The People of Gibraltar
1903 - Sarah Acland - A Visit to Gibraltar - Part 1

The Lecture - Part 1

After a short technical introduction in which she mentions her innovative three colour system of photography - as well as the climatic problems of taking such photographs on the Rock of Gibraltar - insufficient light, persistent winds and so forth - Ms Acland offers the audience her general impressions on Gibraltar.
You are all doubtless familiar with the outline of Gibraltar and know something of its appearance and history. Whether considered as the key to the entrance to the Mediterranean or from a mere tourist’s point of view, it possesses an interest unsurpassed by any other place of equally small area.
Well that was nice of her! What followed was a quick résumé of the history of the Rock for those who might just have been less familiar with it than she had politely suggested. Half a sentence about the Moors and another half about Spain and then a jump to 1704 - the taking of Gibraltar - not by Anglo-Dutch forces but - according to her - in three days by Sir George Rooke. (See LINK). She wasn’t the only one of course.

The slides I have prepared do not deal with Gibraltar in its military aspect but show the wonderful vegetation during the spring months and the almost family life spent on the Rock by the army, navy and civilians, whose duty keeps them there and between whom a friendly rivalry exists. The population  . . . . in 1901 was 27 460 including 6 470 soldiers. There is a very strict supervision exercised over the civilians - no alien being allowed to reside without a permit and no right of residence is recognised.
Sarah was probably not in Gibraltar long enough to be able to understand exactly what was going on in the Rock at the time and may have got much of her information from her brother Admiral William Alison Dyke Acland who was the Superintendent of the Gibraltar Dockyard. 
Almost the entire population lives on the western side of the Rock with the exception of a small colony of descendants of Genoese fishermen who live in a sandy bay called Catalan Bay (see LINK) - the only part of the east coast that is not almost precipitous.

Catalan Bay and Village  (Early 20th century )
Trees cover thickly the unoccupied spaces on the western side where the Rock is not too steep for them to find a hold, and among them are wild olives, pines, "Bella Sombra" and the "Celtis Ocidentalis" or nettle tree, with many others both beautiful and interesting. 
As the P&O slowly steams in, the vegetation becomes visible and you can see the towers of the Lunatic Asylum and the Catchment of the Mount, the official residence of the Admiral in the garden of which most of my colour slides were taken. The house itself is hidden by the thickly surrounding trees. . . . .

The Lunatic Assylum - Not just a “politically” suspect name but misspelt (Local postcard )
. . . the Lunatic Asylum (is) a very large building but I was told that the percentage of lunatics is very high indeed in proportion to the population partly owing possibly to the climate, which is in many respects trying. When the east wind (called the Levanter) blows, it is always a damp, hot wind, bringing with it more or less dense cloud which comes low down on the rock and everything is grey, damp and depressing. 
The “Lunatic Asylum” was renamed St Joseph’s Hospital. It stood on Witham’s Road which was also later renamed St Joseph’s Road. The Asylum no longer exists. 
During the prevalence of the east wind no painting can be done, and if done does not dry thoroughly. We were told that some cement will not set while this wind is blowing. Coming from the east laden with moisture from the sea, it is most depressing and enervating - all exertion is an effort and is dreaded by everybody. 
The Rock viewed from the neutral ground rises almost perpendicular from the sandy waste to a height of 1400 feet. The galleries are faintly visible towards the right hand side. On the English part of the neutral ground (see LINK) are the cemetery and the race course (see LINK), football and recreational grounds also, where takes place reviews, shooting competitions and amusements that can be arranged to keep the soldiers content and happy. 

"The Rock viewed from the neutral ground (rises almost perpendicular from the sandy waste to a height of 1400 feet)"  ( Late 19th century )

The neutral ground looking north towards Spain - On the British side in the foreground the cemetery to the right, oval race course at the top with Victoria Gardens and various football and other recreational grounds on the left ( Early 20th century)
After disembarking at the King’s Stairs, so named because at them landed King Edward VII, the first English monarch who has ever visited this, his colony, (see LINK) and having passed outside the Dockyard, you come upon a very typical southern scene of women with stalls, under one of the wonderful "Bella Sombra "trees.  
These trees develop their roots into high excrescences so as to store moisture during the great times of drought which occur between May and October or November each year when everything gets burnt up and the Rock grows brown and browner until the rains fall again and everything springs to life in an almost miraculous manner. The "Bella Sombra" or "Phytolacca dioica"  . . .  is one of the many pants introduced by General Don (see LINK) . . . . 

Rosia Road with what might be Bella Sombra trees   ( Late 19th century )
As in duty bound on landing, we must first write our names down at the Convent (as the Governor’s official residence is called having been originally really a convent) (see LINK) call on Sir George and Lady White, and we found him sitting in the garden. The ivy leaved geraniums behind him show something of the size to which flowers grow in Gibraltar.

Ivy leaved geraniums to the right - and that is the Governor, Sir George Stuart White in the garden of the 'Convent'   blocking part of the view    ( Sarah Angelina Acland  )
( Courtesy of the Museum of the History of Science - Colour composite by Giles Hudson )
. . . . Having inscribed our names we climbed the hill towards the Alameda Gardens and I have here a slide of a group of prickly pears which with the agaves, are used a great deal in the southern parts of Spain as hedges, and their bright yellow flowers in the late spring make the rough tracks between these hedges very gay. There is only one real road in this part of Spain, leading from Algeciras to Cadiz - the rest are mere cross country tracks.

“Group of prickly pears . . . with the agaves” - Taken in the gardens of the Mount
( Sarah Angelina Acland  )