Hagge Said Guesus
I hardly know anything about Louis J.Henop other than what he reveals in a diary in which he hints that he was an American from Norfolk in Virginia. What I do know is that in the mid 19th century he was a junior officer in the American Navy and that he was on board the U.S. steam frigate San Jacinto when it made a transatlantic voyage to Europe.
Henlop kept a diary of his experiences which others have given the rather awkward if informative title of Journal of a Cruise to Europe, Cuba and Key West aboard the USS San Jacinto, August 1854 to March 1855.
One of the San Jacinto’s ports of call was Gibraltar. The ship remained anchored in the Bay for ten days and Henop made a point of visiting the Rock whenever the weather permitted.
Monday, December 11th - Bright and clear. At 11 o’clk land was descried ahead, and at 3 we were abreast and a few miles only from Cape Trafalgar, where the memorable battle was fought in which the English were victorious under Nelson. Passing the Cape we entered the Straits of Gibraltar (see LINK) and passed close enough to the Moorish coast to enable me to get a glimpse of the Moorish town of Tangier.
Directly ahead of us rose Ape’s Hill, which with Gibraltar forms the two pillars of Hercules. (see LINK) Just after dark we came to anchor under shadow of “The Rock,” which struck me particularly as bearing a resemblance to an immense lion, couchant, and I afterwards learnt that this impression was frequently conveyed to the minds of others.
Ape’s Hill from just outside the New Mole (see LINK) in Gibraltar ( 1810 - John T. Serres – The Little Sea Torch )
Gibraltar ( 1810 - John T. Serres – The Little Sea Torch )
Tuesday, December 12th - The loveliest day we have had since we left the U.S. The blue Mediterranean like a sheet of glass, and the water as transparent as crystal. Saluted the town and the consul, (see LINK) and the crew occupied in moving the ship and anchoring her in a better place.
Gibraltar is charmingly situated to my fancy, for though the town is built or rather terraced at the base of the rock, yet to me the mere circumstance of the high wall overshadowing the bright cheerful looking houses and little green spots, scattered here and there, make it by far the prettiest and most interesting town we have yet visited. Around the bay in sheltered little nooks lie several very pretty looking Spanish villages, and the back ground of high mountains far and near produces a very pretty effect . . .
Gibraltar from the Bay ( 1856 - Willem Anthonie van Deventer )
Wednesday, December 13th - Delightful weather. Went on shore at 10 o’clock, and from the time I landed till the time I left the Mole at sunset, was wrapt in “a cloak of wonder” at the strength of this celebrated fortress. Immediately on landing after passing several large water batteries, which would effectually prevent the entrance to the town being approached by means of boats, you enter the market place, through a ponderous gate and drawbridge which is regularly closed every evening at sunset, and passing through a large open square which is surrounded by barracks, enter Westport St. the principal street of the town.
Market place and gates leading to the Grand Casemates or “large open square . . . surrounded by barracks” - from this square the author would have walked south up Waterport Street, the bottom section of today’s Main Street (19th century - William Lee Hankey )
On every side and at almost every corner sentries are posted and one third at least of those that you meet in the streets are soldiers. The rest of the inhabitants seem to be representatives from all parts of the world; Moors, Jews, Arabs, Spaniards, English, all in the characteristic garb of their country, meet you at every step, and what with the difference of feature and color, and the confusion of tongues it is a second Babel.
Moorish traders selling their wares (1860s)
After looking at some Moorish curiosities, we proceeded to the other end of the town to the Parade Ground, a beautiful piece of level ground, used for the purpose its name indicates and surrounded on all sides by beautiful trees, with handsome benches under them whereon “to rest one’s weary limbs.”
The Parade Ground usually referred to as the Grand Parade ( 1846 - J.M. Carter ) (See LINK)
A little further on are the public gardens, a perfect little paradise at the foot of this mountain of rock, with oranges and lemons growing in full luxuriance, and well laid out tastely paths, with neat little summer houses perched wherever a good view is to be obtained. What a difference between this place and our own country at the same season!
