The People of Gibraltar
1860 - A. C. Andros - Natives in Utter Subjection

Emmanuel Bensaken

In 1860 a certain A. C. Andros - the A probably stands for Amias but I don't know what  the C stands for -  published a travelogue with the rather odd title of Pen and Pencil Sketches of a Holiday Scamper in Spainwhere the word "Scamper" could be interpreted as either a verb or a noun.
As far as I can make out Andros seems to have been a wealthy journalist and writer who decided to enjoy his "hard-earned vacation in foreign climes" and decided to do so in Spain. About a chapter or so of the book is dedicated to his very short stay in Gibraltar.  However, before I get there, one unusual item in the book deserves a mention - his description of a rather memorable guide that he meet in Granada - a rare mention of a Gibraltarian abroad in the mid-19th Century.
Emmanuel Benzaken - At the porch I am greeted by the great Bensaken, Emmanuel Bensaken, guide and interpreter, a well-known character and invaluable cicerone. Ben is a great creature, a rara avis, a living type of indefatigability, patience, and long-suffering. A clever author represents his personal appearance as varying between that of a nobleman and a gamekeeper, and it would be hard to find a more succinct description of the noble old fellow.  
His hoary locks are surmounted by the imperishable white hat which has become a subject of history, and which I venture to suggest should be placed on his coffin when its faithful owner is borne to his final resting-place. But far off be the day when the tourist shall seek in vain for Bensaken, when his venerable form shall be missing in the streets of Granada, when the walls of the Alhambra shall see his face no more!  
Right glad am I to meet the worthy old buck and enlist his services, for a heavy day's work lies before me, and Ben is the man to arrange it properly. . . .  . . . I follow Bensaken back to the town. The fine old fellow seems but little fatigued, and garrulously entertains me with his private opinion of persons in general, and the English in particular. He gives me prolix accounts of having had the honour of exhibiting the palace to the Emperor of the French, and to the Prince of Wales. 
He also informs me that he considers himself an Englishman to all intents and purposes, being fortunate enough to have been born at Gibraltar; a convenient locality, by-the-by, for persons of his calling, as they can suit their birth to the parties they wish to conciliate.  
"Ah," says Ben, "I always stand up for the English. Whenever an ugly Englishwoman visits Granada, and I am asked what country she comes from, I say from America, or elsewhere; and when officers come up from Gibraltar, and kick up the devil's delight in the town, I swear they are Scotch or Irish, but never allow they are English." 
Cunning old file! Astute old Janus ! I revere thee for thy pseudo patriotism, I honour thee for thy happy suppressio veri, I respect thee for thy Machiavelian diplomacy. . . . 
Bensaken - or better still Benzaquen or Bensaquen - were - and probably still are - relatively common Jewish surnames in Gibraltar. Somerbody with such a name is included in a list of families who came to live permanently on the Rock during the early years of the 18th century and during the following century the records show Moses Bensaquen as a rich property owner and merchant. Another Benzaquen was well known during the late 19th century as a publisher of popular postcards.

Gibraltar's Commercial Square  ( Postcard published by Benzaquen )

As regards the author's description of Emmanuel it is superficially pleasant, yet both oddly patronising in the old meaning of the word and condescending in the new. It is a tone that th author sustains throughout his book - but perhaps readers can decide for themselves..
From Cadiz to Gibraltar - We start at 4 p. m., having as usual plenty of priests on board, among them no less important a personage than the Roman Catholic bishop of Gibraltar, a stern, keen-looking man, in a shovel hat and long gown.  
When the steamer is fairly under way, we descend to the saloon to fortify the inner man : the weather is fine, we have every prospect of a quick passage, and expect to arrive at Gibraltar about midnight—but vain are the hopes of man ! Towards nightfall the wind begins to rise, blowing dead on end. . . . 
. . . “By Jove!” says Miles, “ we are going to have a Levanterl” and too truly are his fears realized, for the tyrant of Gibraltar soon begins to blow with terrific violence, the steamer pitching tremendously, and by dark we are, as Miles says, “regularly in for it.” . . . .
Self-portrait of author - and his luggage  ( From the book )
. . . at 6 a. m. we anchor in the harbour, after a tedious passage of fourteen hours. . . . I am much struck with the appearance of the mighty rock, rising bold and bluff some fifteen hundred feet above the level of the sea, with the town piled on the hill-side, and girdlefrom base to summit by ramparts bristling with cannon . . . . 
On landing, what meets my gaze? No dirty little carabinero in straw-coloured shako and brown greatcoat, but a strapping English sentry of Her Majesty's 100th foot, in the well-known scarlet uniform of the British army, with this difference that he sports a pugheree, or linen turban, round his forage cap, to keep off the sun cap. No trouble now about passports, no custom-house, no quarantine, "no nothing:" we walk proudly in, and feel almost on English ground.

