The People of Gibraltar
1909 - A Winters Journey - Wretched Beggars of Europe
"It is the purpose of this unpretentious little diary to offer in very sketchy form or outline the experiences of two Americans travelling from the United States to the Holy Land and vicinity and return. "
Thus wrote Clara Biddle Davis and Seymour Davis in their Apologia of A Winters Journey. They travelled from Philadelphia aboard the “Cedric” – “a large comfortable sea boat of 21 000 tons” and one of their ports of call on their long trip was Gibraltar where they spent a single day. The following quotes are taken from their diary. 


January Nineteenth 1909
Passing Tangiers early this morning brought to mind others days in other years spent there so pleasurably. By ten a.m. we were viewing the first of the ancient wonders, the African promontory of ancient Abyla and the European Gibraltar, “Pillars of Hercules. “ (See LINK) The well-known sign of our dollar is explained as representing the Pillars of Hercules united by a scroll. Thackary (sic) says of the rock ot Gibraltar,
“It is the very image of an enormous lion crouched between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. “ (See LINK
At eleven a. m. we were strolling through the Moorish market, and found that our limited knowledge of Moorish as expressed in the brief salutation: “Gif Koonsy,” was smilingly answered with the “Levas” of yore.  We sauntered along leisurely spectators of the half Spanish half English street scenes all unchanged from the visit of seven years previous.

The two Americans mounted on camels and surrounded by guides in Assuan
Conditions revolutionise rapidly in some portions of the world while in others change is slow indeed and seems to be like the change of decay. Remembering the hotels of Gibraltar from former unfavourable experience we were loath to imperil digestion, till Clara solved the problem by suggesting a picnic luncheon a “la Boheme”, where each selected his preferential titbit and bought it at the delicatessen shop.  
Oh such a lark! After assembling our combined purchases we hurried on to the English Gardens then in fullness of bloom and selecting a charming viewpoint on the stone resting place overlooking the beautiful  blue Mediterranean with its ships riding at anchor we began to produce our gustatory treasurers.
Hotels were on the whole condemned by other visitors of the early 20th century as expensive and of poor quality. In fact even La Boheme delicatessen does not sound at all Gibraltarian. Not surprisingly, it no longer exists. The English Gardens must have been the Alameda (See LINK)
This improvised menu showed sweet butter rolls fresh and warm: a pat of new butter; a bottle of Spanish olives; a dainty packet of cold tongue; slice of fresh Chedder (sic) cheese; bottle of Spanish wine; a tempting assortment of French patisserie, and lots of tangerines, with stems and green leaves still attached. We ate like growing children, and yet there was enough remaining to furnish a meal to a beggar woman and child whom were passing. 

Signal Station at the top of the Rock. The photograph appears in the book - They must have picked up in Gibraltar as It was taken in the 1870s  by John Hollingworth Mann  (See LINK)
The caption in the book  is  “Gibraltars Highest Peak” - However, the highest peak of the Rock is in fact just behind the place where the photograph was taken
Oh, the wretched beggars of Europe! Thank God for our own great and free land, where it is possible for everyone to be self-supporting. Possessed of a comfortable feeling of satisfaction and peace with all the world, we hired one of those queer vehicles known as the Gibraltar cabriolet, and drove to Europa Point, next crossing neutral ground into Spanish territory. 

A typical gharry in the Grand Parade just below the Alameda Gardens - The Gibraltar Cabriolet better known as a gharry was probably imported from India, to Malta and from that island to Gibraltar

The jump from Europa Point which  lies at  the extreme  south of the Rock to the Neutral Ground on the extreme north – which leaves out the entire town in between suggest they were not all that impressed by what they saw on the way.
Here we saw the feature of a maze of barbed wire fencing installed to preclude the smuggling of tobacco by trained dogs from Gibraltar into Spain. (See LINK
On our way back to the "Cedric" we stopped at Benoliel’s shop for a souvenir of this great rock fortress commanding ingress to the Mediterranean.
The Benoliels were one of the many well-off Jewish families on the Rock during the 19th and 20th century (see LINK) and his souvenir shop is often mentioned by other travellers passing through Gibraltar. 


Sign advertising the Gibraltar Museum and Benoliel’s antiques and curiosities on a building on Church Street – the carriage passing by is Gibraltar gharry – or “Cabriolet” as mentioned in the diary

A rather unobservant pair, seemingly more interest in food than anything else. Their lack of compassion might be understandable when taking into account the date when the piece was written. Less so are their self-satisfied opinions on their great free country where it is possible for everyone to be self-supporting. 

Perhaps it is worthwhile reminding ourselves that despite the abolition of slavery in the USA in the 1860s via the Thirteenth Amendment, the Jim Crow Laws which mandated racial segregation continued in force in many American states right up to the middle of the 20th century. 


“Thank God for our own great and free land, where it is possible for everyone to be self-supporting”