The People of Gibraltar
2014 - Uno Langermann Family Collection - Three Photographs

It was big news in the art world when the Uno Langermann family generously donated several albums of photographs to the University of British Columbia in 2014. At any rate it was much commented in British Columbia where Uno Langermann is still at the time of writing one of the foremost Canadian art dealers and a specialist in European and North American art of the 18th to the early 20th century. The photos are in large albums which contain literally hundreds of photographs of which only three are of Gibraltar.


In the foreground a Spanish pill-box – known as a garrita - close to and probably part of the Spanish aduana. The cattle – probably British – are being allowed to graze on the Neutral Ground. Just below the North Front on the British side and from the left a very faint Devil’s Tower (see LINK)  and the tombstones of the cemetery. More or less in the center a rather fancy building with two tall chimneys – the British passport office,


Apart from the ship in the foreground all the rest are part of Gibraltar’s huge 19th century fleet of coal hulks. (see LINK) They were owned by many of the richest families on the Rock who made quite a lot of money servicing the many coal-fired ships that came to Gibraltar. The most famous hulk of the lot was the East Indiaman “Java” - on the left on the photo. (see LINK)

Gibraltar had no proper natural harbour when this photo was taken and larger ships were always forced to anchor a fair distance from the landing place at Commercial Wharf. In fact the ships on the photograph appear to be encroaching into Spanish waters.

However, although even then the populations of the neighbouring Spanish towns of la LinĂ©a and Algeciras were probably around three time that of Gibraltar, neither had any real need for a proper harbour catering for large ships. Spain may never have given up on Gibraltar but us parking our boats within what they would consider today as part of their territorial waters would hardly have been important to them. Besides Gibraltar was part of an all powerful empire and Spain was in no position to oppose it.

Ironically this was the decade in which work began on the new dockyard , four dry docks, extensions to the South and North Moles (see LINK) and the building of the detached mole . . . all creating a massive demand for labour almost all of which came from the Campo area. And underneath it all was a relationship between the civilian populations of Gibraltar and that of its two neighbours which was probably as good as it would ever be. 


A  view of the Rock from a western beach - the jetty is on the Spanish side.