As against British which is what Gibraltar was - as is. But then Andros belonged to a generation in which "England" covered Britain, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. In other words it was quite a common mistake to make - and unfortunately for Scots and others from Wales and Northern Ireland - it still is.
Indeed, we are no longer in Spain, everything is changed, and we might almost fancy ourselves in Chatham, for the houses are smoky and English ; the street nomenclature is English, and they are filled with English soldiers, infantry, and artillery, in white blouses and caps.  A great number of Moors are swelling about, looking very picturesque in their gaudy robes and snowy turbans. 
Proceeding up the Waterport, a long street strongly resembling Ratcliff Highway, or the purlieus of Wapping or Shadwell, we reach the Club-house Hotel in the Commercial Square, a thoroughly English building: too much so indeed; for the smallness of the windows renders the rooms oppressively hot in this warm southern region. 

The Club House Hotel in the Commercial Square  ( 1869 ) ( See LINK )

Without delay I hunt up Lieutenant Tonyman, an old artillery friend, whose servant introduces me to his bedroom, where I find him snoring under the mosquito net. On being aroused he is not a little astonished at seeing me, but makes me heartily welcome and having performed his toilette, takes me to the mess-room, where we partake of an excellent dejeuner a la fourchette, flanked with foaming pots of English ale.  
The remainder of the morning we spend in the billiard rooms and fine racket court where some excellent play is going on. In the afternoon Tonyman shows me over the battlements; the Alameda, a charming promenade; and the Saluting Battery, which I sketch without fear of interruption from any inquisitive carabinero.

From the book

He was probably quite lucky here. The authorities didn't like people sketching the place - they thought it was bad for security. About thirty years later by which time photography was becoming commonplace, restrictions on the subject matter available to the professional and amateur alike was strictly enforced by the British Authorities.  In 1887 - and then again in 1895 - laws prohibiting civilians from sketching or taking photographs without the authority of the Governor came into effect. Anybody caught red-handed would be arrested without warrant and drawings, paintings, photographs - and cameras - confiscated. 

Returning to Bell Lane, I observe a placard on the walls announcing that a bull-fight will take place at Algesiras on the opposite side of the bay, on the 27th inst., and as the Ganges steamer, by which I have taken my passage home, is not expected from Malta till the evening of that day, I again begin to indulge in wild hopes of being able after all to witness the sport and make arrangements with a boatman to take me over on the day appointed. 
There were officers' quarters in Bell Lane at least since the 1830s. Frederick Leeds Edridge (see LINK) is known to have had rooms there.
Borrowing a dress suit of Tonyman, I accompany him to the artillery mess, and for the first time for four weeks dine on good old English fare. No "pucheros", no garlic, no oily dishes, no anis brandy, no sour wine now; but roast beef, solid, well-cooked joints, excellent sherry, and delicious claret cup. 

Though no gourmand nor epicure, I enjoy the change greatly, and warmed by the generous wine, and delighted to be once more among my countrymen, launch forth into narratives of my tour, and jocosely dilate on the extraordinary disappointments which have attended my hunt after a bull-fight. Tonyman, at a late hour, accompanies me to the hotel, a necessary measure, as the gates of the town are closed from sunset to sunrise, and none but officers being allowed to walk the streets after midnight, we are challenged at every turn by the question, 

"Who goes there?"
"Officer !"
"Pass, officer, all's well."

On the following morning I stroll about the town, investing in Moorish curiosities, such as pipe-tubes, slippers, and also a pugheree, which is folded round a felt hat by a wealthy Moorish merchant, who, if not dives equum, is certainly dives pictai vestis et auri : this worthy explains to me that the "real de plata" in circulation here is worth four English pence in Gibraltar, and that twelve make a dollar.

About midday I call for Tonyman, who takes me through the far-famed galleries, marvellous triumphs of labour indeed, consisting of large tunnels cut inside the face of the cliff, pierced at intervals with embrasures for cannon, and running in tiers up to the very summit of the rock: the Cornwallis and St. George's Halls, large chambers hewn out of the solid rock, are really wonderful specimens of engineering skill. 
Leaving the galleries about half way up, we ascend the rock by a zigzag road, and after a fearful amount of clambering, reach the summit: here I observe drifted into a hollow of the eastern face of the steep cliff, a curious bank of sand blown over it is presumed by high winds from the coast of Africa. 

"A fearful amount of clambering" to get to the top of the Rock   (From the Book )

The view from this elevated position is very fine : in front are the town and fortifications, further on, the Straits and distant African mountains; Ceuta and Apes' Hill being plainly distinguishable through the remarkably clear atmosphere: on the right the bay of Gibraltar, dotted with white sails and proud English war-steamer; the Mediterranean stretches away to the left, and behind lies the neutral ground, or flat level plain marking the boundaries of the Spanish and English territories, guarded by two rows of sentry-boxes: in the background are mountains ranging away till lost in the blue distance.

