The People of Gibraltar
1877 - George Towle - The Shining Rock of Gibraltar

George Makepeace Towle was an American Lawyer, politician and author. He was born in Washington in 1841. He is best known as a translator of the work of Jules Verne (see LINK). I am not entirely sure when or why he visited Gibraltar but his short article on the place appeared in Harpers Magazine in 1877.

George Makepeace Towle
The article is perhaps mostly memorable for its “over the top” opening description of the Rock. It also includes some rather confused and confusing comments which lead me to suspect that he didn’t exactly overstay his welcome - perhaps he was just passing through on his way elsewhere. The quotes below and my comments where appropriate are taken from the Harpers Magazine article.

No spot on earth is invested with a deeper or more various interest than the classic Calpe, the Pillar of Hercules, the "Shining Rock," which we call Gibraltar. The most ancient as well as modern literature celebrates its fame; it has been the subject of fables and legends innumerable; it has played a dramatic part in the fortunes of men and nations, certainly from the earliest historic times, and probably was the bone of bitter contention among prehistoric races. 

The “Shining Rock”    ( Mid 19th C - Engraving by Samuel Colman - Included in the article )

So far so good - although I have never come across the expression “Shining Rock” to describe the Rock of Gibraltar anywhere else in the literature.
In splendid, sombre, solitary beauty no Titanic peak of nature surpasses it; it is more than majestic, it is awful, while it rises above and is the look-out upon a landscape more varied, and endowed with more striking and sudden contrasts, than any famed eyrie of Alp or Himalaya.
Alike in its history, in its natural features, and in its modern political and military significance, Gibraltar has an interest peculiar to itself. Rising as it does, rugged and in abrupt isolation, on a peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean, amidst level surroundings, and at a point where Europe very nearly approaches Africa, the rock stands on guard over the narrow strait, and is its unconquerable sentinel. It is the key of the Mediterranean . . .
There you have it. Little did I know that even Mount Everest pales into insignificance when compared to my home town.

“More varied, and endowed with more striking and sudden contrasts, than any famed "eyrie" of Alp or Himalaya”   - This one is probably a mirror image of the real thing ( Mid 19th C - Engraving by Samuel Colman - Included in the article )
Between the town and the galleries by which the rock is ascended are the Alameda, or Public Park, and the fruitful and flowery gardens which are so often mentioned as flourishing at Gibraltar. The Alameda, (see LINK) in particular, is one of the most agreeable pleasure parks in Europe.  
A portion of it is used as a parade-ground for the troops who garrison the giant fortress; the rest comprises rich green lawns, serpentine walks, with white marble seats disposed conveniently here and there, exquisite shrubbery, geraniums in profuse abundance, and groves of orange, lemon, and fig trees. 
A lovely place indeed but again, hardly one of the great pleasure parks of Europe - the bottom flat section was used for donkey’s years as a parade ground - adding curiosity value but little beauty - and as far as I know there have never been rich green lawns either in the Alameda nor anywhere else on the Rock.
On the upper terraces cool pavilions covered with vines invite the saunterer to grateful repose, while here and there you observe a bust of Wellington, and statues of General Elliott and other martial worthies.  
The Alameda and other gardens lend brightness and beauty to the slopes between the beetling and overhanging masses of sombre rock. As to the "Rock of Taric" itself - for Gibraltar is so called, from Gibel, a rock, and Taric, (see LINK) the name of the Moorish chief who first effected a landing hero in the eighth century, the pioneer of the splendid Moorish realm in Spain - it soon appears that it is connected with the main-land by a low sandy strip, which is called the "neutral ground," (see LINK) because it separates Spain from the English possession . . . .
The most northerly of the three summits is called the "North Pinnacle," the middle summit is called the "Signal Station," and the more southerly "O'Hara's Folly," or "The Watch-Tower." This summit bears the name of "O'Hara's Folly" from the following circumstance: A certain General O'Hara, who was Lieutenant-Governor of the garrison, conceived the idea that from this eminence he might be able to make signals to Cadiz. 
In this opinion, however, he was alone. All the other officers scented it as impossibility. The general insisted, and caused the watch-tower, the ruins of which are still to be seen, to be built for the purpose. It then appeared that Cadiz could not be seen from it, because of the height of the intervening mountains. Not long after the tower was struck by lightning and one of the sentinels was killed, and that was the end of "O'Hara's Folly."

