The People of Gibraltar
1808 - Francis Sacheverel Darwin - Numerous Banditti

Francis Darwin was the son of the Erasmus Darwin. He was, they say, an archaeologist and dabbler in natural history and a lover of adventure. In 1808 - he was 22 at the time - he set off with four friends on a grand tour of the east.

It was a journey that would take them through Spain with several short stops at Gibraltar. Of the five who set off together only Darwin survived. In the 1820s he published his experiences in Travels in Spain and the East, 1808 - 1810, from which the following quotes have been taken.

Francis Sacheverel Darwin

Journey to Gibraltar
The next day our route lay entirely through woods and wilds - where we expected to be robbed by the numerous banditti which infested these mountains; our fears were not very great until about mid-day, when we discovered the quarters of some dead men hung up in the trees by the pathway . . .

After this horrid sight we could not dissipate our fears till we arrived at the top of the Cork Wood whence we had a most delightful view of Gibraltar. At night we arrived safely at Algeciras, . . . and here our accommodation was tolerably good.

The Rock from Spain not far from the Cork Woods - San Roque in the distance ( 1860s - George Washington Wilson )

Next morning we took our passage in a boat that was going over to Gibraltar  . . . It blew hard  . .  we made our entree in the Garrison wet to the skin. Here we could almost have fancied ourselves in England again. . .  we spent the evening with Sir William Ingilby, and Captain Pickering - who on their journey had narrowly escaped being murdered in the Cork Wood.

The Garrison Library and St Michael's Cave
The Garrison library is a great resource to travellers , as we ourselves found it - also the entire examination of the rock, and St Michaels cave, a vast cavern full of such large stalactites that the antiquity of the world is calculated from the time that they must have taken to form.

Trip to Tetuan
We formed a plan of visiting Africa with Sir W. Ingilby  . . .  Mr. Semple and Serfati, a Jew whom we took as interpreter, embarked with us in a Tetuan bullock boat . . . ( see LINK )

Darwin's account is remarkably banal. His lack of interest in Barbary, for example , makes one wonder why he bothered to make the trip across the Straits. This is how he describes Tetuan - 'about six miles from the sea; and the houses are all white with flat roofs.'

Tetuan  ( 1833 - David Roberts )

His descriptions of Gibraltar are not much better as he restricts himself to a few hackneyed remarks about the height of the Rock, its 'instruments of Death and War', and those quoted above. The inhabitants might as well have not existed. Even the Garrison is reduced to a list of its regiments.

In fact the only worthwhile reason for including Darwin among other commentators is his description of the journey through the Campo and the Cork Woods.  Less than half a decade from when this was written Garrison members of the Calpe Hunt would be galloping all over this area. The risks of being robbed or roughed up by Spanish 'banditti' would continue for many years to come. ( see LINK )

'A Hairbreadth Escape in Gibraltar'  ( 1904 - The Graphic )