Chapter 10 - Rock Tarik and Rock Arcos
In the year AD 711, the freedman Taril-ben-Zeyad invaded Spain for his Moorish masters. Hewe believe at deserted Carteia . . . the clue lies in the Arabic name for the river there – Guadarranque , the river of the mares. We know that Tarik brought 500 horsemen with him . . . He rode straight round the Bay to the Rock . . . making it into a bridgehead and a fortified base . . . And only when it was secure did Tarik sally out to meet the Visigoths . . . and killed their king Roderick. From that day of that battle onward Mons Calpe has been Gibral-Tarik, Tarik’s Rock.
Tarik-ben-Zeyad . . . or perhaps Tarik Ibn Ziyad as he is more commonly known (See LINK)
The rest of this chapter is a potted history of Gibraltar. The “Arcos” refers to Alonso de Arcos Alcaide of Tarifa to whom Stewart attributes the honour of winning Gibraltar back from the Moors in 1462 in the name of Christianity and Castile.
Chapter 11 - Rooke’s Rock
. . . is about 1704 and all that . . . and about Admiral Rooke, one of Stewart’s heroes and the taking of Gibraltar 9n 1704.
Chapter 12 - Teething Troubles
From the aftermath of 1704 right up to the end of the Great Siege - 1779 to 1783.
The ground was clear for settlement there and for social and commercial development. The civil history of British Gibraltar had begun.
General George Augustus Elliot (see LINK) – the man in charge during the Great Siege
( John Singleton Copley ) (See LINK)
( John Singleton Copley ) (See LINK)
The defeat of the floating batteries in 1782 – perhaps the definitive event of the Great Siege Siege ( John Singleton Copley )
Chapter 13 - Royal Diversion
Fernando Cruz Guerrero, described rather contemptuously as:
. . . a Gibraltarian of opaque means of support . . . from whom my friend Dr. James Johnson cut the tonsils . . . . Fernando has the true hypochondria and is convinced that his tonsils . . . were unique in the annals of surgery.This is the entrée to a visit to a cock fight in Spain which is described in full in this chapter.
The Rock with cock fighting territory – La Línea – in the foreground (1967 – From the book )
Chapter 14 – Round the Rugged Rock
This one deals mainly about population changes in Britain’s first century in Gibraltar.
“Gibraltar is full of Jews” is one of the many misapprehensions one hears about this place. It is not full of Jews, nor one tenth full of Jews. But the small percentage there, are all descendents of early birds and exceptionally able, and therefore prominent citizens.
19th century Jews of Gibraltar ( M.C. Perry ) (See LINK)
Modern British attitudes to bribery and corruption are, of course exemplary. The civil service – and I have been a sharp eyed member of various branches of it for over twenty years – is well nigh incorruptible.This surprisingly naive statement which seems to perpetuate the very British mythology that bribery and corruption are synonymous with the exchange of brown envelopes bulging with money is then developed further:
We tend to take . . . for granted . . . that it was always so in England. In fact it is only a century old. In the eighteenth century our politics and administration were fields for ruthless plunder. Neither the governors of Gibraltar nor those who appointed them could see anything wrong in the spoils system of the times (See LINK). . .
The neglect and exploitation of the civil population of Gibraltar had effects which have lasted to the present day. It worked both ways. Neglect of the poor gave licence to the rich – or better since none of the early settlers arrived rich, let me say that there was licence for the shrewd, bold and ruthless. Without guidance, aid or even security and justice, the poor grew poorer and descended into sordid squalor . . . the rich grew richer.
There was a minimum of what businessmen call “Government interference”. So long as they made enough money to pay off the authorities, the dealer and grafter were in their paradise. Before the end of the century, great fortunes were already founded in Gibraltar. . . Britain’s first cynical century in Gibraltar seems to me to have allowed the civil and commercial life of the community to put down twisted roots.
Coal stocks on the North Mole - a majority of the richer families on the Rock made most of their money selling coal – quite a bit of it on the backs of local and Spanish coalheavers (See LINK)
The families of many of those who according to Stewart made their dubious fortunes in those far off days are still household names in Gibraltar. If any of these people ever got round to reading Stewart’s book they would not have been too pleased and would no doubt have made sure that their influential disapproval would be widely felt so that others might follow suit in their displeasure.
Chapter 15 - Contrabando
This is essentially a chapter about smuggling (see LINK) in which Stewart continues to perpetuate his rather stereotypical ideas on bribery and corruption.
. . . the ancient and universal system of the orient, was bought to this place by the Arabs, spread throughout Spain, and consolidated there for seven centuries. It remains an integral and ineradicable characteristic of the Spanish way of life.
It is an debatable statement but music to any rabidly anti-Spanish Gibraltarian’s ears. The rest is mostly taken up with the row that took place between Governor Robert Gardiner (see LINK) who thought that smuggling was both illegal and morally wrong and the local merchants who stood most to lose if he managed to convince London to do something to stop them. It would take too long to go into the entire process by which the local merchants via memorials to London eventually managed to thwart Gardiner. However Stewart’s comments on this particular topic are worth quoting.
