Mr Quentin Brown from Ayr and Mr Walker from Dunbar - Mr Michael Power
George Don and George Augustus Eliott - Giovanni Maria Boschetti
Aaron Cardozo and the Duke of Connaught
James Williamson was a Scottish surgeon employed by the owners of the ships of the Falmouth Packet Ship Service between 1828 and 1835. He kept diaries during his voyages which have been meticulously transcribed by Tony Pawlyn, the Head of Research at the Bartlett Library of the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall. The quotes below - those which refer to his several visits to Gibraltar - are taken - with thanks - from his transcriptions.
The Packet ship Walsingham - perhaps not unlike James Williamson's ship which was the Duke of York
( 1823 - Nicholas Cammilleri )
( 1823 - Nicholas Cammilleri )
First Visit - January 1829
Arrival . . . at 6 o'clock this morning we came to anchor in the Bay of Gibraltar, having performed the passage from Cadiz in a very short time. . . I got up at 7 o'clock, and had a prospect of the celebrated Bay, and the no less celebrated Town, of Gibraltar.
The whole Bay which if not of very great extent is barred in by several chains of lofty mountains except a small portion, to the North of the Rock, which is low, flat, and narrowing all the way up to the Hill, which rises suddenly up to a very considerable height. Part of this level tract is called the neutral ground, and on it were encamped those who had quitted the Town in consequence of the fever – the soldiers in one quarter of it, and the inhabitants in another.
I went on shore with Mr Geach, who carried the mail. We found that a solid wall of masonry ran along in front of the Town, with short intervals in the continuity of it, for the reception of cannons. At the different places of landing, which are very few cannons were planted so as to have the complete command of them, and to sweep the whole extent.
Within the outer wall was another equally strong and well mounted separated from the first by a wide ditch and communicating only by means of a draw-bridge. We landed at a long projecting fortification, or mole, called the 'devils tongue', from the dreadful execution which the cannon mounted thereon committed among the enemy. Here we found a great number of Spaniards and others, in various dresses, all patiently waiting until they should be allowed to enter. Amongst these, we were obliged to remain for some time, as we could not be allowed to pass, without a special permission to that effect . . . .
Fever - I believe we were, the first, who were allowed to enter the Town – and to receive clean Bill of health since the cessation of the fever. Yesterday, (Friday 16th January) the churches were opened for the 1st time for public worship – the troops were marched into the town – Te Deum was sung. The vessels also in the harbour hoisted their colours in token of joy, and this destructive fever which had raged so long among a crowded population has ultimately ceased after having gorged about 1628 victims.
The last fever here in 1813-14 destroyed 5500 persons, and the present diminished mortality is attributed to the attention paid to cleanliness - ventilation - fumigations, and the separation of the healthy from the diseased. It is now thought that the result of this fever, which seems to have resembled the yellow Fever of the West Indies will set at rest the great question so long agitated by medical men of all countries, as to whether this and other fevers are contagious or non-contagious.
The number of people who died of yellow fever in Gibraltar from the first epidemic in 1804 to the last one which ended in December 1828 is unknown but probably ran to over 10 000. Williamson's figure of 5500 for the epidemics of 1813 and 1814 seems to be on the high side. (See LINK)
Houses - Altho’ it has been announced that the fever had ceased, we had to wait until permission had been obtained to enter the Town, which we did thro’ two thick and solid gateways (see LINK) at a little distance from each other, armed with strong iron doors and guarded by soldiers. We first found ourselves in a large open place surrounded by bomb-proof barracks of a very handsome appearance.
The 'solid gateways' were the Casemates Gates and the large open space the Casemates themselves.
Market and Casemates Gates ( Late 19th century - William Lee Hankey )
From this place the streets and alleys diverged off in different directions. I visited several parts of the Town, and liked it very much. The architecture of the houses is of a mixed character being partly English and partly Spanish – Few or none of the windows had balconies but almost all had a sort of Venetian blind outside, precisely similar to those which I used to look at with great curiosity when they were first put up in some windows in the Westmost part of Princes Street. If they are still there, you will have a complete idea of the appearance of the windows at Gibraltar.
