A History of the Chipulina Family
'El Cartero' Chipolina  - First Rolls Royce

1880 On the death of Dr. Scandella, the wealthy of Gibraltar petitioned Rome against the appointment of a certain Dr. Canilla. He was unpopular with the rich because he was associated with Scandella who had criticised the wealthy for their lack of generosity towards the poor.

1881 In July, despite the protest, the Pope appointed Canilla and he was consecrated Bishop in London by Cardinal Manning. In August the new bishop returned to Gibraltar. By this time a 'Committee of Elders' had been constituted who attributed to themselves the right to intervene in all matters concerning the Vicariate of Gibraltar. Curiously, these 'Committees of Elders' seemed to crop up periodically out of nowhere. They were usually self-appointed, self-seeking, and generally reactionary groups of individuals. In this instance they formed an unholy alliance with a mob made up of anarchists from La Linea, and ruffians recruited from both sides of the border. With the backing of this little lot they succeeded in keeping the new Bishop out of his church.

Main entrance to the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned. This is a contemporary photograph shows the area in Main Street where the Committee of Elders bully boys must have gathered to stop Bishop Canilla from entering the church.

Rome sent an English Jesuit, Alfred Weld to intervene. In December, Canilla tried again to enter the church. Once more the mob prevented him. Canilla complained to the Governor, Lord Napier, that the police had done nothing to stop the mob when they had entered the church, broken furniture and insulted the clergy. Napier, who was friendly with the 'Elders' did nothing. Emboldened, one of the leading lights of the committee one day decided to enter the church himself and proceeded to drag Father Weld out of the church.

1882 By January Canilla was writing directly to the Earl of Kimberley who in turn wrote to Napier. He criticised his inaction and ordered him to make sure Canilla was allowed to take over his duties. Napier ignored his boss and continued to do nothing. The 'Elders' then decided to take over the church themselves and appointed Constantine Stephanopolis, a Greek priest who taught at the boys' college, as 'chief priest'.

In March, Napier at last ordered the police, with the help of a company of soldiers, to protect Canilla as he made yet another, this time successful attempt to enter the church. This led to sneering comments in various local newspapers where it was suggested that 'only Protestants went into the Church with Canilla', and that 'To dislodge defenceless Catholics is a much easier task than dislodging the Boers'. 'England' cried yet another,' has given the world an example of medieval despotism'. It may have been the end of an absurd affair, but the British Government's enforcement of the Papal right to choose whoever he wished as Bishop, was a unique event in the history of nineteenth-century Europe

A contemporary lithograph showing part of the eastern face of the Rock

1882/3 Meanwhile, perhaps unaware of the significance of all these shenanigans, my grandmother Maria Luisa Gomez ( 2.4) was being educated at the Loreto Convent which at the time included among its pupils daughters of upper crust Andalucian families. Perhaps the company she kept as a young girl influenced her own rather inflated opinion of her social status, an opinion which she continued to hold in later life. From an early age she showed signs of being intelligent, or at least more so than her sisters. But she was also considered bossy and belligerent and she must have constantly harried and harassed the rest of her family including her father.

Meanwhile the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce was founded and its first' Annual Report' suggested that the year had been 'a period of great dullness and depression of trade.' The general slackness had been aggravated by quarantine restrictions brought about by an outbreak of cholera in France.

But there was money enough for the army. That year St. Jago's barracks was built near Southport Gate. An old blank archway entrance which was laid into the façade is thought to have been that of Santiago, the old parish church of Villa Vieja. The church had been destroyed during the siege of 1727. General Sir John Miller Adye became Governor and the first lunatic asylum was opened.

The Umbeyela Campaign by General Sir John Miller Adye. Sir John was apparently not just an excellent soldier but a very good artist. This picture must have been painted from his own experiences in the North West Frontier Campaigns. He also painted several pictures of the Rock while he was Governor.

1884 In August, Antonio Facio, a neighbour and close friend, made a long winded affidavit which formalised the Gibraltarian status of Diego José Gomez (3.7). The document confirms his date of birth and the fact that he was born in Gibraltar.

Affidavit formalising the Gibraltarian status of my great grandfather, Diego José Gomez (3.7).

Meanwhile my grandfather Angel Chipulina (2.1) was appointed Supernumerary Clerk in the Post Office, Telegraph and Savings Bank by the Governor of Gibraltar. He was only 18 years old. His salary was 1520 Pesetas per annum and he must have needed all his clerical skills to calculate his monthly pay packet as the annual figure is not divisible by twelve.

1885 The following year some 100 uniformed War Department mule drivers, known locally as Los Carreteros del Rey, sailed for Suez to take part in the Suakin Expedition. This was a project to build a railway in the Sudan. In those days this would have required military protection and thus the need for military transport. That this was drawn from Gibraltar was probably due to its convenient geographical position.

