The People of Gibraltar
1907 - Robert Urie Jacob - A Little Milk-maid

According to the preface of the book, A Trip to the Orient, the Story of a Mediterranean Cruise, was written by Robert Urie Jacob 'at the request of fellow-travellers who did not have time to take notes by the way'. I am presuming that Robert was a citizen of the USA as the cruise aboard the Molkte of the Hamburg America Line began and ended in New York. 

Whatever the case the ship visited Gibraltar for a few hours and Jacob left us his impressions. Here they are together with the appropriate photographs as they appear in his book.

When we awoke the next morning the Moltke was lying quietly at anchor. We hastily dressed and ascended to the deck.

Anyone who has seen pictures of the huge rock that guards the entrance to the Mediterranean will recognize Gibraltar at sight if he approaches the rock from the right point of view. The illustrations, however, represent a sombre mountain. The picture we saw showed white houses, red roofs, green trees, patches of lawn, groups of shrubbery, and plots of flowers, all contrasting with gray rocks; these with blue sky overhead, and white sails in the foreground gave life and colour to the scene.

As we gazed for some time from the vessel's deck at the strong fortress which has been held securely in the grasp of Great Britain for two hundred years, we thought of the many unsuccessful attempts that have been made during those two centuries to wrest it from [Pg 30]British control; most noted of all, the long siege by the French and Spanish forces that continued for four years when Napoleon was supreme in France. What might have been the result, if England's grasp on the rock had been broken by Napoleon; or what the outcome, if Napoleon's fleet had been victorious in the conflict on the near-by Trafalgar Bay!

The Rock had a peaceful look

The rock had a peaceful look, but we knew that the cactus plants, which grew rank on the slope of the mountain, concealed powerful batteries, and that on the summit of the rock were mounted cannons of the largest calibre, which, if required, could hurl projectiles to the far side of the strait, a distance of twelve miles.

On one of the highest points of the rock stands the Signal Tower. To this tower the officers of the Moltke had signalled the news of our arrival when the steamer entered the harbour, and before we had stirred from our berths, that information had been flashed over the cable to London and New York. On the following morning our friends at home read in the shipping news of their daily paper, the following item:

"Arrived out; Feb. 15, Gibraltar, Moltke, from New York."


As we started ashore on the lighters at the early hour appointed, we realized that we should have to take in a great deal in a very little while. We entered the city of Gibraltar by a tunnel-like entrance through walls of great thickness. The gateway was closely guarded by sentinels, who demanded the passes with which we had been furnished and who told us that these would be good only until sunset, for at the firing of the evening gun each day the gates are closed and the passes then are useless.

We  descended a long ladder of fifty steps.

The markets near the gates, where many kinds of fruits, vegetables, and fish, unlike those seen in our home markets, were offered for sale, first attracted our attention. Here customers carrying oddly shaped baskets were bargaining with Moorish fishermen, Jewish peddlers, and Spanish market men. Each dealer, with gesticulations and loud voice, appeared to be asserting the superiority of his own wares. There was a confusion of tongues. Only the pigs tied to stakes squealed, and the chickens in wicker crates crowed, in strains familiar to our ears. The streets through which we proceeded were clean but narrow. The sidewalks were only wide enough for two people to walk side by side. The buildings were constructed of gray limestone similar to that of which the great Rock is composed.

The presence of an army in this stronghold was indicated by the large number of soldiers we met. An officer whom we questioned kindly told us that the garrison consisted of about six thousand men, and that provisions sufficient to feed that number for five years in case of siege were at all times kept in storage. He advised us to visit the "Lower Galleries" of the fortifications on the heights and obtain the view from that point, and then to attend the afternoon band concert in the park. But our limited stay did not permit us to follow his suggestions.

"In some respects," said the Major, "Gibraltar is rather a dull post for the officers stationed here; but we have a large library, ( see LINK ) billiard and club rooms, courts for tennis, and ground for polo. ( see LINK ) We have also many dances and riding parties, ( see LINK )  and occasionally attend the Spanish bull fights ( see LINK ) which take place in the large bull ring across the bay at Algeciras."

Walls of great thickness and a tunnel-like entrance.

The great variety of uniforms worn by the soldiers of England was particularly noticeable. We saw squads in khaki uniforms carrying quarters of beef toward the barrack buildings on the hill; a detachment in Scotch kilts marching to relieve the guards on sentinel duty at the neutral ground; many smart looking corporals and sergeants in short red jackets and little red caps placed jauntily on the sides of their heads, carrying short canes; an elderly looking officer in spotless white flannel, to whom the military salute was given by all soldiers who passed him; numbers of officers in red coats and white duck trousers; and a group of troopers in undress uniform of coarse white or grey, who had been grooming the horses in the stables.

Other things of interest that the camera of our eyes snapped as we hurried along, were yellow-slippered, bare-legged, swarthy Arabs gliding quietly by; a neat grey-gowned nurse taking two pretty English children to early service; Spaniards in long black cloaks and felt hats drawn down, who looked exactly like the conspirators we see in a play; many sailors in the garb of various nations, who appeared to be enjoying a holiday ashore; 

Hebrew residents in peculiar looking coarse costumes; well dressed English people with prayer books on their way to church; Moors from Tangiers in snow-white turbans, and black-haired Spanish seƱoritas with large pompadours, high combs, and mantillas draped gracefully over their heads. These, with many others, met our sight; but, among all the crowd we encountered, we were not approached by a beggar, the soliciting of alms being forbidden by the military authorities.

We paused to glance at the little Trafalgar cemetery, but did not enter. "Here," said the English guide, "sleep many of the British heroes who with our gallant Nelson gave their lives to gain the famous naval victory of the Bay of Trafalgar, in which the French and Spanish fleets were destroyed. Bonaparte boasted that the combined navies of the two countries would crush our British fleet, and then his army would cross the channel and camp in London; but our brave Admiral upset Napoleon's plans."

Beyond the cemetery we crossed the Alameda or Park Gardens, the pleasure ground of the people, where the military band plays in the afternoon and evening. There we saw a luxuriant growth of subtropical vegetation, orange trees with leaves of dark, glossy green, date palms with bunches of unripe dates, palms with broad leaves, spreading pepper trees, and great ash trees whose roots protruded above the ground for unwary tourists to stumble over. The geraniums and heliotropes were of gigantic size, and many other flowering plants were unusually large.

Our guide persuaded us to enter a museum, as he called it; but this proved to be a regular old curiosity shop containing a large assortment of oddities and souvenirs with which the owner was willing to part for a sufficient compensation.

There is a little milk-maid serving milk

"There is a little milkmaid serving milk. I'll take a snap-shot of her while she is at work," said one of our party with a camera as we drew near a young girl who was drawing milk directly from a brown-haired goat into a customer's pitcher.

While returning to the wharf we met several herds of the brown-haired goats driven by milkmen through the streets; and, assembled near the dock around a group of English Salvation Army lads and lasses who were singing familiar hymns accompanied by cornet and drum, we saw a motley crowd of men, many of whom from their diverse and peculiar costumes were evidently sailors from various ports of the world. Then, having completed our hurried tramp through the city in the time allotted for that purpose, we descended the steps at the pier to the ferry-boat that was to carry us a few miles across the bay to the town of Algeciras.

After thirty minutes on the ferry we stepped ashore on Spanish soil. The first special train had departed and the second was being made up. During the short interval of waiting, the Kodak carriers were busily engaged securing their first Spanish views.