The person responsible for those ubiquitous venetian blinds - perhaps better described as wooden Genoese shutters - was Giovanni Maria Boschetti a Gibraltarian architect of Italian descent. (See LINK)
Castle road showing traditional Gibraltarian wooden shutters ( Mansell Collection )
Buildings - I saw few large or public buildings, & those few were very good such as the Governor’s residence - the neat Catholic Church - and the exchange. (see LINK) I can say little alas of the Shops, very many of which were still unopened.
He left out another two - The Mount which was the Admiral's residence, and A large mansion in the Commercial Square owned Aaron Cardozo (see LINK) a very rich Jewish merchant. When this photograph was taken in the late 19th century it was known as Connaught House. The owner - Pablo Larios (see LINK) - had placed it at the disposal of the Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, during his tour of duty in Gibraltar.
Spanish Barber - Along with Mr Geach, I entered that of a Spanish Barber, the interior of which differed considerably from those of their fraternity in England. A thousand razors were arranged in regular order around the walls, from which also were suspended basins of China or beautifully polished metal, with a notch in the side of each for the reception of the chin. In the rooms or shop were several odd fashioned chairs - and sundry elegant pictures and mirrors, nearly completed the catalogue of the contents.
Inhabitants - The inhabitants of Gibraltar are composed of the most heterogeneous and mixed assemblage of people of all nations, which you can fancy. Here you may see the Stately Turk, the Swarthy Moor - the grave Spaniard, the lively Frenchman - the cunning Italian - the heavy, gin-swilling Dutchman – the Jew and gentle (sic) - Christian & Mahometan. But by far the greatest bulk of the dwellers in Gibraltar - consist of Genoese, Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Spaniards - and the Spanish language is as much spoken as the English.
( Mid 19th century - M.C. Perry ) (See LINK)
Very few visitors to Gibraltar ever made a distinction between that 'mixed assemblage of people of all nations' that seemed to have been immediately obvious when first entering the town, and distinguishing them from vast majority of the residents of the Rock which were indeed mostly of Genoese, Spanish and English. His inclusion of Scotsmen is understandable given his own nationality. He makes up elsewhere for not mentioning the Jews.
Soldiers - Another peculiarity here is, that everywhere in all corners, you meet with soldiers, as indeed might have been expected, when we consider the necessity of always securely guarding a place of so much importance. At present there are 6 regiments in garrison, amongst whom I was delighted to recognise my brave countrymen, the 42 Highlanders. These poor fellows along with their other comrades have suffered severely from the fever, having most of the stoutest and ablest men of their corps.
( Mid 19th century - M.C. Perry )
It was however, expected that the full complement of each regiment would soon be made up as there were reinforcements sent from England, lying now in the Bay. It says much for our military countrymen that an excellent understanding subsists between them and the inhabitants, whose good will and good wishes they seem entirely to have gained.
The strictest discipline is enforced, and many regulations have been made calculated to remove out of their way those temptations which so often divert the British soldier to the neglect of discipline and the commission of crime – I mean those presented by the too easy procuring of Spirits, and the too free indulgence in their intoxicating delights.
Women - In Gibraltar the mixture of females is as peculiar as that of the males - and here the English and Spanish predominate. Nor is it difficult to distinguish between them - for the former wear bonnets, as at home, while the heads of the latter are covered simply with a black veil often of the most costly material. I observed also that here many of those women of the lower orders, wore very generally a scarlet coloured cloak, with a hood for the head, and trimmed all along with a broad edging of black velvet.
Woman wearing the traditional local scarlet cloak. The couple are standing some distance from South Barracks (see LINK) - another of Gibraltar's more imposing buildings (1844 - George Lothian Hall ) (See LINK)
Barbary Jews - As I passed along the Street, I mistook several men, who were standing on the Street for women, and it was only when I saw their dark faces, and bearded chins that I discovered my mistake. These were Barbary Jews, who [wore] a sort of wide gown, generally of a brown colour, and loose white Trousers.
In the head, they appear to entertain notions of propriety and beauty the reverse of our – for their hair was shaved off and their beards permitted to grow. They wore no hats, - but a wide sort of night cap, made of some black stuff. Their legs were almost universally bare, and their feet pushed into old shoes. The only part of their dress, in which they affected any kind of attention, was a kind of waistcoat, with numerous buttons and much braiding. These perhaps were their Sabbath clothes, as I discovered them, when they had just come out of the Synagogue. . .