The walls - parts of which still exist - protect the top middle section of the Rock which was known locally as la Silleta. The village of Catalan Bay lies hidden on the bottom left of the picture  ( From the book )

Standing on this commanding elevation, and surveying the beautiful panorama around me, I cannot help reflecting on the immense importance of this mighty stronghold, truly designated the key of the Mediterranean, the entrance to which it so proudly commands: a monument of England's power and glory is lofty old Gib., as rearing its gun-topped crest high above the waters, it daily and nightly roars forth a haughty defiance to the world. 

Descending at the double by the winding roadway, I notice La Torre Mocha, built in 725 a.d., a battered old Moorish tower which has sturdily withstood the brunt of centuries, the battle, and the storm.
La Torre Mocha refers to the Moorish Castle which was at the time thought to have been built in the 8th century but which more resent archaeological evidence suggests a later 14th to 15th century building.
At mess I hear many opinions expressed of the disturbances now commencing in Morocco and the skirmishes taking place at Ceuta, concerning which the general persuasion seems to be that the Spaniards, however successful, will soon regret having plunged so recklessly into such inglorious and barren warfare?
Known as La Guerra de África it began in 1859 and ended in 1860. In a footnote the author writes - "Since this was written the Spaniards after a brief and victorious campaign under the great General O’Donnel now “Duke of Tetuan” have wisely listened to the voice of reason, and made peace with Morocco."
As the wine begins to circulate, and we to feel happy, suddenly bang! goes the signal gun at Europa point! "What the deuce is that? "The Ganges has arrive"

My jaw drops, I collapse into my chair; all hopes of an excursion to Algesiras, all prospect of seeing a bull-fight are at an end. There is no alternative but to return at once with Tonyman 
to his quarters, cast off my borrowed plumes, and adjourn to the hotel, where I find Miles and Older ready to start. We proceed forthwith in a body to the Ragged Staff, (see LINK) where we learn that the Ganges will not sail till the morning, and I determine on remaining ashore, leaving my Cadiz friends intent on securing good berths, to pull off to the steamer. 
Depositing my luggage in the guard-room, I return with Tonyman to his club. The sentinel at the town gate makes difficulties about admitting the Spanish porters who follow us, but permits them to enter at my friend's command, and with "curses not loud but deep "they disperse themselves about the town.  
It is amusing to observe the utter subjection in which the natives are held by the British soldiery, who on every occasion are necessarily compelled to assert their supremacy, and by the greatest vigilance impress upon the inhabitants the importance of their precious trust. In return they are of course cordially hated by the Spaniards, who, if they dared, would incontinently use their navajas on the obnoxious sentry whose hoarse challenge greets them at every corner of the moonlit streets.
Amusing? Par for the course as good Englishman would say - or should that be Scottish - as would be his confusing the "natives" for Spaniards. Sadly this is the one and only time he writes about Gibraltar's local resident despite the fact that he could hardly have missed them - in 1860 there would have been more than 15 000 of them living permanently on the Rock. Those picturesque Moors that he mentions in his opening paragraph would have mostly been traders from Barbary. They were not residents and would have only been there for the day.

The Rock of Gibraltar  ( From the book )

We spend some time at the club, knocking the balls about, and finish the night by exploring the many queer holes and corners in which Gib. abounds: in the course of these rambles we come across some officers "going the rounds " in a sort of Irish car, and joining company, we proceed to ransack the ins and outs of this strange jumble of alleys and steep, ill-paved ramps. 
According to local historian Dorothy Ellicott, the use of the word term "Ramp" for a narrow lane - is unique to Gibraltar.

My recollection of all that occurred on this eventful night is somewhat foggy, but I have indistinct visions of rows with infatuated sentinels and forcible entries into houses where we had no sort of business, and in some of which we were heartily anathematized.

At an early hour, as the morning gun thunders over the rock, I find myself being slowly dragged up the hill by the miserable Rosinante which has been on duty during the live-long night. I had parted with Tonyman some time before, and am now 'in company with a couple of youthful warriors, at whose quarters some distance above the town, I procure a refresco, (I should now say a whet,) in the shape of soda-water dashed with a thought of brandy, and at 6 a. m. find myself returning alone in the car to the Ragged Staff" where my trunk is placed beside me, and we trot down to the Waterport. 
The street is now filled with troops turning out for morning parade, looking very fresh and soldierly in their bright scarlet tunics and white caps: proud indeed do I feel at being their countryman and a fellow-subject of their beloved Queen. On reaching the steamer, thanks to the kindness of an amiable purser, I am allotted a very comfortable berth in a large unoccupied cabin, of which I remain sole occupant during the voyage home.

The Ganges is a fine paddle-steamer, belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company; a steady old sea-boat of about two thousand tons. We have upwards of eighty passengers on board, chiefly officers and their families returning from India . . . . .

Andros offers little to increase our understanding of what life might have been like for local civilians living in a very British fortress - other than that the garrison had a very low opinion of them.  In general it is an unusually inane account by a thoroughly self-absorbed gentleman who - like many in his day - must have thanked God daily that he had been born an Englishman.