The People of Gibraltar
1837 – Pierre Edmond Boissier – Jews and Armenians

Pierre Edmond Boissier was a well-known physician and naturalist from Geneva. In 1837 he published his Voyage Botanique dans le Midi de l’Espagne which included a chapter in which he describes a short stay in Gibraltar. The British naturalist, E.F. Kelaart included an English translations as an appendix in his 1846 book Flora Calpensis. ( see LINK ). Both the quotes and the illustrations are from Kelaart's book.

Pierre Edmond Boissier ( Unknown )

Arrival by Land from Spain
The lines, or camp of St. Roque, consists of a number of wretched houses, situated at the entrance of the neck of land which joins Gibraltar to the coast, and which is enclosed by a line of towers; these are occupied by persons who are employed in the custom-house or the health-office; and there everything entering or leaving the place is submitted to a strict examination.

It is a kind of revenge which the Spanish government exercises against the English usurpation of Gibraltar and the contraband goods which leave this town. I was obliged to take out a license, which cost me forty francs, a shameful imposition . . . .

. . No comparison can be drawn between the appearance of the soldiers, almost in rags mounting guard on the Spanish lines, and that of the Scotch soldiers, perfectly equipped, who are seen a few minutes after at the entrance of the English territory.

1846 - From E.F.Kelaart's Flora Calpense

A footnote by Kelaart suggests that things had improved over the years since Boissier's visit as regards the soldiers uniforms. Boissier's objections to frontier impositions by Spanish frontier officials is odd as those he describes on the British side seem to have been just as tedious.

Frontier Red Tape
There a commissary demanded my passports, and asked me several questions relative to the motives of my visit to Gibraltar, the time I thought of remaining, the friends I had, and the introductions I might have brought, &c. I was then directed to a second bureau, where I was obliged to wait until I had sent to the town for someone to answer for me.

This form would be very inconvenient for those who do not happen to know anyone in Gibraltar, if there were not fortunately persons who make it their interest to answer for travellers, carry their passports to the police-office, and obtain for them permission to pass twenty-four hours within the fortress, a permission which they do not refuse to extend.

All these difficulties which prevent the admission of foreigners, are not so much from military precautions, as from the fear which the English have of augmenting a population already too large for such a small place as Gibraltar.

This town offers so many advantages on account of its free port and the active contraband commerce carried on there with Spain, that unless some obstacles were placed, it would soon be overpopulated. Nothing is more difficult than to obtain permission to establish yourself there, and even the governor himself has not the right to grant it under some circumstances.

All the officials with whom I came in contact were extremely polite; everywhere an anxiety was shown for the traveller to lose as little of his time as possible and there was nothing of that tone or manner of acting which is too often seen in similar officials in other European countries. This is a trait of civilization of which England may well be proud.

1846 - From E.F.Kelaart's Flora Calpense

Boissier,  was a confirmed Anglophile. He almost admires the unnecessary bureaucracy of the frontier officials. The passport carrying go-getters were almost certainly locals to a man. As has been mentioned elsewhere all these controls were a complete waste of time. They did nothing to stop what Boissier correctly identified as the main problem - stopping the ever growing number of non-British people settling on the Rock illegally.

The Town and its People
I was struck on entering the streets with their animated appearance, and the variety of costumes and physiognomies. Sailors and merchants of all European nations meet there; and even the Moors of the opposite coast, with Jews and Armenians; military are to be met with in various uniforms; then the contrabandistas, with their brilliant costumes, and the women of Gibraltar in their scarlet cloaks with black borders.

Everything here bears the stamp of order and neatness which characterises the English. The streets are taken care of and well lighted; the promenades are well gravelled and planted with trees; the small houses (of a single story) seem, from their situation and furniture, to have been transported from the banks
of the Thames . . . .

I bent my steps to Europa-point, by a road shaded nearly the whole way, and winding beneath over-hanging rocks. I passed by charming country-houses, situated in the shades of orange and fig-trees, surrounded by flower-gardens, and where English industry had found means of even cultivating turf. These delightful retreats are occupied by the officers of the garrison and their families: every moment I met the latter either riding, or in elegant equipages, going to the races on the neutral-ground.

. . . I ascended by those cleverly cut roads which wind along the western face of the rock, and. . .  I remarked by the side of each of these posts a large pole, supporting a square mat, which at first I imagined was destined for a signal, but the use of which I was to shelter the sentry (in summer from the rays of the sun), who can move it, by means of a rope, whichever way he likes. . . .

1875 - Graphic Magazine

English industry was of course only made possible by the hard work and inventiveness of sundry Genoese gardeners. It was unlikely that the officer class in Gibraltar would have soiled their hand manuring their plots of land and the rank and file would have been too busy to carry out such menial tasks.

Catalan Bay
. . . There is here a very small hamlet, inhabited by fishermen; and a sentry is placed to prevent anyone from disembarking. This side is certainly the most interesting on a botanical account, and I regretted being able to make only one excursion, which the difficulties of the ground rendered very insufficient. On the sandy declivities I found particularly the Ononis gibraltarica, a new species, which was very abundant there . . .

1846 - From E.F.Kelaart's Flora Calpense

Draconian Security Measures
The customs of the place are adhered to with great precision. At first gun-fire, one hour before sunset, the land-port gate is closed, not to be again opened till morning; soon afterwards, the gate on the road to Europa-point is closed. On going out at night no one can walk about the streets without being the bearer of a pass and of a lantern, by which the sentinel can read.

I was ignorant of this rule, and coming away very late from a ball given by the governor, I was stopped by a sentinel, who would not give credit to my explanations, and I found myself on the point of passing the night in a guard-room, when the words " foreign officer" occurred to me, and, by using this expression, I fortunately got out of the scrape.

When one reflects on the enormous expense which Gibraltar causes the English, one naturally asks, what are the advantages which compensate for this enormous expenditure?

It is not the contraband commerce, although that is of some importance, and as a shelter for the fleet this point offers still fewer resources; there is only one safe anchorage, and even in that, vessels of large size are in great danger from the gusts of wind which blow from the straits; but as a military post Gibraltar is of a very high utility, and will be even more so now that the great political interests seem to be concentrated in the basin of the Mediterranean.

It is one of the links of that chain which England tries to fasten between herself and her establishments in India, and by means of which she has already created a vast system of communication.

1846 - From E.F.Kelaart's Flora Calpense