( Mid 19th century - M.C. Perry )
Public Walks - We traversed several streets now familiar to us and at last came to the public walks and gardens at the South End of the rock - With these we were quite delighted on account of their pleasantness and beauty. They are very tastefully laid out, and an attempt has been made to combine and appearance of the waywardness of nature with the strictness of art. Almost all the plants, flowers, and trees were unknown to me - several emitted a most delicate fragrance, and lovely flowers of varied hues glanced now and then, from their concealment among the green leaves.
At two different stations of these gardens were built elegant green summer houses, with excellent seats. To these the public had free access, without let or molestation - and they were so placed as to afford several fine views of the surrounding scenery.
Near to them were mounted sentinels who patrolled backwards & forwards to prevent depredations and the wanton spoliation of mischievous vagrants - and hitherto this attention has not failed to produce the desired effect, as I observed, that everything was in the highest order and state of preservation. In to conduct you from one part of the garden to another, over hollows, and precipices, rustic bridges were formed, which, in my opinion heightened the enchantment of the scene.
The Alameda Gardens as described by James Williamson had only recently been created by General Don, Governor of Gibraltar at the time of his short visit. (See LINK)
Lovers Walk in the Alameda Gardens ( 1865 - Gustave de Jonge )
The last ornaments of these walks, if ornaments they may be called, were two statues, the one of the governor of the Rock during the siege, and the other of Neptune, piercing a dolphin with his trident. They are both of colossal size, and of no great merit, as to the talent displayed. The former was made from the mainmast of the Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, and the other from the wood of the “San Juan,” the ship I believe of the Spanish Admiral.
The 'governor of the Rock during the siege' was George Augustus Eliott'. (See LINK) This eyesore was eventually removed and when last I heard of it had been carted off to the cloister of the Convent - the Governor's house in Gibraltar. It was replaced by a bronze bust. As regards the statue of Neptune, the only other reference to it that I can find is in Amasa Hewin's A Boston Portrait-painter visits Italy. (See LINK)
Wooden statue of General Eliott in the Alameda Gardens (1846 - J.M.Carter ) ( see LINK )
Near to these is a column of marble surmounted with a bust of the Duke of Wellington, with an inscription commemorating his victories in Spain, and announcing that these had been put up in token of gratitude for having freed that country from her worst enemies.
Bust of Wellington in the Alameda Gardens ( Late 19th century - Edward Angelo Goodall )
These public walks and gardens, the pleasant resort of the inhabitants, and one of the greatest ornaments of the Hill, were begun and completed by the proceeds of lotteries (see LINK) - and, if lotteries are ever to be excused it is where they are conducive, as in this case, to the public pleasure, and advantage. These grounds, on which they are laid out was formerly a burial ground - and the tomb stones are still to be seen amid the umbrageous trees & plants, reminding in a striking manner that in the midst of pleasure there is death. . .
St. Michael’s Cave - On our way to the top, we paid a visit to a cave, called S.t Michael’s cave, which is deemed a curiosity. The entrance to it is of considerable width - and the interior present one of the numerous vagaries of dame nature, who disdains to observe the methodical rules of the Schools. Nearly in the centre is a sizeable pillar, from the roof to the floor, and beautifully cut into fantastic shapes, in glorious confusion.
The sides of this Chapel, as it were, were also of the same Grotesque & irregular architecture of nature - and the Rock might here have free scope to his imagination in endeavouring to form into significance & shape, the incongruous groupings, which every where met his eye. - and the Architect, be he ever so skilful would have found himself baffled in the attempt to assign to each part the various orders of Architecture.
From the outer excavation, several others branched off, I am told to a great extent, but as we had not expected to meet with such a curiosity, we had come unprovided with torches, and a guide.
St Michael's Cave ( 1830s - Arnout )
Signal Station - Delighted as we were with seeing what we had so little expected, we proceeded the remainder of our way to the Signal Station on one of the summit’s of the Rock, with renewed alacrity - and when arrived there, we had a wide extended prospect of the mountains of Spain, and Barbary, and of the Mediterranean Sea, which lay stretched far below us, like a mirror of molten silver. What a pleasure it was to me, to stand in such a position, and on such a place looking at those objects, of which I had read so much, and imagined more.
