its water to the Patio Schott. My father was born in el patio Schott in 1897 and it was from him that I got this information . .  
. .This particular cistern was directly behind and above the flat at the north-east end of the No 7 Johnstone's Passage patio. During heavy rain you could hear the thunder of the water as it hit the wall of this flat and it was quite frightening for the family living there. . . .  My heart is permanently attached to No 7. I was born and lived there till I left to get married. My brother and his family lived there. His children were all born at No 7.

The hook on the wall of the Patio Schott on the right was probably used by vendors to tie their donkeys 
. . . It was a quid pro quo deal, Schott paid for the construction of the church's roof in exchange for the water to be diverted into the patio's cistern. 

Castle Road with the Sacred Heart Church on the right   ( 1940 - National Geographic )
Francis Ferro - Marchenas (the greengrocer) had a big, fat, black and white cat that used to cross the road and come into 38 Castle Road. I can just about recall this cat coming into my flat (doors were always open), sneaking up to the table and grabbing a nice plaice that my Mum had bought for me.  
With a leap and a bound it flew out of the window with the plaice in its mouth onto the patio of No 36! It took a while to get my Dad to settle down when he came from work and was told about the "theft"! This story has been repeated umpteen times to my grandchildren, and all black and white cats are referred to as "el Gato de Marchenas" 
 By this time we had moved from 38 Castle Road (in 1951) to the adjoining block of (Schott's) flats known as 7 Johnstone's Passage. I remember waking up one morning and being told by one of my parents that the patios were literally crawling with insects. . . . in a jiffy I rushed into No 38's patio (still cannot remember why I did not stay in my patio!). 
There I found one of the neighbours, Mr Bonnici, with a gardening spade, gathering pink 3-inch locusts that covered the whole patio! He had a zinc plated bath half-filled with water and was dumping these insects into it. Amazing to see thousands of these insects all crawling around - the next day they were gone . . . . 
Charlie Bosano - I remember perusing the original lease for the Patio Schott and saw an old plan, from before the Patio Schott was built (in 1888). It said "Passageway belonging to the widow of Mr Johnston." My dad recalls a blacksmith who worked at the west facing side of the patio, near St Mary's Middle School, his name was Evaristo and he had a monkey in the premises. 

Doorway to Evaristo the Blacksmith
On the side exit of the patio, facing south east, on the side of the steps was a 'zapatero' called Silvestre. On the east side facing fa├žade was a shop called Cassaglia's. In my distance memory I remember that two very friendly and gregarious gentlemen, Pedro was one of them, can't remember the other one. Unfortunately all contact with them was lost when the frontier was closed. (1969 to 1985) 

Cassaglia's shop and east entrance to the Patio
There was also the neighbourhood a 'churreria' near the top of Prince Edward's Road, near 'Carter's Shop'. Prior to dad installing potable water pipes, at our own expense, we had to pump water into one or two buckets and carry it manually up the four floors.

Silvestre's Shoe Repair Shop 


All photographs shown above - apart from those attributed to others - were kindly sent to me by Charlie Bosano - Many thanks Charlie.