The public gardens were known locally as the Alameda. They were inaugurated in 1816 when General George Don was Governor of the place. (See LINK)
The Eliott memorial (see LINK) in the Alameda Gardens ( Late 19th century - Edward Angelo Goodall )
Here a bright, genial sun, with hot house plants growing freely on every side, and overcoats entirely out of the question, and there the cold, drizzling, disagreeable weather so common in December, with everybody muffled up to the ears, wishing the season of snow and slush was over!
A page from Henop’s diary
After a short rest in the gardens, we ascended by long, circuitous and tiresome paths to the Signal Station on the top point of the rock, where we had a magnificent view on the one side of Algeciraz Bay the coast of Spain, with the Atlantic in the far distance and on the other of the blue Mediterranean and Catalan Bay, with the commencement of the Atlas range of mountains extending back from the shores of Africa, while immediately below, at the foot of an almost perpendicular precipice of 1400 ft. lay a little Catalan fishing village, said to be the one mentioned in Dumas novel of Monte Cristo. After descending, we partook of a good dinner at the “Club House Hotel” and went on board in the sunset boat.
I remember reading the famous Count of Monte Cristo when I was young . . . but I cannot remember Dumas writing anything about Gibraltar in the book - and I was the kind of young reader that would have remembered anything that had anything to do with Gibraltar. I have since had another look at the 1848 edition and have come to the conclusion that Henlop is referring to the following passage;
The Count of Monte Cristo - Volume 1 - Chapter 3 - The Catalan Village - About a hundred yards from the place . . . stood the little village of the Catalans, situated behind a bleak hill, and exposed equally to the sun and north-west wind.
One day a mysterious colony had set out from Spain and arrived in this little corner of the earth, which they still occupy. They spoke a strange language, and no one knew from whence they came. One of the chiefs, who understood the Provencal dialect, requested the corporation of Marseilles to give them this bare and barren headland on which they had moored their vessels like ancient mariners.
His demand was granted and three months afterwards a little village sprung up round the twelve or fifteen ships which had conveyed these gipsies of the sea. This village, built in an irregular and picturesque manner, half Moorish half Spanish, continues to the present day to be inhabited by the descendants of these men, who continue to use the same language as their forefathers.
They have remained for three or four centuries, attached like a flock of sea.-birds, to the little promontory on which they had settled, never mingling with the Marseillaise population in any respect, intermarrying with each other, and preserving the manners and customs of their mother country even as they retain its language.
Catalan Bay – Gibraltar ( 19th century – G. E. Gerret )
The Gibraltarian version of Catalan Bay is mostly exposed to the east wind and the inhabitants are mostly of Genoese descent. They have indeed – at least right up to the late 19th century, preserved many of their customs and their original language – but these were Genoese and not Catalan. Nor can the village be described as half Moorish. For a fuller discussion on the place and the origins of its name - the Spanish equivalent is La Caleta – see my essay. (See LINK)
Thursday, December 14th - Went ashore at one o’clock, and walked down to the “Parade Grounds” where I heard some very good music from one of the Garrison Bands which was practicing there. Made the acquaintance of a Moor from Timbuctoo, Hagge Said Guesus by name, a very handsome Negro, and bought several Moorish curiosities from him.
This Negro has nearly 200 pages allotted to him in the Book describing the cruise of the North Star, Com. Vanderbilt’s Steam Yacht, and is said by him to be one of the greatest curiosities of Gibraltar. Came on board as necessity required, at sunset.
The book on The North Star’s little trip was actually written by Vanderbuilt’s good friend John Overton Choules. (See LINK) Here is his description of the man from Timbuctoo.
In our shopping expeditions we found ourselves in a curiosity store, kept by a Moor, who is known as "Charley." He is the handsomest black man I ever saw. His eyes are wondrously fine, but his face has been tattooed in his early youth, when he was a slave in Barbary.
Charley has been to Timbuctoo, has been a great traveller, speaks several languages, and has managed to accumulate some considerable cash. This man is, in my estimation, "the character” of the town. His costume is thoroughly Turkish, or, more correctly, Moorish; parts of his dress very costly.