Gibraltar Rock and Stone - From the Serjeant of Artillery stationed we purchased several ornaments, made of Gibraltar stone, or “Gibraltar Water,” as it is called, from the quantity of that fluid it is said to contain. This stone is very porous and takes on a high polish. On some occasional pieces are met with, representing trees, houses, &c., but they are difficult to be procured except at an extravagant rate. Ornaments of all sorts, as seals, hearts, cannon, inkstands, etc are made of it - and the sale of these, adds materially to the little pittance of the soldiers.
Objects possibly carved out of 'Gibraltar water' by a local craftsman and given to Prince of Wales in 1859
After some time we descended to the Town, and dined at the Commercial Hotel, kept by Mr Brown from Ayr, where two of his sons are at present. Indeed I met with my countrymen everywhere here, and particularly with Mr Walker, from Dunbar, who has been about 20, or 30 years and yet as broad Scotch, as if he had quitted his “ain, his Native hame.”
At sunset just as the gates were about to be shut, we repaired on board, much gratified with what we had seen today and only regretting that we had found it impossible to get admittance to the excavations, as they are called. These extend a long way thro’ the rock, and port holes have been opened in them, to allow artillery to be placed in them. When we return we shall make a further effort to see these -the greatest curiosity in Gibraltar. (See LINK)
The Isolation Hospital just below a cliff with some of the Gallery embrasures ( Late 19th century )
Mr Michael Power - Passenger - We had only one passenger from Falmouth, a Mr Michael Power, whom we left at Gibraltar. He was a man, who had no peculiarity of appearance or manners to distinguish him particularly. He was a merchant, and had resided in Spain for 23 years - he seemed to be a gentleman of good plain common sense - possessed of much general information and yet strangely bigoted to certain ideas of his own, respecting religion . . .
Apart from these opinions, his conversation was pleasing and interesting – and he used to boast much of an infallible remedy which he had discovered for the cure of the fever, which had raged so long at Gibraltar. And a simple enough remedy it was, being nothing else, than the third of a tumbler of Salad oil, which produced vomiting and removed the disease at once. This happy consequence Mr Power attributed not so much to the unloading of the stomach, as to the oil possessing a peculiar power of expelling “vz et amius,” the whole poison of the fever, which lay in the system.
Leaving Gibraltar - At twelve o'clock, having received the Mail on board, we left Gibraltar, with a fresh breeze, nearly in our favour – Weather cloudy but fair.
Second Visit - March 1829
Arrival - As was to be expected, an air of greater bustle and activity than when we were here last, prevailed - the streets were more crowded, and everything wore a different appearance. . . . We experienced much civility, indeed from the above mentioned gentleman, Mr Quentin Brown. . . He has a large general store House, where our Steward etc were supplied, and he also keeps the “commercial” Inn, which is large, airy, and very commodious.
Algeciras - I like Gibraltar more & more every day - and I am astonished at myself, that I did not fully discover those beauties, which now forcibly attract my attention and admiration. The Western extremity of the Bay is Cabrita Point, and at some distance to the Northward of it, is the Spanish Town of Algesiras, which appears to be pretty large, but not very handsome.
Here in the summer time, fine bulls fights are exhibited, the peculiar feature & disgrace of Spanish and Portuguese manners. At these shows, the ladies are invariably spectators and display the most indelicate and unfeminine signs of pleasure, when the poor animal is successfully tormented by the matador - forming as it were, and anomaly in the female character, when we see that sex whose characteristics ought to be gentleness and mercy, acting on the contrary, as if the greater amount of pain was a proportional addition to their delight.
Williamson then agrees that it is a bit hypocritical to criticise the Spanish for bullfighting 'when our cock-fights - and pugilistic contests are to the full as cruel and disgraceful to the English nation'. His counterargument is that no English woman would be seen dead at these events.
The Bull Ring - Algeciras ( 1891 - Joseph Crawhall )
San Roque - It is of a much less size than either Algesiras or Gibraltar, and might rather be termed a large village than a Town. Its position is its chief advantage, and it naturally attracts the great attention of those entering the Bay for the first time. To the Southward of this Town, the ground is high, and after a short distance, suddenly sinks down into a sandy plain, which is continued as far as the Rock. Part of this level space, is, as I mentioned before, called the “neutral ground.”