A pencil sketch on brown paper - the view north is towards Spain more or less from O’Hara’s Folly with the Signal Station and heavy clouds in the middle distance 
( 1860s - Samuel Coleman - but not included in the article )
The northern summit is more commonly known as “Rock Gun” and prior to the building of O’Hara’s Tower the entire southern section was called the “Sugar Loaf”. As regards the “folly”, a slightly different version of the story is that it was built in order to enable an observer to see ship movements in Cadiz. I suspect that nobody - including the Governor’s officers - had considered the problem of the intervening mountains. (See LINK)
The scenes in the lovely bay and in the narrow zigzag streets of the little town are bustling and full of life. 

Zigzag streets ”    - Unfortunately it is not Gibraltar   ( Mid 19th C - Engraving by Samuel Colman - Included in the article )

The caption of the above engraving should read “Street scene in Spain” - as shown below.

The above engravings as captioned - correctly -  in Charles Carleton Goffin’s The Story of Liberty which was published in 1879
The bay is dotted with ships and boats of many kinds, anchored in the shadow of the rock. On the quays of the town you recognize the reason of the saying that Gibraltar is an epitome of the three continents. Here, besides English and Scottish soldiers, who are met on every hand in the vicinity of the rock, are to be seen swarthy and handsome Moors from opposite Barbary, with their snow-white turbans, flowing robes, bare leather-coloured legs, and loose slippers down at the heel; Jews from over the strait, in gaudy embroidered costumes, with broad varicoloured sashes wound about their waists, and baggy white trowsers;  
Spanish smugglers, in tight-fitting coats and breeches, fastened down the sides with silver buttons; pretty dark-eyed women of Genoa, arrayed in scarlet cloaks and hoods, the latter trimmed with broad black velvet; Spanish beauties, with long lashes and languishing eyes, wearing their sweeping black lace veils and graceful mantillas; Highland soldiers, in plaid and tartan ; and a race of acclimated English, bronzed and semi-Spanish in feature, the natives of Gibraltar, upon whom the Spanish have bestowed the rather uncomplimentary epithet of " Rock Scorpions." 

A selection of contemporary locals   ( 1876 - Illustrated London News )

Perhaps one of the least critical and more romantic descriptions of the locals to be found anywhere in 19th century literature - although the description of the “natives” as “that race of acclimated English, bronzed and semi-Spanish in feature” is difficult to understand. From the 1870s through to the 1880s the resident population hovered around the 18 000 mark. Of these the vast majority were people of Spanish, Genoese and to a lesser extent Jewish As regards acclimated English, bronzed and semi-Spanish in feature . . . . well there may have been a few residents of British decent but they would definitely have been in a minority.

Another set of stereotypical locals according to another contemporary British illustrated paper - it’s a Royal Calpe Hunt day (See LINK)    ( 1877 - The Graphic )
Out into the sea stretch the various moles, the most conspicuous being the old and new moles, (see LINK) while at the northern end of the town rise the towers, battlements, and crumbling walls of the old Moorish castle (see LINK) an imposing relic of the days of Moslem ascendancy . . . . 
Everywhere about as well as on the rock you are reminded of the fact that Gibraltar is, first of all, a fortress. Soldiers and guards, deploying, lounging, or on post, present themselves at every turn; high up on the cliffs the diminished figures of sentinels are seen pacing to and fro; in the pleasure-gardens the most noticeable persons are the officers, strolling and taking their ease; the tattoo of drums, the roar of cannon at stated hours, the opening and closing of the great gates that separate the fortress from the town, all impress one with the military importance of the place. 
There were no “great gates” separating the fortress from the town. The gates that were closed at night were those at the Grand Casemates - something which is still now and again carried out today in a ritual known as the “Ceremony of the Keys”.

In 1877 there was only one major Casemates Gate (see LINK) out of town - the second one was added in 1902      ( 1881 - Tristam Ellis. Moorish Castle Casemates Gate)
Still more marked appears the military character of the rock, as you glance up toward the beetling cliffs, and see, yawning from innumerable port-holes, and above long ranges of battlements, and from many an embrasure and turret, the cannon which guard the entrance to the Mediterranean; and as, curious to behold the marvels of the fortress in their details, you cross the draw-bridge, go under the low arched gateways, pass the parade and Alameda, ascend the irregular streets which creep in steps up the sides of the crags, leave behind the quaint old Moorish castle, and at last find yourself literally entering the rock through an iron gateway. 

