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Gibraltar

Saturday 17th - at 6 oClock this morning we came to anchor in the Bay of Gibraltar, having performed the passage from Cadiz in a very short time. As we passed thro’ the Straits or gut as it is called, in the night time, I had not the pleasure I had expected of seeing those parts of Europe and Africa, which for it. However, I hope we shall not miss the opportunity, when we return. I got up at 7 oClock, 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. Immediately adjoining to this neutral ground is the rock of Gibraltar, justly considered to be one of the most impregnable places in the world. To my eye it seemed very much like a lion couchant, and therefore some what like Arthur’s seat, only that the back of Gibraltar is longer than it. At the summit it is perfectly barren, intersected by numerous roads, and having a few houses for observation. There are three or four places, which are more elevated than the rest, from which an extensive view of the surrounding country and the Mediterranean Sea is obtained. The West side, or that fronting the Bay, is rather precipitous – but easily ascended by the various roads.

At the foot of it, quite at the waters edge, the Town is built – and a little distance presents no peculiar appearance. The East side of the rock is almost perpendicular, and requires not the resources and appliances of art to assist it in its defence, since nature herself has interposed such obstacles in the way of an army, as to render this side perfectly impregnable. Not so has she done to the first mentioned or West side – and accordingly man has had recourse to all those means which experience and skill have pointed out as necessary to constitute an inexpugnable place.

At ½ past 8 oClock I went on shore with M.r 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 mans 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 at Gibraltar

But you will say, why go ashore at all, since you promised not to do so. To explain the why, and the wherefore I ought to have told you (and I shall always consider it as a curious circumstance), that we have arrived at Gibraltar on the very first day on which the gates were opened and clean bills of health ordered to be issued out. 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 Jan.ry) 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 medical officers here decide it in the affirmative, and substantiate their opinion by bringing forward the circumstances that those who were completely debarred from the patients were quite free from the fever, whilst the attendants and visitors of the sick, were almost all seized with the fever in their turn. A D.r Pym who came out here about two months ago, has the merit assigned to him of having first ameliorated, and then stopped the ravages of the dreadful disorder – and some men say, that had he been present at the first attack, he would have put a stop to it immediately.

Houses at Gibraltar

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 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. 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.

I saw few large or public buildings, - & those few were very good such as the Governor’s (Sir George Dons) residence – the neat Catholic Church – and the exchange. I can say little alas of the Shops, very many of which were still unopened. Along with M.r 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 of Gibraltar, & Soldiers

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 [Gentile] – 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.

Another peculiarity here is, that every where 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. 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 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 – Barbary Jews in Gibraltar

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.

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.

Public Walks at Gibraltar

Sunday 18th January - I went on Shore, along with M.r Geach, and E. Oke, for the purpose of seeing the place, and ascending the rock. 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 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. 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.

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 - 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 at Gibraltar

Leaving this Eden, we proceeded to ascend the rock, which we did at the expense of much time, and labour. 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 other s branched off, I am told to a great extent, but as we had not expected to me[et] with such a curiosity, we had come unprovided with torches, and a guide.

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 & 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, &.c are made of it - and the sale of these adds materially to the little pittance of the soldiers.

After some time we descended to the Town, and dined at the Commercial Hotel, kept by M.r Brown from Ayr, where two of his sons are at present. Indeed I met with my countrymen every where here, and particularly with M.r 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.

M.r Michael Power - Passenger

Monday 19th January. We had only one passenger from Falmouth, a M.r 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, &c., which I suspect from his lavish praises of him, he has imbibed from Cabbott. “al hoc omne genus.” 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 M.r 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.

Leave Gibraltar

At twelve oClock, having received the Mail on board, we left Gibraltar, with a fresh breeze, nearly in our favour – Weather cloudy but fair.

Tuesday 20th January – wind foul – we beat about all day from Spanish to African coast, and vice versa. Course N.62º E. Distance 26 Latitude 36º 12’N. Longitude 4º 51’W. 

The island of Abboran distant 89 miles. Day disagreeable and wet

Wednesday 21st Jan.ry - rained almost all day - fine breeze & favourable Course S.71º E. Distance 19 Latitude 36º 10’N. Longitude 4º 42’W. 

Thursday 22nd - beautiful day favourable and fine breezes Course N.86.30º E. Distance 193 Latitude 36º 20’N. Longitude 0º 42’W. 

Friday 23rd Jan.ry - morning cloudy - day rainy - evening fair Course N.69º E. Distance 153, Latitude 37º 18’N. Longitude 2º 26’ E. 

Saturday 24th - day very disagreeable, rainy and cold Course N.71º E. Distance 143 Latitude 38º 2’N. Longitude 5º 19’E. Evening fair, light winds.

Sunday 25th - morning fair, but nearly a calm - the breeze soon freshened, and was in our favour. Course N.70º E. Distance 79, Latitude 38º 31’N. Longitude 6º 51’E. 

Monday 26th - most beautiful morning & day - nearly a calm. Off Toro a small rock, close to the Southern extremity of Sardinia, which is pretty distinctly seen, the country is mountainous rocky, but no towns were visible. Saw a [ruSTAE ?] about in the sea, for the first time. The breeze up at twelve oClock, and brought with it in a short time clouds and rain. Course S.26º W. Distance 24, Latitude 38º 41’N. Longitude 8º 10’E. 

Tuesday 27th - sky cloudy all day - weather alternately fair and rainy. At 2 oClock we were nearly off the island of Marclimo situated at the extremity of Sicily - fine breeze Course S.74º E. Distance 149, Latitude 38º 1’N. Longitude 11º 9’E. 

Gozo – Camino – Malta – St. Paul’s Bay

Wednesday 28th Jan.ry - weather very variable from rainy to fair, from cloudy to sunshine – fine and favourable breezes. At 12 oClock we were nearly abreast of Gozo, one of the Maltese islands and next in size to Malta itself. It was rather difficult from the haziness of the atmosphere to see the features of the island – but we observed this much, that it was very irregular and unequal – very barren – having numerous houses scattered up and down – and there seemed to be a tolerably large Town, together with a good castle. At 1 oClock we descried Camino and Malta at a very short distance from each other – and indeed all the three from a distant view might almost be supposed to form one great whole. Camino is of very small size and very unimportant as to its value. In a few minutes after passing it, we were sailing along the barren coast of Malta – which however possesses great interest to those who know anything of its History from the many associations both sacred and profane. Amongst others mia cara Madre I saw the Bay, which is said to be the place, where the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked, in his voyage to Rome as is fully narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. To this day it is called S.t Paul’s Bay – and might well be imagined to have been the scene of a ship-wreck. From this circumstance, then, of having seen this place, I think, that I shall ever after peruse the interesting narrative, of this event in Sacred History with additional pleasure and delight.