The People of Gibraltar

1704 - El Algarrobo - A Footnote in History

The Algarrobo tree - the carob-tree in English and Seratonia Siliqua to botanists - was once very common in Gibraltar. Its fruit - a pod known as the Algarroba - although not recommended as food - is more or less digestible for humans and has indeed been eaten by Gibraltarians - albeit in small quantities and just for fun - and possibly since well before the British arrived in 1704

Its connections with Gibraltar have been well described by a number of 18th and 19th century writers such as, for example, Francis Carter in his Journey from Gibraltar to Malaga which was published in 1772. (see LINK)
The algarroba (sic) is tall and woody, the fruit, grows in a shell like large bean-pod, Within are four or five beans that serve for feed, but they give it to the cattle {hell and all, as the whole is thick and substantial; it is sweet to the palate, and, very good and profitable both for horses and cattle . . 
Ignacio López de Ayala who wrote his Historia de Gibraltar about ten years later (see LINK) also wrote quite a bit about it. Here is James Bell in his translation of Ayala's Historia:
Nor are trees of value wanting, affording fruit as well as shelter. The Algarrobo, or Carob Tree the timber of which is hard and valuable, yielding a fruit in the autumn given to cattle, is very prevalent on the Rock, grows high, and affords much shelter. It requires little cultivation, and prefers stony places; the sweeter sort of its fruit is agreeable to the palate, and all are nourishing for animals
The Salto del Algarrobo 
The sheer abundance of this plant growing on the Rock gave rise to it giving its name to at least one geographical location - el Paso del Algarrobo - which is thought to have been one of several paths found on the sheer eastern side of the Rock. According to Ayala:
 . . . está la hendedura del monte, con los diferentes nombres de la Quebrada, Salto del Algarrobo, camino del Pastor . . . .
The name of the paso also appears in several mid 18th century maps as shown below. Although unproveable, the reduction of the name to "Salto Garrobo" is probably because that was how the English pronounced it.

( 1750 - Claude Dubosc - detail )

( 1760 - Tobias Conrad Lotter - detail )

( 1765 - The Universal Magazine )

Sandy Bay
By the 19th century, however, the name of the pass seems to have become associated with a beach on the eastern side of the Rock known today as Sandy Bay. (See LINK) A good rational for giving the beach this name is that it lies in line with the "salto" if a considerable distance beneath it. Once again there are a number of 19th and 20th century maps identifying the beach by this name.

( 1831 - W.H. Smyth - detail )

( 1874 - G. Muller - detail )

( 1888 - A Simon - detail )

1908 - Baedeker

Interestingly at least two 20th century Spanish maps call it by what may have been its original name of Salto de Algarrobo:

( 1928 - Servicio Hidrográfico de la Armada - detail )

( 20th century - Unknown - detail )

Today it is known only as Sandy Bay and nobody remembers it Algarrobo name.

Simon Susarte
During the 12th Siege of Gibraltar a rather memorable event took place. In effect the story of a military fiasco (see LINK) and in itself of no real historical importance there is still enough romance and human interest to it to make historians keep on telling us about it.  Let me start with Ayala:
Se presentó un paisano al marqués de Villadarias , de ocupación cabrero , i como informado en los caminos , sendas despeñaderos del monte ofreció conducir hasta su  altura las tropas que se le entregasen. . . . Llamabase el cabrero Simon Susarte , natural de la plaza  . . .  
el marqués de Villadarias . . . .envió quinientos hombres al mando del coronel Figueroa, i todos guiados del cabrero subieron al peñón de noche por la espalda.. . . Susarte subió por el paso del Algarrobo a los Tarfes por el camino de la derecha que va al Hacho y todos sin ser sentidos se acogieron en la cueva de San Miguel. 
In his analysis of what went wrong with the attempt Ayala continues:
Mr. Carter (Francis Carter) afirma que fueron quinientos hombres, i se ocultaron en la cueva de san Miguel. 
Mr. Carter said no such thing - what he did say was that:
The algarroba tree which grows at the vineyard, and is the only one of its species remaining here, next drew the attention of the company: this was formerly very plentiful all over the hill; under Saint Michael's cave in 1705, was a grove of them standing thick enough to conceal 500 Spaniards; that had climbed up the back of the rock.
Ayala himself then returns to the topic elsewhere in his history and adopts Carter's hypothesis:
El algarrobo árbol . . . es el que más prevalece en este monte. Abunda mucho en él i llega a tener bastante altura. En el sitio del año de cuatro pudo ocultar por algún espacio en las inmediaciones a la caverna de san Miguel quinientos españoles que se habían acogido al abrigo de la roca.
In 1852, in yet another Historia de Gibraltar, Ángel María Monti perpetuates the idea that the intrepid invaders spent the night in St Michaels Cave.
. . . mandó Villadarias al coronel Figueroa con quinientos hombres; que en la oscuridad do la noche y llevando  al pastor por guía, pasara a tomar posición en el monte . . . .  hasta ganar el paso del algarrobo, y salto del Lobo, hoy el Sugar Loaf . .  quedaron ocultos los expedicionarios en la cueva de S. Miguel  . . . 
 Francisco Maria Montero's 1860 history of the Rock (See LINK) says exactly the same thing.

St Michael's Cave
Possibly as a result of this lack of consensus, quite a few 18th century maps persist in identifying Saint Michael's cave as one that can hide a large number of people - although the actual number is rarely that of the original 500.

( 1730s - Unknown - Plano y Sitio de la Plaza de Gibraltar - detail )

( 1738 - Tindal and Rapin - detail )

( 19th century - Unknown - detail  ) - 

Curiously, both George Palao in his 1977 Our Forgotten Past and, William Jackson in his 1987 History both change the identity of the cave -  but gives no reason. 
(Palao ) They stayed overnight sheltered in a small cave, today's Goat's Hair Twin Caves.  
(Jackson) They . . . hid in Fig Tree and St Martin's Caves until daylight. 
Other relatively  modern historians - Dorothy Ellicott in Our Gibraltar of 1975, George Hills in his 1974 Rock of Contention  and Maurice Harvey's  1996 Gibraltar - a History - (see LINK)  all tell the story of the 500 men and St Michael's cave -  but all fail to mention the Algarrobo grove . . . . thereby relegating the poor trees to less than a footnote in modern history  . . . and perhaps oblivion.