As I see it, a sixth form schoolboy could have shot the Memorial to pieces in ten minutes . . . Carnarvon (the Secretary of State for the Colonies) and his backroom boys studied it for six months before replying to it. . . . Queen Anne was dead.
Sir Robert William Gardiner ( 1850s - William Salter )
However, the big business of Gibraltar was backed by the much bigger business at home. It was an invincible force in those times. Carnarvon knew that if he threatened to put the case to Parliament the Foreign Office would be forced into agreeing to let the Ordinance go by default. He was right.
The Foreign Secretary must have agreed . . . to let smuggling at Gibraltar continue, to pass this most critical problem of Anglo-Spanish relations down to his successors in office, one of whom is trying to deal with it as I write this account, almost one hundred years after the event I have described.That must have been in the 1960’s. Is it any better today?
The caption under this photograph in Stewart’s book reads: “The Rock from the west showing the airstrip, Costa del sol, and the Sierra Nevada. The left-hand corner of the harbour was the smuggler’s base”
Chapter 16 – The True Trafalgar
No book on Gibraltar written by a British author would be complete without a mention of Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. Stewart’s is no exception – despite the fact that neither, other than indirectly have much to do with Gibraltar. No mention anywhere of the locals however.
The Victory with Nelson’s body on it being towed to Gibraltar after the Battle of Trafalgar ( 1850s - Clarkson Stanfield ) (See LINK)
Chapter 17 – Victoriana
I have come to the conclusion that the British Empire (during the reign of Queen Victoria) was not only a highly dubious affair, but that it was sinister, sham, and finally harmful . . . .
I tend to agree but I suspect that a majority of my compatriots wouldn’t. In any case Stewart redeems himself almost immediately.
. . . in some cases British rule was positively and demonstrably beneficent . . . the most important of these is that the Rock was the only British military outpost in the Continent of Europe and has thus spent much of its time under threat of war. The effect of this has been that the civilians there have been relegated for two centuries to the position of second-class citizens, necessary nuisances to a garrisoned fortress.Not nice to be described as a second-class citizen a description that would probably raise the hackles of Gibraltarian readers. But the author certainly has a point. When he turns his attention to the architecture of Gibraltar he suggests that:
. . . the physiognomy of the city is predominantly Victorian, and Colonial Victorian at that. . . bad as the Victorian street scene is in Britain, it is far worse abroad. Gibraltar never saw a fully professional architect until very recent years . . . design was in the hands of military engineer, at best. . . At worst, that is in the case of all civilian building, the designers were often the builders themselves, who did what they liked and what they could. . . .
But bad as the Victoria street scene is abroad it is far worse abroad . . . . Gibraltar gives the visitor an impression of fustiness, of backwatered Victorianism, of shabby gentile and of unjustified pretentiousness . . . the streets of Gibraltar in spite of the noble history of the place are unimpressive . . . at worse they are depressing.
Castle Ramp in the early 20th century – not all that changed by the time Stewart arrived
There are several defences against Stewart’s descriptions. The first is that the layout of the town – for various reasons – has never really changed all that much since 1704 – in fact it probably retains the original Moorish blueprint of the 14th century. The second is the limitations imposed on the place by its massive fortifications which – at least during the 1960s – very often overwhelmed its outskirts and inhibited development.
Town plans - a comparison from 14th century Moorish to mid 19th century – the modern design of the old town remains more or less the same.
Gibraltar’s civilian architecture is actually quite eclectic. The buildings that make up the vast majority of the house in town mostly date from the 19th century, almost all of them constructed after the destruction caused by the Great Siege. Mario Sanguinetti – described by Stewart himself as Gibraltar’s very own both brilliant and daring architect has described Gibraltar’s vernacular architecture as including the follows features:
. . . Georgian timber sash windows, Genoese louvered shutters. Regency cast iron balconies, Andalucian pantile roofs, flat roofs a la catalane, and keystones and arched doorways reminiscent of those in military buildings. . .
Genoese louvered shutters in Castle Street ( Mansell Collection ) (See LINK)
Nevertheless having lived in the place during the time when Stewart was in Gibraltar I tend to agree with his various criticisms. Whatever the case his crystal ball gazing has proved more or less spot-on:
The Gibraltar of the future – if all goes well – may become a miniature Manhattan Island.
Moving on to a description of ethnic changes over the years as well as the reasons why people immigrated to the Rock in such numbers - despite unhealthy overcrowded conditions and lack of any political say in how their town was managed, Stewart adds the following:
The early British merchants dealt in cotton cloth and other manufactured goods, all heavily taxed as legitimate imports to Spain, and therefore highly profitable as contraband. The Tobacco business, which has proved to have more staying power, fell into the hands of the Genoese and remained in their hands down to the present day. The principal names in Gibraltar tobacco are still Italianate – Russo, Stagnetto, Povedano, with one Spanish, Vasquez.I am surprising that nobody sued.
Jorge Russo – Still going strong in the Casemates car park in 1965 ( Jack Metzer ) (See LINK)