A History of the Chipulina Family
Una Grande y Libre - Trip To Lourdes

1954 On the 17th of April I obtained my first identity card. It was a small red booklet with a passport style photograph and was officially called an identity carnet. All adult civilians were supposed to carry one around with them at all times. Nobody did. That spring I went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes organised by my school and made possible by Eric's lottery win. I hasten to add that religion had nothing to do with my keenness to go on this trip. It was simply that all my best friends were going. I am glad I went. Despite the religious overtones the trip was a resounding success.

Trip to Lourdes.  That’s me fifth from the right on the last row. My best friends at the time were: Charlie Cruz, first from right on the last row, Maurice Rammage fourth from right on the second last row, and Tito Torres third from left on the third last row. The Christian Brother on the left is Brother Beattie.

First there was the excitement of the train to Madrid. Then there was the pension and the thrill of mid-night parties, surreptitious smokes and uncontrollable giggles late into the night. In the morning, the bus to Vitoria, the agonies of a perpetually full bladder, the sing-songs and and the 'high stakes' card games. On arrival and to our joy, we found the place overflowing with children from other schools from all over the world. Eternal friendships were made with people who could not understand a word we were saying.

There were of course, the inevitable visits to the Grotto, the miraculous holy waters and the endless 'Hail Marys'. These were chanted in French and 'Having Marie play the grass' was somehow infinitely preferable to the usual version. There was the side trip to the nearby ski resort of Pau where one of my friends, Maurice Rammage, boasting impeccable French, enquired of a passer-by,
'Comme se llams este pont?'
Perhaps they took him for a Catalan. On the last night, there was a grand finale. It was a torch light procession which everyone was required to attend. I viewed it from the top of a nearby mountain with one of my more rebellious friends called Charlie Cruz and several other boys and girls of sundry nationalities. Later there was hell to pay.

Unrelated to these escapades, on the 19th of April Spain withdrew her consul from Gibraltar. This gentleman was known to me as Mr. Cottrell. His son Mickey was a school friend, and was famous for having the most marvellous collection of lead toy soldiers. So many in fact, that in one of the rooms in his house he was able to use them to set out an exact replica in lead of the entire Coronation parade. Many years later after watching the experts on 'The Antique Road Show' program on the BBC valuing toys such as these, I came to the conclusion that those little lead soldiers that we played with so carelessly were destined to become almost priceless.

He was not the only one of my friends who collected relatively inexpensive items which would one day increase enormously in value. One of the boys in my class had amassed over the years a tremendous collection of comics. The ‘Wizard’, the 'Hotspur', the 'Eagle', you name it he had them all.

Three contemporary comics

Many of these comics often carried stories which were published in serial form and I would often ask him to lend me complete sets so that I could read the stories in one go. His mother loved to see me as she thought I was removing some of this huge bulk of paper which was threatening to engulf her house. In fact I was doing nothing of the sort as I always returned whatever I had borrowed and even increased his collection by donating the odd comic that I had bought myself.

Even as Spain withdrew her consul, all Spaniards, other than those with work permits were prohibited from visiting the Rock. No new permits were to be issued and no one with a British passport was to be allowed to pass through La Linea more than once a day in each direction. La Linea, not being a frontier post, was not to be considered an exit point out of Spain. That was the theory. The practice, as usual was somewhat different and there was still a plethora of ways by which Gibraltarians could get into and out of Spain without using their passports. There was a Pase de Pernoctar which allowed one to stay overnight and for which no other document was required. There was also a Pase de Cuatro Visitas which, as the name implied, allowed the holder four visits, as long as they didn't stay overnight. It was a convenient document for Gibraltarians who normally lived abroad and were visiting the Rock on holiday.

For most locals, however, nothing less than the Pase de Cuarenta Visitas would do. To acquire it one had to travel to Algeciras and produce a receipt which proved that £8 had been changed officially in Spain. The document was made of rather poor quality paper, each page perforated into a number of sections. Each section was duly stamped and torn off as the visits progressed. The whole was precariously stapled together inside a pink cover bearing the Spanish coat of arms. The motto proudly proclaimed: '¡España! ¡Una, Grande, y Libre!' To which the instinctive reply of all Gibraltarians and indeed many Spaniards was,'¡España! Ni Una, Ni Grande, Ni Libre!'

