The People of Gibraltar
1845 - The Loreto Nuns - A History by Dorothy Prior

Diego Gomez and Magdalena Mancilla - Maria Luisa Gomez and Lina Letts
Pepe Chipulina and Dorothy Prior

The Loreto nuns and their schools were for many years yet another of Gibraltar's well known institutions. My great grandparents, Diego Gomez and his fiancé Magdalena Mancilla, had just got married when the nuns first came to Gibraltar. Diego would eventually become a relatively well-off merchant, a seller of vegetables and fruit at the local market and the holder of a monopoly on the sale of grapes to the Garrison - from which he managed to rake in a considerable amount of money over his lifetime. 

Diego and Magdalena Gomez

Diego and his wife thoroughly approved of the Loreto nuns and were generous benefactors over the years. Their daughters - including my grandmother Maria Luisa Gomez and her daughter Lina Letts, my mother - were both paying pupils at the Loreto schools in Gibraltar.  

In the late 1940s my family returned from their enforced war-time evacuation to Madeira. My father, Pepe Chipulina had died and those relatively prosperous early 20th century days were a distant memory. Finally managing to reinstall ourselves in our original pre-war home in 256 Main Street some thought was given to my education - I was eight years old. Luckily the nun's remembered my great grandparents generosity and I was offered a free place in their fee-paying private primary school.

Group photograph of pupils at the Loreto Convent in 1946 - that's me, the charity boy,  standing on the far right

As regards the Loreto nuns, a lady by the name of Dorothy Prior wrote an interesting book on them with the explanatory title - A Short History of Loreto in Gibraltar (1845 – 2005Although the intricate details of who was who in the Loreto hierarchy is probably only of interest to the specialist researcher, there is much else that is very worth-while reading for the amateur and professional historian.

Dorothy Prior 

Her descriptions of Gibraltar in the middle and late 19th century, her detailed account of the educational system on the Rock - including those schools not run by the nuns - as well as a good number of anecdotes about local people, make Ms Prior's article a gripping read. I have therefore taken the liberty of copying her work - with her permission - in the hope that it will be more widely read in the future. I have avoided commenting but have edited out lengthier passages which dealt with matters that did not pertain to Gibraltar. I hope the author will forgive me.

The following are the headings of each of the different chapters in her article. A click will take you to the appropriate one.

1.   Arrival
2.   First Impressions
3.   Mission
4.   Gibraltarians
5.   Getting Settled
6.   First Schools
7.   Thoughts about Spain
8.   Mary Ward and Teresa Ball
9.   "Noxious Miasma"
10. A Change of Air
11. Superiors and Generals
12. Grand Bazaar
13. Putting Things Right
14. Gavino's Passage, Cornwall's Lane
15. Highwaymen and Convent Girls
16. Disaster in the Bay of Gibraltar
17. Boer War 1899-1902
18. To End all Wars
19. "Points of Manners"
20. Progress and Modernisation
21. Trouble in Spain
22. Sister Trinidad Garcia
23. Personal Tragedy
24. Return to the Rock
25. Back to the Beginning
26: Castilleja and Chipiona
27. The Explosion
28. The Green Convent
29. Comprehensive and "Private" School

Front and back cover of Dorothy Prior's Book