Gibraltar’s Moorish Castle   ( Date unknown )

“Quaint” is certainly not a word I would associate with what is the largest -  if not aesthetically the most beautiful - Moorish fortress in the entire Iberian peninsula. The business of the drawbridges is also hard to understand. The only draw-bridge and low arched gateways were those found at Landport which was the northern land exit from the town. The gate leading from the town to the Alameda through Charles V Wall (see LINK) was Southport Gate. There was only of these in those days.

Single gate through Charles V Wall    ( 1883 - illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News )
After a short description of the Galleries, (see LINK) Towel offers us his second anecdote. It is one which involves St Michael’s Cave.
Among the wonders of Gibraltar is the somewhat famous and not a little mysterious Cave of St. Michael. This is approached by an hour's rather painful clambering from the Alameda. The cave is reached from a platform about three hundred feet below the summit. You pass within a high irregular fissure in the face of the rock, and enter, by a small gate, a vast circular chamber but dimly lit from without. This cave you find hung with immense stalactites . . . and one must grope carefully . . . holding the torches high to shed the light well upon the path ahead. 

St Michael’s Cave     ( 1884 - Unknown )
After passing along the principal passage some four hundred feet, you reach the brink of a black, fearful gulf, the bottom of which no man has ever seen. You can only note the dark, slimy, jagged sides as they disappear into utter darkness; and by throwing down a torch, see by its brief glimmering, as it plunges into the abyss, what an awful chasm lies below. It is related that many years ago some English officers ventured to penetrate here before the exact position of the chasm was known; that the foremost fell head-long into it, to be soon followed by a second, who was groping about in search of his companion.  
This chasm is the passageway by which, according to the legends of Gibraltar, the apes that once thickly swarmed about the rock were wont to cross, under the sea, to their more secure retreat, the Apes' Hill, on the opposite Barbary Coast.  
It may be added that for many years the rock has been kept provisioned for six months ahead. A longer time would not be necessary, for the English could safely rely upon their unequalled War Fleet to relieve Gibraltar from any danger of being starved out. 
Anticipating the Great Siege (see LINK) which took place in the late in the late 18th the British authorities ordered the entire population to stock up with at least six months provisions. I doubt very much whether such a regulation was still in force during the middle of the 19th century. The Governor lives in a cottage on the southern slope, below Windmill Hill; and at the very extremity of the peninsula rises a light-house, at "Great Europa Point," one hundred and fifty feet high. 

Lighthouse and Governor’s Cottage    ( 1870s - G.W.Wilson - detail ) (See LINK)
The Governor may have moved temporarily into his summer residence - known as “Governor’s Cottage” - while Towle was visiting. His permanent address, however, was at the Convent which was and is in the middle of town.

The Convent and the Anglican Church  (See LINK) ( 1870s - G.W.Wilson )
At the rear of the rock, between it and the marshy space called the "neutral ground," are gardens, the garrison burial-ground, a small beach used for bathing called the " Watering - Place," and a good race-course, which provides the English with the favourite home pastime when far out of reach of Ascot, Epsom, Doncaster, and Chester. 
It was not just the English who enjoyed horse racing - the locals were also very keen on the sport.

( 1874 - G. Muller )
We . . . have seen, to some extent, why it is that Burke spoke of the fortress as "a post of power, a post of superiority, of connections, of commerce; one which makes us invaluable to our friends and dreadful to our enemies." Let us now briefly revert to some of the incidents in its history.
But perhaps not briefly enough as the following three pages - or more than a third of the entire article - is given over to a potted history of Gibraltar from the time of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans (See LINK) right through to the Great Siege all of which he must have copied from here and there. The article ends as follows:
Except a brief but sharp naval conflict nearby, in 1805, Gibraltar has since the "great siege" remained in the undisturbed possession of the English; and thus the great fortress bids fair to remain, as long as the naval prowess of England continues to be unrivalled on the waters of the earth.