The People of Gibraltar

1840 – Edward Delaval Hungerford Napier – 'Johnny, Johnny'

The Dowager Queen Adelaide and the Duke of Cambridge

Major Edward Delaval Hungerford Elers Napier of the 46th regiment has been dealt with more fully elsewhere ( see LINK ). However, his two short essay on Gibraltar included in a two volume affair called Scenes and Sports in Foreign Lands  are well worth a visit. The passages below refer to it under its various sub-heading.

The Cork Convent 
The Cork 'Convent' . . . the rendez vous of many a sporting and jovial party, who, freed from the military restraints of a garrison life, were glad, some to throw off the irksome load of command, others the no less galling yoke of obedience ; and all, under the auspices of the old Padre, and the cheering influence of his stock of Malaga, either 'dulce' or  'seco' or maybe the additional stimulus of his 'muy particular y precioso aguardiente,' to say nothing of a good  'olio,' or some forest-fed bacon, flanked with the newest and freshest laid poached eggs . . . On such occasions, the old Padre's rigid features would relax into a grim smile . . . . good-naturedly exclaim, 

'Que alegre son los Ingleses, pero son todos locos.'

The 'padre' was a local gentleman by the name of Don Juan Ventura Rodriquez.  Napier seems to have come to some arrangement with the priest whereby he would bring - and translate - the Gibraltar Chronicle ( see LINK ) for him in return for a good meal and some sharp gossip about contemporary Spanish politicians. 

The chapel which Don Juan looked after was the 'apple of his eye'. It had been built by the Marquises of Moscoso y Castellar on the site of an ancient Moorish Castle which was called Almoraima. Inside the Convent the author also made friends with;

an old lady of the name of Martha, who, with spectacles on nose, as she sat knitting the coarse woollen hose worn by the mountaineers of the Sierras, and surrounded by many of the  'mozas,' would spin most interminable yarns, principally relating to the 'milagros' performed by the tutelar virgin of the spot. 

Tia Marta and mozas at the Almoraima Convent

This type of friendly contact between Garrison officers and Gibraltar's Spanish neighbours must have been relatively rare as few of them ever bothered to learn how to speak in Spanish. Napier was certainly an admirable exception.

Universal insanity of the English 
Letter from Don Antonio Fernandez to Don Juan Roblez, in London.
I have since my arrival here been trying to make out that most extraordinary of people, the English . . . I have come to the conclusion that they are a most unaccountable race, decidedly all loco, from the highest to the lowest. . .  A  foreigner's ideas of English fox-hunting Only imagine, my dear friend, H.R.H. Prince George of Cambridge working away like a common soldier at drill ! . . .

. . . I heard of nothing but preparations for the approaching Calpe Hunt, as the late rains had rendered the ground fit for riding. , What wet ground had to do with riding I was at a loss to conceive, nor could I make out at all what sort of 'caceria' could it be which excited so much interest, as I was told that the largest beast they ever killed was a fox. . . . 

. . . then there were a great number of curious looking piebald dogs, and the great subject of lamentation was, that there were so few . . .  engaged in conversation, a caballero came up at a gallop, pulled out his watch, and hoped he was not late. . . This was the Prince. But only imagine a Prince saying such a thing ! A fresh horse was brought to him, and he actually with his own hands shifted the stirrup leathers from one saddle to the other . . .

And so on and so forth. Don Antonio and Don Juan Roblez are almost certainly figments of the author's imagination and simply an excuse to rehash several old conceits - the Spaniards find English mores incomprehensible, and are astounded at the unassuming manner in which members of the Royal family conduct their everyday lives. 

The underlying theme of the first is the Spaniards lack of a sense of humour, the rigidity of his social environment and generally backward attitudes towards life in stark comparison with good-humoured Englishmen and their cultivated eccentricities. And all this from an author who did know how to speak in Spanish and who generally liked and empathised with Spanish customs and traditions. As regards those unassuming Royals perhaps the best answer is to quote from various sections which follow on shortly after the above paragraphs.

Prince George of Cambridge at Gibraltar 
Our Spanish friend mentioned the arrival at Gibraltar of the Dowager Queen Adelaide, and H. R. H. Prince George of Cambridge, both events causing a great stir in the garrison, which, during the whole of that winter, was kept alive by the presence of the latter. 

To say that Prince George was an universal favourite with everybody, whom he conciliated by his courteous, open, and soldier-like manners, would be but barely doing him justice. But those who were in the habit of meeting him on parade and duty, at the festive board, or in the excitement of the chase,' must concur in saying that during his stay at Gibraltar he purchased golden opinions of all men. . 

In a brief period he became perfectly acquainted with his military duties, under the able tuition of Colonel Knight, and of his zealous adjutant, Lieutenant Williamson, both of the 33rd regiment, to which corps he was, on his arrival, attached; and after going through the various branches of his drills with all the assiduity of a subaltern first joining, he, in the short space of a few months, so completely made himself master of the difficult arcana of military science, as to be able, not only on their private parade, but during our general brigade days on the neutral ground, to command the gallant corps with which he was doing duty, with as much judgment and skill as the Waterloo veteran, whose place he temporarily occupied — and all who knew him are aware that this is not saying a little in his H. R. H.'s favour, though not one jot more than he deserves. 

On his arrival, waving his right to compliments as a prince of the blood, he requested that the guards should not be turned out on his approach, and ex pressed, I believe, the desire that no ceremony should be observed towards him, which I dare say he will do us the justice to allow we generally had the good sense to comply with ; and I believe I may affirm that no undue familiarity on the part of any officer caused him to repent having taken this step. 