The historic port town and island of Suakin in the Sudan

On the Rock itself and despite the efforts of the Sanitary Commission there was an outbreak of cholera in Gibraltar which killed 22 people. The town still lacked proper drainage and sewerage. In December there was a violent storm which caused widespread damage.

1886 Following in his brother's footsteps, José-Angel Chipulina was also appointed Supernumerary Clerk. In his case, however, the appointment was made by no less a personage than the Secretary of State. His salary on the other hand was less impressive. It was 1513.20 pesetas per annum or some 6.80 pesetas less than his brother's. It was the year in which General the Hon. Sir Arthur Edward Hardinge took over as Governor.

The Christian Brothers' pay school moved to Line Wall College. Their principal school at Sacred Heart College was opened that same year. Meanwhile Diego José (3.7) and family continued to prosper. Diego José (3.7) habitually rented a place in Catalan Bay during the summer months. Catalan Bay or la Caleta, was and still is, a very small fishing village on the east side of Gibraltar. The rear of the town seems to back itself gently into the sheer face of one of the highest sections of the Rock. In front lies a small beach and the Mediterranean.

It was here that Maria Luisa, (2.4) then in her teens, pursued her enthusiasm for sea-bathing. It was a rare and rather daring activity in those days. Uneducated Gibraltarians, of which there were probably a considerable number, tended to ridicule anything which they considered to be even remotely eccentric. Maria Luisa (2.4) must have had to put up with more than a few whispered criticisms and unpleasant sniggers.
In fact, although the ancient Greeks seem to have enjoyed it, swimming was then a relatively new activity not just in Gibraltar but throughout Europe. For many years it was believed that outdoor bathing helped spread the epidemics that so often swept the continent. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that the prejudice was overcome sufficiently to allow people to return to the joys of swimming. Considering Gibraltar's notorious history of epidemics, it must have taken a while longer before the activity gained any popularity on the Rock.

La Caleta. A turn of the century photograph of the village.

1887/88 There was further economic bad news. Britain began to export directly to Spain and Morocco, rather than through Gibraltar. But there was always something to take people's minds off their troubles. The following year a curious event took place. O'Hara's 'folly' was due for demolition. A Royal Artillery officer discussed the matter with the commander of the gunboat, H.M.S. Wasp and an argument ensued as to whether or not the job could be done using the boat's five inch guns.

Next morning, the Wasp moved towards Algeciras and to the amazement of the locals and the Gibraltarians fired towards the Rock. The first shot landed 100ft below, the next 50, and the next three overshot into the Mediterranean. The sixth shot finally smashed the tower from top to bottom.

O’Hara’s folly seen from the North

That year my grandmother Memo's (2.2) brother Bartolomew Sacarello started a coffee business which was eventually to make him and his family very wealthy. Coffee was an important smuggling commodity.

My grandmother’s brother's coffee.

Although coffee smuggling eventually ceased to be profitable, the Sacarello business survived comfortably with purely local trade. Coffee was extremely popular at the time and both Gibraltar and the Campo area generally were jam-packed with Cafés. It was reputed that the family were the first in Gibraltar to own a car. It was a Rolls Royce.

A contemporary Rolls Royce car. The Sacarello family’s Rolls may have been like this one.

1889 An American, Dr. Henry M. Field published an essay on Gibraltar in which he described it as crammed full of troops and fortifications making it the largest garrison town in the British Dominions, and therefore probably in the world. There were innumerable guns and mile upon mile of casemates and bastions running from the sea to the Upper Rock.

Apparently the gun salute on the Queens birthday was an extraordinary affair. The Rock Gun, mounted on one of the highest points of the Rock, started the cannonade which was then taken up by the guns on the galleries below, the whole resulting in a tremendous racket that seemed to sweep across the Bay, over the Straits to Africa and even across the Mediterranean.

Everything went by military rule. The hours of the day were signalled by the firing of guns. The morning gun told the soldiers when to get up and the evening gun was the signal for turning in. The gates of the town were opened and shut at these times, and the civilian population adopted corresponding routines. Nine-tenths of the land belonged to the War Department and nine-tenths of the harbour area was reserved for the Royal Navy. The Gibraltarians put up with it because business was good. Also because there was very little they could do about it anyway.

A modern perspective of the Rock looking towards the highest point of the North Face There are no guns there today as far as I know, but the place is still known as ‘Rock Gun’. On the left is the town with the airport runway in the middle distance. Beyond that the town of La Linea spreads outwards from the isthmus. Beneath the sheer cliffs on the right lies Sandy bay.

Although freedom of speech and the press were taken for granted, there was no other forum for the expression of political grievances or aspirations. Large sections of the British Empire had long since become self-governing, but the Colonial office would not countenance any organised political activity in Fortress Gibraltar.

