1892 – Charles Augustus Stoddard – Horrid old Crones
Charles Augustus Stoddard was an American born in 1833. He became the editor and publisher of the New York Observer, which was then the oldest religious periodical in America.
He journeyed through Spain in the late 19th century with his daughter Ethel and published his experiences in 1892 in Spanish Cities with Glimpses of Gibraltar and Tangier. The following quotes are taken from his chapter on Gibraltar.
The Town - Gibraltar is generally thought of simply as a fortified rock ; but there is a town lying at the foot of the rock, which, although guarded by large batteries and deep moats and formidable gates and subterranean passages, and five thousand English soldiers, has yet a population of twenty thousand people, most of whom are Spanish.
The 'Utopia' - As we looked toward shore, we were confronted with the melancholy sight of the masts and smoke-stack of the ill-fated 'Utopia' which ran upon the ram of the ship of war 'Anson' while rounding-to in the harbour, during a fearful gale last March. She sank in a few minutes, bearing to a watery grave nearly six hundred men, women, and children, who were emigrants from Italy to New York. Everything was done which brave English seamen from the ships of war, aided by a multitude of boats, and electric light that swept the bay, could do to save the unfortunates ; but the storm, and panic, and night and cold made the disaster the most dreadful which Gibraltar has ever seen in days of peace.
The Landing - The landing is characteristic of the Mediterranean. As soon as the vessel casts anchor, dozens of sail-boats and row-boats put out from shore, and from each of these several men board the steamer. A scene of quarrelling, gesticulating, and noise takes place, until all the passengers have made their choice of watermen, when luggage and people are hustled into the boats in the most unceremonious style. If the sea is rough, as it usually is, the chances of getting wet and losing some parcels of luggage overboard are in favour of the sea and against the passenger.
The sinking of the SS Utopia ( 1891 Georgina Sheriff - Gibraltar Museum )
Arrival - Upon the wharf you are assailed by the rudest and most clamorous style of your native tongue, though the figures about represent every nationality. There are groups of blue-shirted fishermen, with purple flannel caps, girded with red sashes; Moors in white turbans and yellow slippers, and in red fez caps, travellers from every part of Europe, who are changing steamers or have come to see the place ; and a motley crowd of the curious race of sailors . .
The Town - Entering through the gates, after being recorded, one comes first to a square, full of British soldiers. From this barrack-square opens the main street, leading up from the Waterport. It is hardly wide enough for vehicles to pass and is lined with common shops full of English, Spanish, and Moorish goods for sale at high prices. Light phaeton cabs, with brown linen covers and curtains, ply in the streets and lanes; and lines of mules draw huge narrow trucks loaded with wine casks, and hogsheads of tobacco, and naval stores.
One misses the shrill cries of Spanish towns, but there are other noises enough of guns, and drums, and fifes, and the "tramp, tramp, tramp " of men to break the stillness of the fine clear air.
The main street, from the Waterport to the Alameda gardens, is a curious composition of English-looking shops with Spanish proprietors; and at any time one can see sailors of every nation, in their flat caps and blue shirts, mingling with red-coated British soldiers, tall and solemn-looking Moors, in turbans, yellow slippers, and long white burnooses, Jews from Morocco, with fur caps. Zouave jackets, and baggy trousers, and European travellers, in the monotonous costume of our modern civilization.
. . The houses are of stone, covered with white and yellow stucco, and the better class have small but beautiful gardens full of flowers and fruits. Many of the residents have also farms and villas in Spain, to which they resort during the heat of the summer; for the town, so sheltered in winter as to be a delightful health resort, is a hot and trying place to live in during July and August.
Commercial Square - The hotel is poor and dear, its rooms are small and dirty, and there is nothing royal about it but its name. In the Commercial building opposite, a pleasant library and reading-room are maintained by the residents, to which strangers are politely invited.
Behind this building an open-air market is held, where Jews and Greeks and Turks and English privates and Spanish smugglers, with a sprinkling of horrid old crones, may be seen every morning bargaining for old bedsteads, and rickety tables and chairs, dilapidated bird-cages, and second-hand clothes, while an English auctioneer sells hogsheads and boxes of tobacco to the highest bidder.
My high silk hat proclaiming me an American, in the latter crowd, my advice as to the quality and year of a lot of Virginia leaf was eagerly sought by some of the buyers, and I hope they had no occasion to repent of their purchases. The fruit and fish markets of the town are excellent, the former being supplied with delicious fruit from Spain and Morocco. At the time of our visit, the fish-market was deserted for a ghastly but suitable reason, — the great number of unrecovered bodies from the wreck of the 'Utopia'.
Outside the Market ( Unknown )
El Hacho - Though it involves a garrison of five thousand soldiers, who are utterly useless and inactive, and an expenditure of nearly a million of dollars annually, this price is cheerfully paid by the nation for the pride of seeing the red cross of England waving from Europa Point and from the signal station on the height.
The panorama from this station, called also 'El Hacho', is superb. To the east stretches the blue Mediterranean, dotted with sails and steamers; across the Straits are the rugged hills of Africa.
Signal Hill - El Hacho ( Unknown )
The Garrison - Soldiers are to be seen everywhere, in squads marching through the town, in regiments making earthworks and practising engineering, at drill in companies and battalions, and as solitary sentinels at many points upon the rock. One afternoon, as we were driving on one of the higher roads, we saw the flashing bayonets of a regimental drill, and driving down to the parade ground watched for an hour the superb manoeuvres of the famous Black Watch regiment. . . A finer body of men is not to be seen anywhere . . .
The Residents - The whole place is under the military rule of the governor, who is appointed by the British government. Though there are twenty thousand Spaniards, and natives of Gibraltar, who are called by the obnoxious name of 'rock-scorpions,' living under this rule, good order and apparent good feeling prevail.
San Roque - We drove to San Roque one afternoon. The change from the clean, spruce, well-paved, and strictly governed Gibraltar, with its tall, straight, well-dressed soldiers, to the Spanish camp, dirty, ill-paved, swarming with beggars, and patrolled by lean, stooping, and brigandish Spaniards in shabby uniforms, was a comment upon the two nations which it is needless to enlarge.
Leaving the Rock - After seeing the fortifications, the gardens, and friends in Gibraltar, there is little to detain the tourist. There are no artistic buildings, no classic ruins. There are churches and synagogues which are no better than one can see in any good-sized town ; life goes on here with military precision and monotony; religion and commerce are free; the blessings usually enjoyed under the English flag exist here, but even those blessings become wearisome when they have to be taken, like medicine, at set times and under military inspection ; and so, after a few days, we had a desire to depart from the Rock.
Gibraltar from Spain ( 1870s - Joseph Porral - from the book Spanish Cities )