The £8 receipt required for the 40 visit pass had also allowed local wits to come up with another crack at the motto.'¡España! ¡Una! Si fueran dos, tendríamos que cambiar dieciséis libras.'
On the inside of the cover was the inevitable photograph of the holder. It was not uncommon for these to be removed and replaced by those of other people who for one reason or another had forgotten to renew their passes. I was, I confess, a frequent offender. On one occasion the exchange of photos had been botched up so badly than even the normally bored and indifferent official stamping the documents at the small frontier kiosk was forced to comment: '¡Oiga hombre! Esta foto no corresponde.'

My heart sank as I visualised a long future inside a Spanish goal. For unknown reasons, however, the official simply stamped the document and turned towards his next customer. Perhaps it was simply too hot and sticky to contemplate taking any further action. Whatever the reason I soon forgot my panic as I moved hurriedly away to join my friends. They were waiting for me on the bus that regularly crossed the mile long strip of territory that separated Gibraltar from La Linea. It was an uninhabited wasteland which we called 'No-man's Land' and was only remarkable because of several rather old fashioned looking pill boxes that the Spaniards had built on it during the war.

‘No Man’s Land’
Some ten minutes later we were engulfed in the generalised chaos of the Spanish aduana. Yet another bored looking carabinero subjected us to a cursory hand search before allowing us through. Our intention was to have a few cañas or glasses of manzanilla in one of the local bars. Later on that evening we intended to take part in an activity which was very much a tradition at that time in most Spanish towns. It probably still is. It was called el paseo. During the evening hours when the temperature had dropped sufficiently, people took to strolling up and down the main areas of the town. In La Linea this took place along a street called Calle Clavel that lead off the main square. Gibraltarians, who happened to be in town for the evening, often took part and joined the huge crowds walking up and down the street in an anticlockwise fashion.

Calle Clavel. Main Street, La Linea.
It doesn't look like much here but it was truely atmospheric during 'el paseo,'

For young teenagers like me it was great fun. We would stare at any pretty girl who happened to be passing by on the opposite side of the road and try to get some response in the form of a smile when you met the next time round. As both we and the girls always formed part of a group, there was a lot of laughing and giggling on both sides. These ritualistic encounters rarely came to anything, but they seemed to satisfy some romantic urge or other in everybody who took part. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that you could always go home and kid yourself that the prettiest girl in the group had seemed madly in love with you, whereas in fact she had probably been smiling at one your friends.

In Gibraltar this pastime took the form of walking up and down Main Street. In fact the standard question used by youngsters who had run out of ideas on what to do next was :
'¿Vamo' a da' un paseo por Calle Rea' ?'
But it simply wasn't the same. For a start in Gibraltar just about everybody knew everybody else. We all knew exactly who was going out with whom, which girls were in love with which boys, and which boys had fallen out recently with which girls. Quite frankly there was absolutely no chance of fooling yourself that you were being admired from afar. You knew exactly who everybody was smiling at. In fact the only people who found the paseo any fun at all were those who were intent on trying to start some sort of a relationship with a particular girl. As Main Street is a relatively long street it took quite a while before you met a girl a second time once you had passed her on the opposite side of the road. Prospective lovers got around this problem by the simple expedient of walking a rather less than discreet distance behind the object of their desires thus keeping her in sight all evening.

Calle Real. Main Street, Gibraltar
The Austin in the foreground could easily have been Eric’s. Note that cars were allowed on Main Street. Calle Clavel in La Linea was pedestrianised.

There were few close relatives on the Gomez side of the family. Two that were known to be vaguely related were Charlie and Polly Gomez. Charlie rose to the Bureaucratic heights of Financial Secretary in the old political establishment. Polly, also a civil servant, eventually became supervisor of the typing pool in the Colonial Secretariat. When he retired he was awarded the MBE, which according to the local wits, had nothing to do with the British Empire and was entirely attributable to 'My Brother's Efforts'.

An important aspiration of lower middle class parents at that time was that their children should leave school with at least five passes in the General School Certificate of Education. This was the minimum requirement for anybody who wished to apply for a job as a very junior clerk in the government offices of the Colonial Secretariat. The salary was terrible but job security was assured. To my mother's delight, I more than managed my quota of passes, but for some unknown reason I never applied for the job.

Group photo of several Gibraltar Grammer School pupils - but I cannot remember what the occasion was all about. 
The teacher at the back is Brother Beattie. Second last row starting from left is Johnny Ellul and then me. Same row third from right is Paul Gomez. First row starting from left is Charlie Chan, Edwin Yates and Tito Torres. The fellow bottom center with the big grin is Tommy Finlayson.