The People of Gibraltar
1943 - A Journey to Gibraltar - Robert Henry - El Campo


Spanish workers crossing on their way to work in Gibraltar     (c1950s)
La Línea - A large proportion of the population of La Línea now works on the Rock and crosses the causeway each morning to return at night. Friends with whom I was returning to Algeciras suggested that we should walk from La Linea to San Roque, where we could take a carriage to complete our journey. We set out on a Sunday morning, and we had made arrangements with an innkeeper halfway to prepare us a meal towards two o’clock. It was s hot morning, with not the smallest cloud in the sky, and the sun growing in strength.  
We passed through the market to the Plaza de Fatima. Tall date palms grow around the flower beds in the centre of the square, and the surrounding houses are squat and blinding white. In a corner, beside a low wall of mosaic, stood the inevitable wooden horse which is part of the equipment of the Spanish photographer who plies his trade in public gardens, for his young clients like to be portrayed on horseback. 
 This square was very peaceful, with its beautiful wrought-iron lamps on red tiled stands, and its view of the nearby church that during the civil war was ransacked, its ornaments being burned. From here we struck the main road that for rather more than a mile runs along the bay, a slight parapet leading clown to the deep-blue water where the fishing smacks lie at anchor, and on the other side of which the Rock rises perpendicular.
Campamento - Turing inland we passed through the sleepy village of Campamento, where a portion of the Spanish armies camped during the great siege, but where now the walls of the houses lie hidden by masses of bougainvillea. 
We came on to the open road, tarred, but dusty from the dry earth on either side. Arid downland, upon which graced a few sheep and goats in mixed flocks, swept away on our right to the summit of the high hill, the Sierra Carbonera, where stands the Queen of Spain’s Chair. Legend has it that when the French and Spanish troops were besieging Gibraltar the Queen of Spain took her seat there, and vowed she would never move from the spot until she saw the Spanish flag waving over Gibraltar. She might have sat there forever had it not been for the mercy and gallantry of the English governor who, having heard of the royal vow, caused the Spanish standard to he waved over the ramparts, thus releasing her majesty. Unfortunately historians do not accept this colourful story.

The view towards Spain during the Great Siege - The tower above the tallest hill - Sierra Carbonera - is the so called Queen of Spain’s Chair. In Spain it was known generically as a Torre de Vigilia  
(Possibly from Captain John Drinkwater's definitive history of the Great Siege )

Spain didn’t have a queen during the Great Siege.  María Amalia of Saxony, Charles III’s wife was dead by 1760 and he never remarried. I suspect the story is based on another 1601 myth associated with the Siege of Flanders and much too tedious to go into here.
How quiet has this road become since the disappearance of the motor car. There were wild blackberries on the side of the road, amongst which grew fig-trees and cactuses. An old peasant passed along followed by his donkeys laden with charcoal from the hills, packed in straw baskets nicely balanced over the hacks of the animals. 

Spanish fruit seller with Gibraltar harbour in the background    (Early 19th century - Illustration from the book)
From time to time one heard the jingle of bells and a Maltese carriage came along with an entire family of Spaniards packed inside, the wife with a young baby in her arms, and the wizened grandmother in her Sunday best. 

Maltese carriages in La Línea (top) and Gibraltar - They were far less common in Spain than on the Rock where they were known a “gharries”
On the gate-posts of a deserted villa was this election slogan chalked up before the civil war: ‘Votad á Primo de Rivera. España una grande libre’ (‘One Spain Great and Free ’). A heavy cart rumbled past us, driven by gipsies, and filled with scenic effects from the Algeciras fair, which were now being taken to La Linea, whose turn it was to have a fair next. 
 Here was a long low white building, with a tiled roof - a pottery works, where clay water-urns were being made in the same way as they were made centuries ago; and here we came upon the first shade that had relieved our journey since we set out - a long line of huge eucalyptus trees; but it was not to last, for soon we were to turn still further inland, with no better protection than an occasional fig-tree, and a sprawling cactus, whose flat green pads are protected by myriads of long wicked needles. The prickly pear, the succulent fruit of the cactus, was already ripe.  
The downs and the thin straggling wheat fields were alive with cicadas that set up their strident orchestra, and weird grass-hoppers sunned themselves on the road, flying away at our approach. Curious beetles with jewelled backs and savage little claws stood firm at our approach, as if prepared to bar the way, and then scurried away at the last moment, and one had the impression that all this campo, under a broiling sun, was alive with a million different insects.
From time to time one came upon an inn with a little garden enclosed by evergreens, in which there were flowers, like an oasis in a sandy desert. It was into one of these inns, just as I was becoming thoroughly exhausted, that my companions led rue. It was called ‘La Alegría de la Huerta’ (‘The Happiness of the Farm’). The room we entered was long and low, with rafters and a tiled floor and a bar at one end, where there were numerous bottles in glass cupboards and shining barrels of Del Mérito Jerez. And from the kitchen came a woman with a seven-month-old baby, followed by four other little children, with all the hair shaved, Spanish muscatel with which he brought large green olives.  
He was a good looking fellow who had fought for Franco during the Civil War. If he had been on the other side he would doubtless not now be owning an inn, for the unmerciful hand of vengeance is falling on all those who opposed France, and to have been a Freemason is to serve twelve years’ hard labour. 
The coolness of this inn was delicious after the heat of the Campo, and the innkeeper’s wine was delectable. I went into the kitchen to talk to the man’s wife, who was tending her fire while holding her baby in her left arm. The oven was long and low, built of white plaster, with a steel top bordered with wood, and three braziers burning charcoal, which could be fanned by blowing through wide apertures with bellows. 
Over one of the braziers was a red earthenware bowl, in which she was cooking a plump chicken with rice from Valencia, and saffron and pimento. The inn was centuries old, and was said to stand on the site of an armoury used by the Phoenicians, and electric light had not yet come that way to replace the old-fashioned oil lamps. 
Three ragged soldiers shod with felt slippers came in for a drink, but only stayed a moment, and an urchin-with frayed and patched trousers and bare feet knocked timidly on the heavy door and asked for a glass of water which he drank greedily before darting away. . . . .

Gibraltar from El Polo de Campamento - so called because the game of Polo was played on these fields during the early 20th century by both Spanish and British teams    (Possibly 1970s)

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