When Williamson's ship finally left the Bay for Malta, They were fired upon by the a gun from Gibraltar. The Captain had lowered his flag too soon.
Third Visit - January 1830
In a very short time the Quarantine boat came alongside and admitted us to practique – the Captain went on shore with the Main accompanied by some four passengers . . . (come) with us from England, three military officers . . in conjunction with a Captn of the Rifle Brigade, and the Earl of Rothes Lieut. in the 7 Fusiliers . . During the whole passage cock fighting was the order of the day – being occasionally interspersed with battles between two dogs on board or with sending them to annoy the ducks & hens . . . kept us all alive by their prigs and their pranks.
. . during dinner jokes and laughter were bandied about - the conversation was frequently indecorous and improper - and hardly a single sentence was uttered without being interlarded with oaths both deep and loud – and all this was said in a manner very different from the rough hearty swearing of a Jack Tar – and with a sangfroid and an air, which was designed to mark the polished gentleman and officer.
Williamson, it would seem was either a chauvinist or a snob - or both - and very selective of who merited criticism and did not. But then this was an age when most people from Britain probably thought just like he did.
. . . . it was too late, go on shore, but contented myself with refreshing my memory and recollection of scenes which I had seen but a year before. One thing struck me this time which had not done so before, and that was, that almost all the houses were painted in a different colour, which communicated, to the Town, a grotesque and motley appearance, some were green - some yellow - some white - some blue . . . .
Governor's Cottage near Europa Point (1849 )
. . . today the weather being very fine I went on shore, and visited all the localities which I knew. Among other places I strolled as far as Europa Point and before arriving there, I had a complete view of the great strength of the Rock; forever supposing the enemy to be master of one or more parts, there are still numerous fortifications, which commanded everywhere below them. Everything even to the minutest particular seemed to be in the most perfect order.
I returned on board much delighted with the manner in which I had spent the day, just a few minutes before the signal gun fired and the gates were shut.
I had almost forgot to mention that we brought along with the above a black boy, who was to appear as an important witness in a trial for Piracy at Gibraltar. . . . The general subject of conversation with everyone was the trial, which is to take place today of the man, who had acted as the Captain of those pirates, who had been executed at Cadiz. It appeared from what I heard that the Black boy, whom we had brought with us, had been formerly the servant of this very person, and was thought to be one of the most decisive evidences against him.The pirate in question was Benito Soto. (See LINK) He was found guilty and duly hanged.
The Pirate Benito de Soto (1830 - Unknown )
Fourth Visit - March 1830
The Weather all day was such that none of us could land . . The wind came from the eastward in fitful gusts with tremendous force – and is what is called a Levanter, because it blows from the Levant. Under its influence the whole Bay was covered with white curling waves . . . produced such an agitation in the water that it ascended to an immense height in the form of spray. . . .In such an insecure and open anchorage as the Bay of Gibraltar is, and amidst such an uproar, it could hardly be expected that no accident would occur.
Williamson then goes on to write about a Spanish boat that ran into trouble and required assistance. Although Williamson does not describe the rescued mariners as smugglers this is almost certainly what they were. (See LINK)
We were an hour longer in landing, than we would have taken, had the sea been smooth – and besides that we took in no inconsiderable quantity of water. After going with the Commander to the house of Mr Henry, the American Consul here, (see LINK) I left him at last at his Hotel near the Exchange.
The Hotel was probably the King's Hotel on the corner with Main Street. The American Consol was Bernard Henry. He would soon be cashiered for having spent too much time abroad - in fact he had more or less resided in England for most of his time he was supposed to have been consol in Gibraltar and had never bothered to notify his bosses. Reading between the lines Mr. Henry - appropriately - wasn't in Gibraltar at the time of Williamson's visit. It was Mrs Henry who made the arrangements for his much anticipated visit to the galleries - which he then describes at length.
Inside the Galleries - St. George's Hall (1840s - H. E. Allen ) (See LINK)
But we will leave him among the cannons and the embrasures and recognise that the above forms part of an interesting and informative account from an unexpected source. The diaries have never been published in book form because of their sheer size and one must acknowledge yet again the labour of love taken on by Tony Pawlyn in transcribing them. They are an important addition to our knowledge of not just early 19th century Gibraltar but that of many other places - as well as of life in general aboard a packet ship.