In his shop we made many a pleasant lounge, and ate his dates, which he always brought out. I think that our acquaintance was mutually agreeable; for certainly Charley, having found favor with our ladies, made extensive sales to all our party, and I fancy at leaving he must have had possession of several hundreds of dollars.His card of business is as follows:
Hagge Said Guesus,
Dealer In Moorish Curiosities, Etc. Etc. Etc.,
No. 7 Main-Street,
A shrewder salesman than "Charley " is not often found. I am writing from an inkstand which I purchased from him, and he said, "0, you will wish you had bought a dozen when you get home!" Well, Charley, you were right there; for my Moorish inkstand, with its castellated sides, is a general favorite, and nearly every one covets it; but I shall keep it in remembrance of as clever a darkey as I know. But he was far too clever to let me off with an inkstand, and sundry other memorials have I to show of our transactions in trade. I wanted some large vases.
"Well," said Charley, "what you want such big things; you can't car them a-ship and not break." And he strongly urged smaller matters; but I was set on my idols, - a pair of large vases, made in Barbary. Charley was wrong; the big things reached home in safety, and Charley, like his prophet, was a false one.
I commend all travellers to the Rock to put themselves at once into commercial intercourse with Hagge Said Guesus; and I do not think that there is one of the North Star party who would not like to shake hands again with "Charley."
I had nearly forgot to say that Charley always addresses the ladies as "my dear; " and the good-humored expression which is enthroned on his handsome round visage is only clouded when a customer objects to his prices, which he prides himself upon never abating.
In other words not 200 pages but just two. Nevertheless a record for any mention of a resident of Gibraltar in pre 20th century literature. Hagge’s address incidentally was a curious one as Main Street was officially known as Waterport Street at the time. (See LINK)
Friday, December 15th - Went ashore early after breakfast, and in company with Mr. Follansbee, the Chief Engineer and Mitchell, went thro’ the old Moorish excavations. It is difficult to conceive the greatness of this undertaking and, the time it must have required to carry it out, and it is no wonder that the Moors for two centuries according to tradition, mourned having lost this their greatest stronghold.
We passed thro’ galleries after galleries, cut out [of] the solid rock, with portholes, hundreds of feet above the sea, at every few steps, from many of which the view to be obtained was truly magnificent.
Perhaps the greatest curiosity in the excavations is St. George’s Hall, a room cut out of a projecting knob of rock, some 30 or 40 feet in diameter, with a fine smooth floor, and portholes and canvas all around. This Hall is used, our guide informed us by the inhabitants as a ball room, during the intense heat of summer on account of it always having a current of fresh air passing through it.
St George’s Hall ( 1853 - Lady Patrick ) (See LINK)
Mr Follansbee may have been the Chief engineer aboard the San Jacinto. In May 1863 a certain Joshua Follansbee was brought before a Navy General Court Martial convened at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. He may have been the same man who accompanied Henop. Mitchell is unknown as he is not mentioned elsewhere in the diary.
As regards the Galleries the author may have been misinformed. The Moorish Castle was indeed Moorish (see LINK) but the Galleries (see LINK) were excavated by British military engineers during the Great Siege.
We also visited another of the curiosities of the place, St. Michael’s Cave, a large cave, with numerous curious natural pillars, abounding in bewildering passages and running far into the heart of the rock. Took dinner at the Club House and came off at the usual time.
St Michael’s Cave ( 1830 – Arnaut )
Saturday, December 16th - On board all day.
Sunday, Dec. 17th - A strong wind blowing all day boats prevented from going ashore.
Monday, December 18th - Went ashore in the afternoon and saw several companies of Highlanders Parade to the music of their national instrument the bagpipe. Made several purchases and came off at Sunset.
Tuesday, Dec. 19th - On board all day.
Wednesday, Dec. 20th - At 5 A.M. got underway and stood down the Straits, against a heavy head wind and strong current. At dusk the Moorish coast was dimly seen in the distance.
A pleasant read for any Gibraltarian browser who will no doubt forgive Henop his small mistakes. He obviously liked the Rock enormously, refused to criticise the locals, and avoided the usual brown-nosing of the people who owned the place. A pleasant change from so many other mid 19th century commentators.
Gibraltar looking towards the African coast ( 1854 - Harry John Johnson )