The People of Gibraltar
1709 - Bartholomeó Danino - British Mediterranean Passes

In 1709 Agustin Danino - a Genoese resident of Gibraltar - decided that the time was right to bring his 9 year old son Bartholomeó to come and live with him in Gibraltar. By then Agustin had managed to buy himself a family house on the east side of Main Street opposite what had once been the old Spanish monastery of Santa Clara but had been converted into a military barracks called Bedlam.

Minutes of Governor Bland's Court of Enquiry ( 1749 )

Bartholomeó’s mother must have died either shortly before he arrived in Gibraltar - her death may have been the reason why his father sent for him - or she did so shortly afterwards.

Eight years later Bartholomé apparently also obtained some property through his marriage to the widow of somebody called Francisco Sierra. This information is included as a footnote in an article on the Genoese in Gibraltar by local historian Tito Benady. Loath as I am to question a historian who I admire enormously I have my doubts that young Bartholomew did any such thing.

For a start at 17 he seems a bit too young to be marrying widows. Also, in 1749 Danino went out of his way to legalise his ownership of several properties which he accumulated over the years. In each case he carefully explains who he inherited or bought the property from. There is no mention anywhere of him owning a house that once belonged to Francisco Sierra.

Mind you he did include an interesting claim for “a house on the south side of the Parade” which he purchased in 1717 from Oracio Nadal Valenciano” in 1717 and which “had been lately used for a King’s Forge in the King’s Works.”

Minutes of Governor Bland's Court of Enquiry  (1749 )

Unfortunately the word “Parade” was used during the early 18th and right through to the late 19th century to refer to several writers and historian to refer to more than one parade ground  - Casemates, Commercial Square, and the flat ground below the Alameda Gardens to mention just three. In this case I suspect it refers to the Sappers’ Parade which was built in 1739 and is now known as Hargrave’s Parade.

A section of a 1750s plan of the town - the road cutting across the plan ending on the right at the South Port Guard House and Gate is Main Street - The first top to bottom intersect is Victualling Office Lane and the next one King’s Yard Lane - The entire complex to the right of this one is the King’s Works - The “Parade” might be the empty spce on the top with just two boundary walls    ( 1753 - James Montressor - detail )  (See LINK

Finally, and although I find it hard to pin-point the precise date what I do know is that some time during the very late 1730s he married a local girl by the name of Nicolasa who was five years younger than him and therefore impossible for her to be Sierra’s widow.

Nicolasa bore him a son in 1737 who was christened Agustin. He eventually became sexton of the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary the Crowned. (See LINK). They also had two daughters, Maria - born in 1739 - and Francisca - born in 1741. The records show all their surnames as Dagnino

From the 1777 Census

The Catholic Church of St Mary the Crowned   ( 1801 - Cooper Willyams ) (See LINK)

In 1735 Bartholomé bought himself a house in “Jenkins’s Lane” adjoining the Agent Victualler. Jenkins Lane - so called because this was where a Naval Agent Victualler of the same name once lived. He cannot have had too many problems getting to work on time. Nowadays it is known a College Lane. This property may very well have become his family home after his marriage to Nicolasa.

Minutes of Governor Bland's Court of Enquiry   (1749  

College Lane ( Gibraltar Heritage Cards )

Bartholomeó eventually became one of the most important Genoese traders on the Rock. His influence in Gibraltar was such that the British authorities more or less acknowledged his responsibility for all matters concerning the Genoese community.  Inevitably he was eventually appointed Genoese consul. His main competitor for this position must have been Francesco Levrery a wine broker and the Danish vice-consul. As a wealthy merchant he too must have had considerable influence among the Genoese population.

But it was Danino who got the post and immediately and just like all other Genoese consuls in the past - other than Giovanni Battista Sturla (see LINK) who never seemed to have had any trouble - Danino soon found out  that it was heavy going to collect consular fees from the many Genoese ships that came to Gibraltar. Unlike one of his predecessors, Geronimo Role,  whose collection problems mostly stemmed from his lack of personality, Danino difficulties had come about because of a piece of paper - or more specifically - a rather unique maritime document - the British Mediterranean Pass.