Duke of Cambridge. He was attached to the general staff in Gibraltar from October 1838 to April 1839  ( William Essex )

On one occasion, indeed, it is related that at a ball at Government House, he was importuned by somebody, who had the bad taste to persecute him during the evening by addressing him constantly as his 'Royal Highness.' At last, the Prince, losing all patience, exclaimed, 'Damn his Royal Highness! We will, if you please, for the time, put him into my pocket,' and suiting the motion to the words, took the star off his breast, and safely deposited it in the sanctum he alluded to. 

He was an honorary member of several of the messes of the regiments stationed here ; and when giving them the benefit of his company, enjoyed his glass and cracked his joke with the most jolly ensign of the party. But with all his high spirits and love of sociability, he deserves the greater credit for the restraint he must have imposed on himself by his seclusion during several hours of the day, which, I believe, he devoted to the study of the drier details of the profession he had adopted . . . .

. . . Whilst thus engaged in conversation, a caballero came up at a gallop, pulled out his watch, and hoped he was not late. This was the Prince. But only imagine a Prince saying such a thing! 

All this within a short essay that purports to deal with 'Sports' - in this case fox-hunting,  an ironic choice to modern ears. The unpalatable fact is that during the nineteenth century and beyond, the British were as hide-bound as everybody else in Europe as regard their obsequious acceptance of the privileges of class. Brown-nosing your betters was the order of the day. As regards the Prince and his lateness, this trivial event - unbelievably - has been quoted ad nauseum and has even been the subject of several pictures.

First day of the season with the Calpe Hounds.
We must premise by stating that, in consequence of the numerous earths, number of foxes, difficulty of the ground, and usual deficiency of that great requisite ' scent,' our kills are not so many as we could wish, but our ardour is by this nowise abated, and all look on the 'kennel' as one of the greatest godsends to the pent- up garrison of the ' Rock.' ( see LINK )

When disheartened and stupefied by incessant guards, courts-martial, and drills, smothered with clouds of pipe-clay, and stunned by the continual roll of the drum, what can be more refreshing to the jaded mind, or so effectually renew the depressed spirits, as the ' musical discord, the sweet thunder' of our gallant pack. 

But we will make a fair start from head-quarters, the time of year about the end of November or beginning of December, weather mild, and ground moistened by a plentiful fall of rain on the preceding  day and night; place, the neighbourhood of the South Barracks, in the fine square of which, about the hour of half-past nine, grooms might be seen leading about small, though powerfully built horses, under fourteen hands, whose glossy coats, clean pasterns, and racing tails, mathematically squared off a little above the hock, shewed the care with which they were tended, and the pride their masters took in their appearance. 

South Barracks from Rosia    ( 1846 - J.M.Carter)

In the course of a few minutes, breeched, booted, and ' pinked,' as if at Melton Mowbray, the votaries of Nimrod appear, and wiping off the stains of eggs and bread and butter from their lips, the remains of a good breakfast, some seven or eight joyfully vault into the saddle, and jogging along the ' Saluting Battery,' soon reach South-port Gate, and, entering the town, steer as they best may through the numerous 'bourros,' carros, water-carts,, drays, Jews, Moors, and 'contrabandistas', with which, even at this early hour, the narrow 'Calle Real' is infested. 

This intricate navigation requires the full use of the eyes, and is increased in difficulty, as these are often more interestingly employed in maybe returning the lightning glance, which is scarcely deadened in its effect by flashing from beneath the long black silken lash, and heavy, sleepy lid ; or, maybe, in watching the graceful wave of a slender white finger from behind the scarce opened 'jalousie.' 

Ye dark- eyed maidens of the Rock, much will ye have to answer for ! for while ye are pulverizing the too susceptible heart of the up-gazing fox-hunter, he is probably riding over some unfortunate Jew porter, too heavily laden to be able to get out of the way.

But if the reader will suffer us to draw the covert of his patience, we will put on foot an Andalusian 'zorra,' initiate him into the mysteries of the 'Calpe hunt', and endeavour to give him some idea of our Gibraltar sport, which is got up more in the true old English style than anything I have seen in the various foreign settlements it has been my fate to visit. . . . 

. . .  Following the . . . 'Camino Real,' we pass the Spanish race-course, are as sailed by numerous barking curs in traversing the dirty little village of 'Campamento,' and at the distance of about six miles from Bayside reach the outskirts of the good town of San Roque. 

'Pass of Aberfoil' - A romantic site, where the path, scarped out of the side of the mountain, runs along the head of a densely-wooded ravine on the road between San Roque and the Venta del Agualcahijo, commonly• called the 'Long Stables' It has been so denominated from its fancied resemblance to the spot of that name described in one of the Waverley novels.

If at the last village we were annoyed by dogs, here we were equally so by a set of ragged urchins, offering their services to hold our horses whilst we refresh ourselves at the 'fonda,' and assailing us with incessant cries of ' Johnny, Johnny ; Las Zorras;  Los Pereros.' . . . . 'Johnny' is the appellation bestowed near Gibraltar on every Englishman ( see LINK ) . . . .

The above is as good as any other passage I have read that explains why the Calpe Hunt became such a well known institution throughout the 19th century, not just in Gibraltar but throughout the Empire. The reference to 'ye dark-eyed maidens of the Rock'  is both curious and almost unique - one always gets the impression from the rest of the literature that such creatures however attractive, were beneath the pale for the Garrison officers stationed on the Rock.

But it is the last sentence in the quote that really gives the show away - the hunt was not just thoroughly enjoyable - it reminded everybody of home - and to a British officer, Gibraltar was most certainly not home.