In this week’s episode of 80 Days, we are talking about Gibraltar, the “key to the Mediterranean”. Famous for the imposing Rock of Gibraltar, this 6.7 square kilometre British Overseas Territory is an historic anomaly at the tip of the Iberian peninsula with a unique status and culture. It forms the northern side of the Pillars of Heracles which mark the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean. The tiny territory is also famous for its Barbary macaques, the only wild monkey population in Europe. Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Ireland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)
There are some things we talked about you might want to know more about:
- Archaeological finds at Gorham’s Cave and other sites have given evidence that Neanderthals lived her until about 32,000 years ago – much more recently than had previously been expected. It is thought that this area was a lush Savannah climate at the time and very rich in food and resources. The BBC have a report from when the caves were granted UNESCO World Heritage status earlier this year.
- The name Gibraltar comes from the Arabic Jabal Tariq (جبل طارق) named for Tariq ibn Ziyad who led the Moorish/Umayyad conquest of what is now Spain in the 710s; he had gathered his invading troops at the Rock of Gibraltar before pressing inland.
- In 1706, when the English took the Rock during the War of Spanish Succession, nearly all of the inhabitants decamped to the City of Gibraltar in the Fields of San Roque, expecting a temporary stay. The Spanish city of San Roque is still there to this day and still features symbols of Gibraltar in its crest
- Gibraltar’s status as an British territory was regularised, by Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713)
The Catholic King does hereby, for himself, his heirs and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging; and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.
- Do yourself a favour and read more about Major General Charles O’Hara, the Portuguese-born son of a Irish military man who had the unique honour of surrendering to the two most successful generals of his generation, Napoleon and Washington. In later years he was one of a series of British military figures who acted as Governors of Gibraltar
- O’Hara’s Folly, a tower built by Governor O’Hara was eventually destroyed by the crew of the HMS Wasp (pictured below), as part of a wager between the ship’s gunner’s and the garrison’s gunnery to demolish the derelict tower
- New Statesman has an article describing the history behind the legends that tie the presence of the famous Barbary macaques to British control of the Rock
- We spoke about the unusual airport that spans Gibraltar’s entire border with Spain and crosses the main street; there is a video on YouTube which shows the airport from above and a plane taking off from its short runway
- If you are interested in hearing Llanito, the English-Spanish creole spoken by some in Gibraltar, you can hear it spoken and discussed in this video of two men at a café.
- A BBC report on the outcome of the 2002 Sovereignty Referendum gives some insight into the origins of the dispute and the implications of the results. 98% of Gibraltarians opposed the idea of “shared sovereignty” between Britain and Spain
- If you liked hearing about the music of Gibraltar, check out Breed 77‘s song El Rio. Some songs that reference the Rock of Gibraltar are by Frankie Laine and Ella Fitzgerald.
- The Evacuation of civilians during World War II led to many going to the UK, as this British Movietone newsreel footage shows.
- During this period, there were also plans drawn up to use the extensive cave network to hide soldiers in, in the case of a German occupation of Gibraltar to observe and sabotage the Axis powers’ operations; this documentary discusses “Operation Tracer“