The People of Gibraltar
1801 - Nauticus - 'Cataline' Bay 

The article discussed in this chapter was the published in the Gentleman's Magazine of July 1804 in the form of a letter to an editor with the pen name of Mr. Sylvanus Urban. The author, however, was referring to a visit to Gibraltar that took place from January 1801 to April 1802. The name Nauticus was, of course, yet another pen-name. 

The letter has a rather attractive introduction:
Being at anchor lately in the Bay of Gibraltar, that wonderful place could not fail of exciting my curiosity to go ashore and examine more particularly the place. If the small account here subjoined should be worth preserving, it is at your service. Yours etc, Nauticum'.

The Bay of Gibraltar, a ' wonderful place' (1829 Edmund Patten ) 

 Mr. Urban obviously thought it was worth preserving and so do I. Here is a summary of what Nauticus thought of Gibraltar and its people. Firstly its shape; Nauticus thought it looked like 'a barn' but was of 'different colours' - neither statement being all that easy to understand. The extremity of the Rock was called Europa Point and was the most southern part of all Europe - which it isn't - and the north end of the Rock was the highest - which although also incorrect was thought to be so by just about everybody at that time. 

As regards the east side Nauticus offers several interesting observation. It was, he wrote, perpendicular and very ragged and there was a place there called 'Cataline Bay' - by which he meant Catalan Bay. There was a single house with a garden and it was a place where the owner sold wine, porter and fish to 'those who go about the Rock examining its parts' - presumably the forerunners of the modern day tourist. There were also 'several caves or holes in the rock where the fishermen lived.'

Catalan Bay in the mid-nineteenth century ( Unknown ) 

On the lower part there was sand but on the upper one could find a plant from which brooms were made. Between the house and Europa point, high up in the Rock there was a cave with three stones close to its entrance. From a distance they looked just like three men dressed in Turkish garb. 

The guide he had employed to take him to view the sights was very amused when he mistook the stones for real people. Apparently he was not the first person to have done so. It is hard to identify the cave Nauticus is referring to and as far as I know there are no caves in Gibraltar with stones resembling humans close to their entrance. On the west side he describes a town with a large population made up of many different nationalities. 

Most of them, however, were either English or Spanish, these being also the two languages most commonly spoken; a welcome omission of the usual exotica of Moors, Turks and Spanish smugglers and a solid mention of the ordinary civilian residents of the Rock - around 6 000 of them in 1804 - and perhaps an equally large Garrison. 

The Signal Tower, he writes, informed both the town and the ships in the Bay of any approaching vessels, giving details of whether they are coming from the east or the west as well as its nationality Unfortunately he failed to describe the kind of signals used to achieve this. There were also two guns at the Signal Tower hill that were fired daily - one at daybreak and the other at eight in the evening in winter or nine in summer. There was another signal tower at Windmill Hill that was never used. 

There was, however a 'large stone, handsomely cut' somewhere between Windmill Hill and Europa point but he fails to explain its significance or purpose. Some of 'those who go around the place examining its parts' being guided to the top of the rock. 

The Signal Tower is the object on the tallest part of the ridge ( Unknown ) 

The main part of the town lay between the middle of the Rock and the Moorish Castle. It was irregular in shape and built on such a steep slope that had a large piece of rock that had broken off not been secured with 'iron dogs', it would undoubtedly have rolled down on to the houses below it. There was also a 'Hospital which had an elegant appearance' and he makes a passing reference to the only Protestant church which was 'adjoining the Governor's home, whither all the English repair.' 

The Spanish church, not far distant from it, is described as having:
 . . . images of the Virgin Mary, and several others in wax-work, dressed in black silk; and over the alter stands the large figure of Joseph of Arimathea, at which all bow after returning from the alter; there is also a great many very beautiful paintings. 
The church also gave him an excuse to describe the people who frequented it. There were, he wrote; 
. . .a number of Spaniards, whose customs and manners differ from the English, in wearing cloaks, or some great coats, with only the left arm in the sleeve, the other thrown over the shoulder, and seldom go out but with a cigar or pipe in their mouths, but the former is chiefly preferred. There is also a sect which dress different from the others; their heads are shaved and beards grow, wear a kind of cap, a shirt with scarce any collar, white waistcoat, buttons down the middle, over that a red one, and outermost a short black kind of gown or coat, so contrived that all are seen, the red one buttoning but half way, and the outer one scarce at all.'
The Lazaretto was situated north of Devil's Tongue and was probably not all that busy when Nauticus visited Gibraltar. Three years later the Yellow fever epidemic would have forced a move to the Neutral Ground in order to cope with the enormous number of residents and visitors affected by it. 

Early nineteenth century French  map showing the lazaretto near the Old Mole ( 1830s - Piaget and Lailavoix )

Close to Devil's Tongue 'most of the small craft and merchants' were found as was the market where 'fowls and pieces of raw sugar etc' were on sale. To enter the town at this end one had to pass through the 'sally port'. 

This was probably a reference to a second entrance close to Land Port Gate which was in use in those days although the geography of his description suggests that Water Port Gate would have been a more likely candidate. 

( 1884 - A. Quinton )

Generally the Northern part of town facing Spain was heavily armed and the presence of grates to heat up 'the shot that is required' is a nice side reference to the Great Siege where these were used to such good effect. The dominant plants on the Rock were the prickly pear and the geranium, both of which grew to a great height, as well as a species of aloe which was called 'Adam's Thread' . From this horse-hair like filaments could be extracted and were used to make fishing lines. in Spain it grew to about ten feet in height. Unfortunately it had an offensive smell. As regards trees, were several elms on the west side as well as a very large 'locust or wild-honey tree'.  The Alameda Gardens had, of course, not yet been built. 

The large palm like plant is Chamaerops humilis. The smaller Aloe just below it could be Adam's Thread or Yucca filamentosa. As for the apes, this is what Nauticus had to say: 'Some are very large, but whatever way the wind blows they always get on the lee side of the Rock; people may take them, but are not allowed to kill one on any account. (1854 - E. Widick ) 

 The stones in the south were slate coloured and apparently diamonds could be extracted from them although they were so small that it was not worth the trouble to do so. Finally a quick mention of San Roque - it 'stands very high and has a pleasing appearance' - and the famous 'Queen of Spain's chair : 
 . .  where it is said, she and some of her friends retired, with a vow not to leave that place till Gibraltar was taken; how far this is true the reader must judge; however it has a beautiful picturesque view, being the only building on the hill. 

 Gibraltar from the Queen of Spain's chair ( 1853 - G.P. Pechell ) 

This short passage on Gibraltar is quite frankly a pleasure to read. The author refrains from the usual racist comments offered by most of his contemporaries and his descriptions are generally straightforward and without prejudice. His rather graceful and complimentary description of Gibraltar's Cathedral in particular is unusual. 

At that time and throughout the 19th century and beyond, all things Catholic were reviled as Papist nonsense and its icons and statues dismissed as mumbo jumbo - all of which were usually described in the most insulting manner possible. It makes one wonder whether Nauticus might not have been a Catholic himself - but in fact he was probably the very opposite - a Protestant pastor. 

Although it is impossible to identify the writer with any certainty it seems likely that Nauticus was the pen-name of the Rev Laurence Hynes Halloram who was apparently a native of Ireland and at one time Chaplain of the Navy in the Britannia- one of the ships that took part in the Battle of Trafalgar. By this author's book, and in so far as Gibraltar is concerned - the Reverend Halloram's heart was definitely in the right place.