A History of the Chipulina Family
Evelyn Letts - Remember, Remember

1898 After a honeymoon in Spain, George (2.3) was posted to Alexandria, in Egypt, which was then considered a suitable place for a married man. Prior to leaving, Maria Luisa (2.4) took lessons in French which her father paid for. While the Letts were in Alexandria, George's (2.3) sister Midge corresponded with them. She was on excellent terms with her sister-in-law Maria Luisa (2.4) , whom she addressed by the nick-name of Tottie, presumably because she was not very tall.

Indeed, Maria Luisa (2.4) seems to have had no shortage of nicknames. A small English/Spanish dictionary that once belonged to her confirms that she was also known as Lulu in her youth. The dictionary, incidentally, was a present from an unknown friend who signed herself 'Chuney'.

A check on the dates and postmarks on the postcards which make up the correspondence between Midge and Maria Luisa (2.4) shows that the mail from Gibraltar to Alexandria in those days took only 10 days. The speed of this delivery was due to the regularity of the Orient Line services to the near and Far East.


The SS Omrah arriving at Gibraltar

By the end of the year the Treaty of Paris ended the war between Spain and the U.S.A. But there was little respite. That year the Boer War began.


Lord Kitchner. The man of the ‘Your Country Need You’ poster fame arrived in Gibraltar that year on his way to Boer War in South Africa.

Also around this period Joe Letts married Mercedes Gomez. This was a curious coincidence as Joe was George's (2.3) brother and Mercedes was Maria Luisa's (2.4) sister. Joe worked for the Gibraltar Dockyard and ended up as boss of the foundry. Perhaps the fact that he was a lifelong Freemason may have had something to do with his promotion. His wife, despite many attempts, was never able to get a word out of him, not even when he was drunk, about what went on during the Masonic ceremonies.


Maria Luisa Gomez (2.4) with her fiancĂ© and sisters. According to my family, the couple on the right are George Letts (2.3) and Maria Luisa Gomez (2.4). The girl to the right of George (2.3) is Maria Luisa’s (2.4) sister Carmen and the other one is unknown.
My own view is that neither George nor Maria Luisa looks anything like what they do in other photographs taken during the same period. My guess would be that the man is actually George’s bother, Joe Letts and that the girl below him is his fiancĂ©e Mercedes Gomez. I also think that the girl sitting on the left might be George’s sister Midge. The dog, however, probably did belong to George. A similar one appears in another photograph taken a year earlier in Tangiers.

Maria Luisa's (2.4) other sister Carmen married a man called Vacca also around this time. Vacca was a watch maker whose business in Gibraltar came to grief. The family emigrated to the U.S.A. and were caught up in one of the many gold rushes of the period. For a while they lived rather precariously with a gun always at hand. The family finally settled in Paris, Texas. They had a son, Willie Vacca, who kept in touch with the family until he died in the 1950s.

Willie Vacca in Nautical Pose.

When he was little he was known as Willillo, a Yanito curiosity as the first ll is pronounced as in English whereas the second is pronounced the Spanish way.
It was definitely a time for marriages with family connections as another contemporary Mary Relle married a gentleman called Wills during this period. Wills was an Englishman who also worked for the Eastern Telegraph Company. Their home was Schomberg Cottage and they eventually ended up with two sons, Maurice and Edwin. I have no idea why the house was called Schomberg. By a coincidence the address of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in Belfast is Schomberg House but I can hardly imagine this had anything to do with it.

1899 Some distance from Gibraltar the newly married Letts family settled down to life in Alexandria where they made numerous friends. Among these was the family of a retired merchant sea-captain called Archer who lived there permanently, and a catholic priest called Father Holland who had an enormous beard and an imposing appearance.


Father Hollands. This rather impressive clergyman was a local Catholic priest in Alexandria and a friend of the Letts family.

Another photo taken at the time but which I do not have shows them in the garden of a villa owned by friends, possibly the retired sea-captain. It includes Maria Luisa's (2.4) sister, Carmen Vacca, and her son Willie who were visiting. It would appear that economically at least, all sides of the family were doing quite well at the time.



Contemporary photos of Alexandria

While in Egypt, Maria Luisa (2.4) used to go shopping to the market place carrying a tin can with some vinegar. She used this to put the change she got back from the vendors for disinfection. This was probably the custom among Europeans rather than a fad of hers. On the 5th of November my mother Evelyn Letts (1.2) was born in Alexandria.


My mother Evelyn Letts (1.2). Taken when she was only a few months old by Atelier Reiser, Alexandria, Egypt.

1899 As her parents, George (2.3) and Maria Luisa (2.4) had married in the Gibraltar Registry Office, the local priest, their friend Father Hollands, was obliged to explain to them that he couldn't baptise Evelyn unless they were married by the Catholic Church. For once Maria Luisa (2.4) backed off and they got married again, this time by the Church in Alexandria, early in the morning, with just a few friends as witnesses. While in Alexandria Evelyn (1.2) had a young and rather pretty Greek nanny called Calliope. The first words Evelyn (1.2) ever spoke were Greek.


Calliope, My mother’s Greek nanny in Alexandria. Nice girl, great uniform, lovely broach. The photo was taken in 1902 by Fettel and Bernard on the same day as several taken of Evelyn.

Because of some internal differences of opinion a breakaway group from the Calpe formed the Mediterranean Rowing Club. It is very possible that Angel Chipulina was one of the founder members. Both his sons became members and my father, Pepe would eventually become a leading light.

More or less at the same time Mercedes Letts gave birth to a daughter which she named after herself. The baby would grow up into a young woman bearing a strong resemblance to her grandmother Rosa Bottaro (3.6) and was known to friends and family as either Babs or Mercedita. She had an elder sister called Madge. In October British currency was made the sole legal tender in Gibraltar. But the Peseta continued to be used widely.






More contemporary views of Alexandria.



A military battery at Europa Point overlooking the cliffs on the east side of the rock. An atmospheric photograph. Sandy Bay lies about half a mile up from the last cave.