The People of Gibraltar

1802 - O'Hara's Standing Orders - All's Well

The Earl of Chatham 

General Charles O'Hara was Governor of Gibraltar from 1795 to 1802. A flamboyant Irishman, he was famously known as 'The Old Cock of the Rock' as well as for ordering the construction of St George's Tower - also known rather more appropriately as O'Hara's folly. His activities on the Rock are dealt with more fully elsewhere ( see LINK

General Charles O'Hara

In 1802, O'Hara published a booklet specifying standing orders for troops stationed on the Rock.  It makes for interesting reading as it gives the reader an insight into the military mind - as well as the kind of officious regulations which the inhabitants had to put up with in those days. It also happenened to be the first 'book' ever published by the Garrison Library Printing Office and therefore Gibraltar.

Most of the articles - the 'booklet' runs to well over a hundred pages - refer to military discipline and routine such as;

the obvious - officers were to behave with decency . . .
the sensible - nobody ought to trust a soldier for more than two days pay . . .
the curious - time for all military parades would be regulated by the clock at the Spanish Church . . . 
the ridiculous - officers and soldiers when on duty  . .  were forbidden to use umbrellas . . . 
the petty - the waiter of the officer of Devil's Tower Guard was not permitted to go through Landport Guard. . . .
and the surprising - dogs were not allowed on parade. If there were any, they would be killed 

Spanish Church - and clock  ( 1801 - Cooper Willyams )

But it is those regulations that refer directly or indirectly to civilians that are by far the most interesting. 

Business and Commerce
Local inhabitants  were not allowed to employ officers or other ranks - a special point being made that neither soldiers nor their wives should hire themselves out as servants. There was a let-out clause in that they could in fact do so with the permission of their commanding officer. The underlying feeling is that this would only be forthcoming if the 'inhabitant' happened to be British born and perhaps an acquaintance of the military commander.

Understandably, the inhabitants were not allowed to purchase arms and ammunition from the military, and forbidden to carry concealed weapons at any time. Even more understandable  was the directive that forbad the selling of wines or spirits without a licence obtained directly from the Governor. Proceeds from the sale of alcohol were part of the Governor's personal  revenue and O'Hara made more money from this than from his official salary. Slightly less understandable was the prohibition on buying provisions from soldiers.

Another restrictive practice was that fish could only be sold at the fish market which was under the 'protection' of the Waterport guard. Almost all other supplies of fresh food for the town and the  Garrison was under the management of the authorities with a very few lucky individuals enjoying a virtual monopoly over the import of cattle, vegetables and general supplies for the Garrison. 

Fish, however, was caught locally by a large number of resident fishermen. A monopoly was out of the question so forcing the sellers to restrict their sales to one particular place where rentals could be charged and prices controlled was the next best thing. The shooting of game and rabbits was also forbidden - as was that of monkeys although this was probably aimed at bored and trigger happy soldiers rather that locals. From the inhabitants point of view it might have proved a difficult directive to go against  - they were not allowed to go to any part of the hill above the town without a permit.

The Old Mole ( 1804 - Henry Aston Barker)

Life was made especially difficult for vendors of fruit and vegetables to the local population. They could only sell their goods inside a shop. Streets stalls were out of the question and porters were prohibited from hanging about on the pavements - as were horses and other beasts of burden.  Apropos, any donkeys, pigs or goats roaming unattended in town would be impounded and could only be recovered with hard cash. Curiously the person who did the impounding was entitled to half the fine. It must have led to any amount of ill feeling among the locals. Somewhat illogically, hawkers and pedlers seem to have been allowed - although they couldn't ply their trade on Sundays.

Locals were forbidden to take in visitors into their houses. Non-residents visiting Gibraltar - known as 'strangers' - had to report to the Town Major. The red tape was on a par with modern frontier requirements.  The visitor would need to give his name, country qualification, occupation, where he came from, his business, how long he intended to remain in Gibraltar and where he proposed to go when he left. He would also need to report any change of residence, or his intention of doing so. 

Inhabitants were also required to number their houses with the names of the owners and the number of inmates 'in legible characters or in a conspicuous place on the outside of the house or street door'. The names of the streets and lanes were to be placed on the appropriate corners - all this of course at their own expense.  Matters of hygiene were also taken up. Inhabitant  were forbidden to throw rubbish 'water or filth of any kind' out of their windows and on to the street.  Rather more specifically  they were also forbidden to pluck chickens in the middle of the road. 

