The People of Gibraltar
2018 - Gibraltar’s Hawkers, Vendors and Menders - Part 6

Flower Vendors

These vendors didn’t deliver. They just set up their stalls strategically all over town.

Library Street  corner with Main Street    (1920s)

Pitman's Alley     (1930s)

Church Lane corner with Main Street    (1930s - Giulliano collection)

Unknown location  (1930s)

All three of the above in Main Street in front of the Exchange building   (1960s)

Church Lane corner with Main Street - The building with the film posters was the Spanish Pavilion - it no longer exists    (1950s)

Knife Sharpeners

During the 1950s - and almost certainly long before that - a housewife’s favourite kitchen knives were regularly sharpened by an itinerant specialists known locally - in the singular - as "el Afila'ó". These men made their presence known by blowing on curious pan-like pipes on which they produced unique and curious up and down scales.

The sharpening process was carried out using a heavy circular stone which was cleverly attached to a bicycle wheel. The knife-sharpener would spin the wheel at a constant rate by peddling away with one leg. As the wheel turned so would the stone. As a very young boy I remember watching transfixed as the knife being carefully sharpened against the stone released spectacular showers of sparks.

(1930s - Guilliano collection)


Individual hawkers who specialised in repairing pots and pans were known as “lateros” whereas umbrella specialists were called “paragüeros”. I can’t remember having ever seen either of them myself. These types of hawker no longer exist today but there must have been quite a few of them in the 1950s. Consumerism was not as extreme in those days as it is today and people tended to repair rather than replace wherever possible. 

Unknown location    (1930s)

Fish Vendors

This type of vendor must have been around from the start. Fishing and fishermen are part and parcel of the social history of the Rock. For centuries it was the raison d’être for the east side village of Catalan Bay .

Location unknown   (1930s)

Catalan Bay village      (1940s)

Upper Castle Steps   (1940s)

Unknown location   (1940s)

In front of Castle Street - note flower vendors stall behind her   (1950s)

Egg and Chicken Vendors

Most of these were from Barbary. The eggs they sold came to be known as “huevos morunos” - presumably to distinguish them from Spanish eggs which were actually supposed to be better.

Waterport Market  (1930s)

Opposite Saint Jago's, Main Street    (1930s - Guilliano collection)

Barbery, Barberry . . .  or is it Barbary?    (Date unknown)

Milk Vendors

The few surviving photos suggest that it was mostly goat’s milk that was sold on the hoof - so to speak  - with the animals being milked at the moment of sale. Although cow’s milk will undoubtedly have originally been available from Spain - cows are even known to have grazed in North Front - fresh milk of any sort was unknown in Gibraltar for several decades after WWII. Diluted Nestlé’s condensed milk was the standard fare in those days.

"A Maltese milkman"    (1876 - Illustrated London News)

Milk vendor  - Southport Gates    (1920s)

Goat milk vendor     (1928)

That's a flower seller on the left-  but the donkey man is probably selling something liquid - possibly milk      (Late 19th century - Castle Steps)

Bread Vendors

I suspect these were not really hawkers but simply deliverers of bread produced by Gibraltar’s many bakeries.

"Pistolete" - Unknown location    (1930s)

"Pan de Lata" -  Unknown location   (1940s - Guilliano collection)

Ice cream Vendors

These were mostly similar to those found everywhere else in the world. The most memorable ones for me, however, were those that patrolled Gibraltar’s beaches during the summer months. The vendors’ battle cry was invariably “el bon, bon helado . . . . chocolate, canela y vainilla. . . . “.

Main Street in front of the Exchange building      (1970s)

 Main Street         (1960s)

Buleva de la' Palmera'     (1950s)

Roasted Chestnut Sellers

If it was ice cream in summer, then it was chestnuts in winter - especially around Christmas. Always roasted over small, semi-homemade charcoal grills, this was a treat that was for some reason impossible to replicate at home.

Near Rosia Road    (1940s - Gilliano collection)  

Opposite the Trafalgar Cemetery - Southport Gate (1940s - Guilliano collection)

Castle Street looking up Castle Ramp - the Chestnut Vendor and his grill is on the left   (1900s) 

Trinket Hawkers

Mostly focusing on the tourist trade, these hawkers were mainly found along Main Street - although as suggested by one of the older photos they could of course be found anywhere.

Near the Eliott Memorial, Alameda Gardens   (1911)

 She seems to be selling reed fans - She is also holding a skewer of madroños - a local fruit    (1940s - Guilliano collection)

Mr. Zarb selling tourist stuff to visiting Russian sailors    (1960s)

Selling scarves near the Casemates  (1940s - Mansell collection)

Peanut Vendors

Very much in evidence in front of cinemas. Other than peanuts, which were incorrectly referred to as "avellanas" in Gibraltar - avellanas are hazelnuts in Spanish - the vendor also sold "altamuses" - pulses which have been soaked and softened in brine and were generally referred to as ‘salaitos’ - and "alcatufas" which are "chufas" in Spanish and tiger nuts in English. Both were as popular as they were indigestible.

Vendor called Salvador selling his wares near Cooperage Lane    (1976 - Gil Podesta)

Near the War Memorial in the "Buleva de las Palmeras    (1950s)

Shoe Shiners

They were certainly were not "boys". They were found mostly in bars and such-like places where youngsters -  like myself at the time - were unlikely to frequent but they were sometimes found elsewhere as shown in the photo below.

Outside the Exchange building on the Main Street side   (Early 20th century - Mansell collection)

2018 - Gibraltar’s Hawkers, Vendors and Menders - Part 1
2018 - Gibraltar’s Hawkers, Vendors and Menders - Part 2
2018 - Gibraltar’s Hawkers, Vendors and Menders - Part 3
2018 - Gibraltar’s Hawkers, Vendors and Menders - Part 4
2018 - Gibraltar’s Hawkers, Vendors and Menders - Part 5
2018 - Gibraltar’s Hawkers, Vendors and Menders - Part 6