It was a document that rivalled the letter of marque in usefulness as it allowed its possessor to travel throughout the Mediterranean without fear of being accosted by Barbary Corsairs. That was of course the theory. The practice gave rise to a whole series of problems especially in so far as Gibraltar was concerned.

It was the word ‘British’ that caused most of the difficulty. By law these Passes could only be issued to British built ships with a further proviso that the ship masters and most of the crews were either British or at the very least Protestant.

As with most laws that interfered with the making of money on the Rock, the rules were quickly either changed or circumvented. In 1722 special arrangements were made for Gibraltar. Anybody who was considered an inhabitant of Gibraltar, ‘of what religion so ever they be,’ would be allowed to apply for a Mediterranean Pass as long as the owners and masters of the vessels ‘took the oath and enter into bond, that no indirect use shall be made of them.’

It was not the most carefully worded law ever to have been drafted but it served its purpose. Gibraltar residents of Genoese, Jewish, Spanish and other origin were now eligible to apply. The small residual problem of dealing with non-British built ships was deftly swept out of court by slightly changing the rules. Any ship that belonged ‘to his Majesty’s Town of Gibraltar’ would do.

The Rock and Bay   ( Early 18th Century - Unknown )

The rather arbitrary issuing of Passes by the Governors of Gibraltar - issued it goes without saying for their own personal gain - led to other relatively minor problems. Barbary pirates capturing boats and crews who they easily recognised as their traditional enemies were now confronted with what was tantamount to a British passport. They were rightly confused. In an attempt to solve the problem – although it is hard to understand how the system worked – vessels from Gibraltar were issued with Passes that were different to the normal ones. They were known originally as the ‘Settee Cut Pass’ but this was later amended to the more prosaic ‘Form C’

Yet another problem that had to be faced was that most of the Corsairs were completely illiterate. Waving a piece of paper in front of them was hardly likely to prove a deterrent. In yet another attempt to solve this, the British authorities hit on the idea of issuing documents with heavily decorated headings.

The tops of the Pass were then cut off using a wavy pattern and these were then sent to the appropriate consuls in Morocco who would in turn pass them on to the Barbary ship captains. Any wrongly captured captain would now be able to offer his half of the Pass to any illiterate corsair who could now check the validity of the Pass by making his bit of paper fit that of the one on offer.

Mediterranean Pass issued by the British Government with cut off wavy pattern.

None of which takes away my gut feeling that despite all attempts by everybody to make the thing work there would always be the odd Corsair who would ignore these pieces of paper and plunder on regardless. But a sufficient number of them must have played to the new rules and the end result was that the introduction of these Mediterranean passes would have a considerable effect on the social history of Gibraltar.

Trading in the Mediterranean more or less free from the attentions of the Barbary pirates and under the protection of the Royal Navy became such an attractive proposition that many Genoese ship owners and captains - including several members of my family - thought it worthwhile to settle in Gibraltar for no other reason than to be able to become eligible to obtain these lucrative bits of parchment.And with them came the Genoese sailors they needed to crew their ships. It was the beginning of a trend that would eventually make the Genoese the largest ethnic community on the Rock.

Danino’s Ramp - a complex series of steps and alleys in the top north-eastern part of town - During the next century many of the less well off Genoese sailors may have had their homes part of the town - It was probably named after Bartholomé Danino  ( Modern photograph )

More than half a century later many of these ship owners, sea captains and sailors would repay their debt to the British. They would do their bit to help supply the Garrison with goods when the risks were high. Their activities during the Great Siege (see LINK), for example, are well documented although one would never believe it from reading any of the available main-stream histories of Gibraltar.

None of which would have been of any consequence to Bartholomé at the time other than that the number of Genoese people that formed his constituency was growing daily. In fact his main problem during the 1740s lay elsewhere - his persistently poor relationship with the Governor - William Hargrave.

