1826 - Thomas Staunton St. Clair
I entered this world under the British flag, in the Garrison of Gibraltar; and my lungs had just begun to breathe the air of life, when a loud peal of drums and fifes almost destroyed my organs of hearing . . .
This is the opening sentence of the book A Soldiers Recollections of the West Indies and America by Lieutenant - Colonel Thomas Staunton St. Clair. It was published in 1834 and it described an experience that would live with St. Clair forever. Not only did he consider himself a 'Rock scorpion' but he made it his business to become an officer of the British Army. He returned to Rock in 1820, aged only 36, as third in command of the Garrison.
His military career was nothing short of meteoric. He joined the 94th Regiment of Foot - formally known as the Scots Brigade - in 1803 as a coronet and was commissioned as a Lieutenant the following year.He was a Captain by 1807 , and a Major in 1814. He was seconded to Portugal soon after and remained on the Iberian Peninsula until 1818, by which time he had risen to Lieutenant-Colonel. Staunton St. Clair was stationed in Gibraltar between 1826 and 1832 after which he was sent to Malta. He was promoted to Major-General in 1846, but died the following year aged 62.
By all accounts his stay in Gibraltar was an extremely pleasant one - he loved his mess, enjoyed both good food and better wine, 'a beautiful little cottage in front of South Barracks' ( see LINK) and not least of all, a lovely wife and several children. Not content he was also a gifted amateur artist.
Throughout his time in Gibraltar, Staunton St. Clair’s output of sketches and watercolours was prolific. It was almost as if he was trying to paint Gibraltar systematically from all possible angles. In his notes on one of his sketches he writes,
I have now shown all the lower face of the Rock and shall proceed to mount it and try to give some idea of the upper part.
He did so and two of his pictures of the upper Rock are included here. The overall result was a large selection of views of Gibraltar covering both military aspects and the life of local inhabitants. His overall style is difficult to describe - especially as his pictures tend to differ quite a bit from one to another. Perhaps their most obvious characteristic is that he tended to exaggerate his landscapes to such an extent that some seem to be almost caricatures of the real thing.
It is perhaps unfortunate that so few of Staunton's paintings are available to the general public. Other than a few from the Gibraltar Museum, those that can be traced as copies are of very poor quality. Nevertheless, here are some that I have managed to find.
The inscription for the above painting reads as follows:
This view is taken from the same spot as the former one only turning my face to the rear and shows the dockyard and Dryad frigate laying in it. The distant mountains is Spain. The boat over the men of the 42nd Regiment is standing onto Rosia Bay (see LINK) at the head of which are the naval stores and since this pier has been completed, a large fleet could be shortly filled out in their stores.
The upper Rock
An officer and his partner led by a soldier on what appears to be the classic tourist trip up the Rock to Signal Hill - also know locally as El Hacho. At the time and for many years afterwards it was illegal to draw anything on the Rock - unless authorized by the military authorities. The idea was to prevent spying. British officers were, of course, exempt.
This appears to be the same group on their way down from Signal Hill which appears at the top of the precipice with O'Hara's folly (see LINK) on the far ridge. Anybody with good eyesight might also make out a goat herd and three goats in the bottom middle distance.
The Black Watch on guard near the New Mole (See LINK)
Rosia Bay Battery and - yet again - a goat herd and three misbehaving goats.
The caption reads:
In the front ground of this view is Rosia Bay with a centennial of the 42nd Regiment in Royal Highlanders on duty. Immediately under the distant gun is Rosia Bay and the line wall extending round it. The building immediately behind the wall of Rosia Battery is the naval store and the large building standing higher up on the rock is the naval hospital and there cannot be a better adopted one or more commodious.
Europa Advance Battery
Middle Hill Battery - and the artist
The frontier - the Spanish Lines
The Moorish Castle (See LINK)
View from the top of the Moorish Castle. Signal Hill right at the top of the picture. Immediately below is Inces Farm ( See LINK )
A view from the Straits - steam driven vessels had only just begun to arrive at the Rock
The view of my birth-place . . . exhibits the appearance of Gibraltar from the Straits. The nearest object is Europa Point, above which is Windmill Hill Barracks, and on the pinnacle of the rock, O'Hara's Tower. The Signal-post stands at the same level. Descending the rock, on the left are the South Barracks, and the New Mole is seen jutting out into the sea.
The view, taken in 1827, represents the 'Asia', 74, Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, saluting the garrison on her arrival from England; while the Dryad frigate, commanded by the Honourable Captain Crofton, is proceeding up the Straits into the Mediterranean
View of Malaga from the house of Mr. Rose - Rose was the Prussian consul and presumably a friend of St Clair. I have included this picture as it is the only one of Spain that I have been able to find