Perhaps more expensively they were expected to make sure there was a drain that connected their house with the main sewer. Furthermore all household owners were required to sweep and water the street immediately in front of their houses taking in the entire breadth of their premises right up to the centre of the road. If there were houses only on one side they were out of luck. They had to clean the whole width of the road.

House improvements such as extensions, conversions, and additional rooms were out of the question. Whether this was properly enforced seems unlikely. Petty pilfering of stones and bricks seem to have been the order of the day. Needless to say such activities were expressly forbidden.

Whether extended or not, private houses could not be sold without the signed permission of the Governor. Given the nature of the beast - O'Hara was always broke and in need of money - this would only be forthcoming after a hefty bribe. 

At night-time security became even tighter. Inhabitants were required to carry a lantern with them at all times. Sentries were ordered to challenge all persons approaching their posts with words - "Who comes there?"
The appropriate answer was  "Officer - or inhabitant or Relief depending on who was being accosted. Needless to say. inhabitants needed a permit to walk about town during the night.
If the sentry was satisfied with the reply - and the permit - he was obliged to reply  'Pass Officer ( inhabitant or Relief)

The sentries were also required to call out "All's well" at regular intervals throughout the night. It was a custom that was invariably commented on by many a visitor to Gibraltar at the time.

Technically, soldiers were not allowed to insult or in any way ill-treat an inhabitant - but one wonders just how often such a regulation was breached with impunity. On the other hand if any inhabitant happened to insult a soldier every possible redress would be given.  And if one might think - at any rate by modern standards - that the inhabitants had a bad time of it, one should spare a thought for their poor servants - for them, even dancing was forbidden!

The Earl of Chatham
In 1825, the rather inconspicuous Earl of Chatham - inconspicuous from a history of Gibraltar point of view - rewrote O'Hara's Garrison's Standing Orders. 

Chatham was officially Governor from 1820 to 1835 but was represented by General George Don from 1825 to 1831 and then later by Sir William Houston up to 1835. In other words he was hardly ever there although he did leave his name for posterity on the Rock in the form of Chatham's Counterguard - an inconvenient fortified wall which was later breeched to ease traffic in and out of the old Waterport area.

John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham

Chatham's Standing Orders are relatively silent on civilian matters with the following exceptions.

Wine-house keepers were subject to even greater controls and the canteens at Wind Mill Hill and Europa were out of bounds to the inhabitants. Problems with smuggling into rather than out of Gibraltar are also mentioned. Illegal imports of wine and spirits would be liable to seizure and - no doubt as an encouragement - half the proceeds of the stuff retained given to the guards on duty at the time of seizure. Drinking water, a scarcity of which was and has always been a serious problem on the Rock, is also mentioned. Soldiers were forbidden to carry it for or sell it to the locals.

Security generally seems to have been tightened somewhat. Nobody was allowed to sketch views of the Rock or its fortifications. Lanterns were still required after midnight but permits were now also required. The 'all's well' cry was now given every quarter of an hour and the 'Sea Line' from Parson's Lodge to Monkey's Cave was out of bounds at night.

Exactly how strictly any of these regulations were enforced in hard to tell but history suggests that the locals more than managed to hold their own against petty bureaucracy. There are instances in the literature of fish being sold directly to private individuals - in one case leading to a celebrated dismissal of one of the Garrison's officers. ( see LINK

House improvements must have been hard to stop and the unofficial selling of real estate even harder to enforce. As for the writing of names of house occupants on front doors one can imagine all sorts of problems when one considers that many of the inhabitants were probably illiterate and those that were not hardly spoke any English. The lack of any further mention of this in Chatham's orders in probably significant.

Measures such as the registering of visitors via the Town Major were self evidently a waste of time. The idea was to limit the number of non-British people settling on the Rock. It didn't work. 

When O'Hara first arrived in 1795, the civilian population was probably around 3 000.
By 1797 and before O'Hara had thrown out over a thousand residents who were suspected of having been involved in a conspiracy ( see LINK ) to hand Gibraltar back to the Spaniards, the population had risen to 8 000. By the time Chatham had published his new 'orders' the civilian population was at a record 15 000. Little wonder then that he never bothered to mention the need to register newly arrived visitors to the Rock.