The People of Gibraltar
1845 - The Loreto Nuns - 15. Highwaymen and Convent Girls

Victoria Lassaletta  and Dolores Sanjuán y Toro - 
Sister Placida Byrne and Sister Joseph Anne Hickey
Mother Teresa Ball  and Mother Stanislaus Murphy Gould, 
Mother Ignatius Byrne and Mother Joseph Finn - Bishop Canilla 
Sister Ermenilda Gleeson and Mother Josephine Richardson  
Sister Mary of Angels Colohan

In the second half of the 19th century a great deal of smuggling took place in the area, both at sea in the Strait and on land in the surrounding area in Spain (See LINK) . Gibraltar was ideally situated as a base for the middlemen in this enterprise. Spain imposed high tariffs on imported tobacco and Gibraltar was a free port, so tobacco was a favourite commodity for smuggling into Spain and cigar-making became a cottage industry in Gibraltar. 

Smuggling at the Gibraltar frontier with La Línea   (1893 - The Graphic Magazine )

The export of these goods from Gibraltar was perfectly legal; not so their importation to Spain. The smuggler gangs often engaged in a little highway robbery as a sideline. Victoria Lassaletta (IBVM Spanish Province), whose family lived in Jerez, told me this story about her grandmother.  In  the  1860s  Dolores Sanjuán y Toro, aged seven,  travelled  “by diligence”  from  Jerez  to  Puerto  de Santa María, where she embarked for Gibraltar to attend school as a boarder at Loreto College, Europa. The coach journey took them along the road from Jerez to Puerto de Santa Maria and on to Cadiz. They passed through El Pinar de Coy, where some of the notorious “bandoleros” (highwaymen and smugglers) hid out, notably Diego Corrientes and his posse. 

The Bandolero - Diego Corrientes

The coachman would always carry a bag of gold coins to pay the horseman who would inevitably turn up to collect fees for allowing the diligence safe passage through the mountains. Horseman and coach driver, with his young charge, would then bid one another farewell and continue their respective journeys.“It was just an elaborate way of begging”, says Victoria. “They were poor people.”

Poor little Dolores, having braved the bandits, arrived at Gibraltar for the first time to be welcomed by the Gibraltar Community – and was immediately taken into the chapel to see the laid out body of one of the nuns who had recently died! This could only have been either Sister Placida Byrne – one of those who arrived in 1845 – or Sister Joseph Anne Hickey; they were the only two who died in Gibraltar in the 1860s. Dolores survived the experience and was a pupil of Loreto Gibraltar for some years to come.

Today the journey by car from Jerez to Gibraltar might take three hours at most, from Ronda two hours, from Malaga slightly less. In those days roads were bad and travel was dangerous; even the journey to Gibraltar was difficult for the Spanish pupils. An hour’s journey by car today would have taken half a day on horseback or by diligence. 

The Diligencia (1922 - Crosbie Garstin ) (See LINK)

Spanish friends of Mother Teresa Ball continually pleaded with her for a foundation somewhere in the Cadiz region. To this end in 1887 Mother Stanislaus Murphy Gould, Mother Ignatius Byrne and Mother Paul Burke set out with Doña Javiera Romero, a Gibraltarian supporter and friend, to visit the surviving Miss Fallon at the school in Cadiz. By the following year Loreto was ready to return to Spain for a second attempt at a permanent foundation there. . . .

Mother Joseph Finn was now Superior in Europa and discussions were taking place at a meeting of the General Council in Rathfarnham to consider whether to close down the Convent at Europa. It was decided that it should be kept on if Bishop Canilla could allow the nuns to have it rent free. 
Sister Ermenilda Gleeson arrived in Gibraltar in 1889. . . . On August 6th 1890 Mother Josephine Richardson died aged forty-two. She had been in Gibraltar for sixteen years. The following year Sister Mary of Angels Colohan arrived from Ireland in time to witness the Utopia disaster, (see LINK) an event which lingers on in Gibraltar’s collective memory even into the 21st century.

The Utopia disaster

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