Yet the rule of Law, a carbon copy of U.K. Law, prevailed. This, together with almost a century of uninterrupted good relations with Spain, and the sense of security generated by the power of the Empire, provided an attractive scenario for a mainly trade-oriented population.

Out of the chaos of the Great Siege, the incessant plagues and the effects of other people's wars, a model bourgeois society had evolved with Victorian social values that would endure for decades to come. That they were generally looked down upon as Colonial inferiors by the higher echelons of the Establishment scarcely affected ordinary Gibraltarians in their daily life. The officials they had to deal with were mainly their own people.
As for the local upper crust, their money, often coupled with an English Public School education, and sometimes even military rank, gave them the entree to the high society that orbited around the Convent. The prize for playing the game by Colonial rules was often a prestigious decoration or even a knighthood.

The year also saw the introduction of new legislation whereby only native-born inhabitants were entitled to residence, which in effect defined a Gibraltarian for the first time. That it may have been in the offing for some years before it was actually introduced would explain why Diego José Gomez, in the absence of a proper birth certificate, found it advisable to have his friend Facio make his affidavit establishing his Gibraltar-born status.

In July Joseph Chipolina (3.1), who by then had already changed his name to Chipulina, was appointed Chief Clerk of the Post Office by the Secretary of State. His salary was 5000 pesetas per annum, considerably more than the wages earned by his two Supernumerary sons. Thelmo would also soon join the service. In those days it was called the Post Office, Telegraph and Savings Bank. Presumably it also undertook the clerical work involved in sending telegrams despite the fact that the Eastern Telegraph Company was already well installed in Gibraltar. By the end of the year, responsibility for the Civil Hospital was taken over by the Government.

1890 That year saw the beginning of the development and enlargement of the Dockyard. According to Ellicott, the authorities had finally realised, 'that the little dockyard nestling at the foot of the New Mole and barely adequate in the days of sail, was totally unsuitable for a modern navy.'

Many new naval works were also started and others were speeded up. By July a new section of the Waterport Wharf and Shed was completed offering better shipping facilities. The sewerage and main drainage works were also finally installed.

All these improvement did little to alleviate working class poverty which was being aggravated by the general depression. That year, in an attempt to improve their working conditions, the coal heavers went on strike. As the dispute dragged on, the men eventually appealed to the Government for assistance. It was refused because the authorities felt that they 'had no grounds to intervene in a dispute between Capital and Labour.'

In effect, the Government were acknowledging the workers' right to strike. Meanwhile General Sir Leicester Smyth became Governor but died that same year while away from Gibraltar. He was replaced by General Sir Lothian Nicholson.

General Sir Lothian Nicholson

Formal contemporary studio photos of both of Maria Luisa's parents suggest that they were people of a certain character. By now my great grandfather Diego José, had become the epitome of the Victorian gentleman; heavily built, stiff-collared and waist-coated, his face partly obscured by a heavy moustache and curly greying mutton chops. In the only photograph I have of him his eyes are those of the good businessman he must have been.

My great grandfather Diego José Gomez (3.7). He was fifty nine when this photograph was taken. Despite the poor quality of this scanned picture I can detect more than a hint of a sense of humour.
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As regards Magdalena (3.8) the only photo I have of her shows her as rather arrogant and and unsmiling with down-turned lips and a haughty look in her eye. She is as severe as the bun that collects her hair at the back of her head. She was 60 years old and her daughter would resemble her when she reached her age both in looks and in character.

My great grandmother Magdalena Mancilla de Gomez (3.8). She was sixty when this photograph was taken. Unlike her husband there isn’t a trace of a sense of humour anywhere. But then her daughter looked very like her and I know she had a very good sense of humour.

Meanwhile, the Spanish coal heavers, who had refused to join their Gibraltarian colleagues, circumvented the picket line by travelling directly to the vessels requiring coal. On one occasion, the Gibraltarian workers boarded one of the ships in order to try and 'persuade' the Spaniards to join them. The Captain of the ship, who couldn't understand what was going on, panicked and called the Port authorities.

Several men were arrested and three of those involved were charged with intimidating fellow workers. By all accounts they received a fair trial before a jury. But there was a catch. At that time people eligible for jury duty had to be either property owners or high earners. Whatever the merits of the case, and however honest the jury may have been, the case was biased against the workers from the start. They were found guilty.

By now, however, working class indignation had reached such a pitch that it was necessary to escort the men to jail with a detachment of troops. The soldiers were stoned by the mob and the Governor was forced to read them the riot act. It had little effect on the angry crowd who moved on to the house of one of the coal heavers' foremen and stoned it as well. He hadn't been on their side either.

The Rock of Gibraltar. The area in the foreground is Devil’s Tongue