I enjoy reading books or essays written in the 18th and 19th century by people who visited the Rock and gave us their opinions on what Gibraltar was like. I often summarise these in short essays and try to include my own running commentary on what they had to say about us.
A Cruise in the Mediterranean, however, is slightly different as it is the only example I have yet to come across that consists entirely of illustrations and captions. I am not quite sure who was responsible for this or indeed bothering to get the book published but his name may have been Smith O'Hara.
Together with three friends - Dr Allan, Captain Bob and Sir Jocelyn Coghill - the later a scientist and photographer and all of them probably Irish - he set off on an extended tour of the Mediterranean. They first sailed to Lisbon and then visited Gibraltar, Malaga, Alicante and Malta, ending up in Corfu. All those sketches and commentaries that refer to Gibraltar are shown below.
Gibraltar's yellow fever epidemics of the early 19th century (see LINK) forced the authorities to take all sorts of measures to control, alleviate and hopefully stop a recurrence of what was a monumental tragedy claiming thousands of civilian and military lives. One of them was not allowing anybody to land on the Rock unless their "practique" or permission to land after compliance with quarantine regulations were in order.
The business of holding the documents with a pair of tongs was common practice for years as most people believed - wrongly - that yellow fever was a contagious disease. The individuals on the boat were usually civilian residents as it was - for obvious reasons - considered a rather dangerous job.
In those days the Guard Room was on the south-eastern end of Commercial Square - today's Piazza. The graffiti on the walls are also quite interesting - sword and pistol duellers, boxers and possibly a steeplechaser - horse racing was already very popular at the time. (See LINK ) All show pastimes which many of the officers who graced the place probably took part in while off duty. Perhaps it was also an expression of their public school engrained sense of humour.
The dilapidated contraption is a water wheel - known locally as a Noria. Water has always been a scarce resource on the Rock and this type of equipment built over wells probably dated back to the days when Gibraltar was Moorish. (See LINK) They were found not just in the isthmus but all over the town and were usually driven by bullocks. O'Hara's comment that a week is more than enough for a visit to the Rock is a common one among other visitors to Gibraltar.
Mediterranean Battery - also known as Martin's Battery - probably named after the drunken soldier who reportedly discovered Martin's Cave in 182. It is a pity that the artist failed to sketch in Catalan Bay (see LINK) which should have been visible on the lower right hand side of the picture. A regards his preference as shown on the previous picture of staying at most for a week, here he gives yet another reason why that would have been long enough. True to say, however, that prolonged drinking and eating sessions were for long the favourite sedentary pastimes of most of the garrison officers with whom the party would have mostly hobnobbed.
The Royal Calpe Hunt (see LINK) was indeed for many years by far the most popular pastime for the officer class in Gibraltar. It took place in the Spanish Campo de Gibraltar as there was nowhere on the Rock that was remotely suitable for hunting foxes. The locals rarely got a look in and the Spaniards detested the whole idea as the huntsmen often trampled all over their crops. The fox diggers - usually local Spaniards - were probably the only ones who were not too put out.
Despite having been inaugurated in 1816, General George Don's (see LINK) Alameda Gardens failed to capture anybody's imagination until only a decade or so before O'Hara visited the place. The military band referred to actually played on the large parade ground just beneath the main gardens and it is this that the author is actually referring to on his sketch. Moorish individuals in their hooded djellabas, señoritas with their fans, top-hatted and cigar smoking gentlemen were two a penny at the time. Far less common were men wearing a fez.
I wonder who they were.