Lieutenant General William Hargrave    ( 1740 - Abraham Seaman )

Danino's relationship with Sabine may not have been of the best but it was simply non-existent with Hargrave. On one occasion Danino tried to intercede on behalf of the members of the crew of a British ship with the very un-British name of Nostra Signora del Assompta Patroneggiata. The men had come to him with complaints about their Genoese captain, Giuseppe Alimonda. Hargrave did intervene - but only to tell Danino in no uncertain terms to mind his own business. This, Hargrave said, was a British ship.

A galiot - a ship much favoured by the Genoese - Many of these must have called into Gibraltar during the beginning of the 18th century. - Nostra Signora del Assompta Patroneggiata was probably a galiot

Ironically Both Sabine and Hargrave both employed the same under secretary. His name was John Domenick Grana and he was also Genoese. Given Danino's problems with both Governors it would seem that Grana did not believe in giving his countryman any sort of preferential treatment.

It was halfway through Hargrave’s term of office, when Genoa technically became an enemy of Britain. She had become an ally of France during the War of the Austrian Succession. Hargrave instinctively hit on the idea of threatening to expel all Genoese born residents from Gibraltar. The possibilities of getting people to pay up in order to be exempt were enormous.

By 1748 those who wouldn't or couldn't pay were forced to leave and ended up in Tetuan. Danino stayed on and one can take it as a given that his 37 odd years of residence on the Rock will have counted for little - it must have cost him a small fortune.

When Hargrave was finally replaced the following year by Lieutenant-General Humphrey Bland Danino must have heaved a sigh of relief. Bland had his many faults but at least he was one of the least corrupt Governors of Gibraltar of the 19th century. In fact it was something of a mutual admiration society. When the Governor sentenced two Genoese fishermen to be lashed for smuggling tobacco there was not a peep of protest out of Danino who would normally have defended his compatriots come hell or high water.

Danino may have found it harder to maintain his good relationship with Bland when in 1750 a young Genoese lad was convicted of raping a seven year old English girl. But there must have been a strong sense of community among the Genoese at the time - they were not just horrified but felt collectively responsible for what had happened. Despite the fact that they were probably the poorest residents on the Rock they managed to collect a substantial amount of money which they presented to the parents of the little girl as an indication of their regret.

At a personal level also appears to have been a generous and kind-hearted individual. A case in point is that of his friendship with the family of Juan Baptist Bertuloso. This gentleman died intestate during General Sabine’s tenure of office and his son James Philip found himself in the unfortunate position of being unable to inherit his father’s house in Irish Town which had been held by the family since 1708.

General Joseph Sabine

Danino took on Philip’s case and soon found out that the claim was being rejected on spurious, not to say illegal grounds by the Judge Advocate of Gibraltar. The real motive for this interference by the strong arm of the law was that Sabine - yet another of a long line of corrupt British Governors of Gibraltar - had his eye on Bertuloso’s property.

Unable to make the stonewalling Advocate change his mind, Danino took young Philip under his wing and treated him as part of his own family. Danino lost his case but several years later he gave it one more try and claimed the house on Philip’s behalf during the 1749 Court of Enquiry set up by Bland in order to find out who owned which property in Gibraltar. The Commissioners adjudged in favour of Philip and gave him back his house. Gibraltar’s colonial masters in London had finally decided that enough was enough. The dictatorial arbitrariness of Elliott, Sabine and Hargrave were over - or so they thought.

Minutes of the Court of Enquiry showing Batholomé Danino’s claim on behalf of James Philip Bertulozo   ( 1749 )

By 1777 there were 672 Genoese and Savoyards classified as inhabitants living on the Rock. Add to that another lot included under the catch-all heading of “Natives” and that makes the Genoese the largest ethnic community in Gibraltar - probably around 25% of the 3000 odd people who dared or bothered to register for the census of that year.

Bartholomé Danino's was a tough, resilience and resourceful man.  In 1777 and approaching his 78th birthday he was still the Genoese consul of Gibraltar. He had outlasted twenty odd Governors of the Rock and must have had a good few decent stories to tell about his dealings with each and every one of them. Whichever way you look at it - he was a worthy Gibraltarian.

Today the surname, Danino is a relatively common one in Gibraltar. As far back as 1888 there were already well over 100 individuals called Danino, Daninos or Dagnino all of them residents on the Rock.