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British in Iberia

British history and stories in Spain and Portugal.

The Lord and the Dancer. The fight for Knole castle (part 2).
30 June 2010

On the first of March, 1909 in the courts of Madrid, a trial began which caused deep expectations both in Spain and in England of the early twentieth century, in particular in London.  The trial was to dispute the inheritance of the multi-titled aristrocrat Lord Lionel Sackville-West, Count of Warr, Baron of Buckhurst, previous ambassador to Madrid, Paris, Washington and heir to the family estate of Knole, Kent.

Two Englishmen disputed the family estate including all its assets, titles and honors – one of the Lord’s nephews and one the Lord’s sons to the Spanish dancer, Pepita Durán with whom he lived in Arcachón.   Several children were born to this relationship, one of which was Henry Sackville who today contests the inheritance.  Lord Sackville had registered all of his children as legitimately born from his relationship with Pepita Durán in the civil registry in France.  The successor named in the estate, in case of there being no descendants, was the Lord’s nephew who claimed that these children could not possibly be legitimate as Pepita Durán, at the time of the births, was married to a Spanish bolero singer called Juan Antonio Gabriel de la Oliva.   The certificate of this supposed marriage appeared in the relevant parish archives, but exhibited some scratched-out changes, as a result of which a relation of Henry Sackville, with the surname Rophon and born and raised in Algeciras and José Sánchez, a local shopkeeper, were held accused.  The outcome of the trial which was taking place in London during this period depended on the validity or the invalidity of this certificate.

Lord Sackville lived in Knole castle until 1908.  Towards the end of 1896 an illness took hold of him which was to lead him to his grave, meanwhile his relatives began to worry about what would happen to his assets when the fateful outcome would eventually happen.  Lionel Edward, blood nephew of Lord Sackville had married the eldest daughter of Pepita Durán and also lived in Knole Castle.  He was aware that his wife, possible daughter of the Lord, was listed as being of unknown parentage, and he was also aware that the dancer was married to Gabriel de la Oliva and, consecuently, Henry, the only one that could contest the inheritance, was illegitimate.  However, he needed to prove this and therefore sent two English lawyers, Brain and Harrison to Spain to obtain an authentication of the marriage certificate and proof from the file in the vicarage.

The file never appeared but they discovered a note in the book of entries and the license granted by the vicarage to hold the wedding.   Having partly completed their task, the lawyers returned to England but Lord Sackville’s nephew, infuriated by the disappearance of the document, ordered a witness testimony in Gibraltar but this didn’t produce the desired results either.
On hearing about this unfortunate matter, Pepita’s nephew Enrique Rophon began making investigations of his own.  Aware of the enormous fortunes at stake, together with the lawyer Francisco Lastres, he went to check out the archives of the Church of San Millan and confirmed that the wedding certificate had been interfered with.  As a result, Enrique de Sackville reported the facts to the courts on the 30th October, 1901 and consequently the church assistant, Ricardo Dorremoces was prosecuted but, due to not being able to prove that he was the perpetrator of the falsification, the court dismissed the case.

Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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The Lord and the Dancer. The grandparents of Vita Sackville-West (part 1)
30 June 2010

“I don’t know of any true account of this type of relationship, not one which has been written without the intention of titillating the reader.  I am convinced that as we get older, and genders mix according to our increasing similarity, these types of relationships will stop being regarded as simply unnatural and we will understand them much better, not just on an intellectual level but also a physical level.  The psychology of people like me will be of interest, and we will have to recognize that there are many more people of my kind than we care to recognize in today’s hypocritical system.”  From the autobiography of Vita Sackville-West.

“There is nothing more ideal, more dreamy and more chivalrous than the love between a lord and a dancer.”

In 1912 Virginia Woolf was married to Leonard Woolf, a recognized intellectual who, like herself and Vita, was part of the Bloomsbury group.  Leonard knew about Virginia’s lesbian tendencies and both of them agreed to a marriage based on sexual freedom.

It was against this backdrop that the unusual honeymoon took place, “when Virginia was seeing Vita Sackville-West, a writer and aristocratic, militant lesbian who supported the authoress of ‘Orlando’ in her entry to the exclusive Penn Club”.

Vita Sackville-West is a great expert on Spain, a country which was to figure constantly in the conversations with her lover.  Vita was the granddaughter of the dancer from Malaga, Pepita Durán, and of Lord Sackville-West, who kept his marriage to the Spaniard secret right up to his death.  Virginia’s lover, Vita, retold the story of her grandfather in her book entitled, ‘Pepita’.

Woolf soon discovered the bitter taste of romantic betrayal, and whilst in Spain received a letter from Vita: “I have a huge problem as I have become involved with Mary Campbell and the beastly Roy is prowling around London with a gun in his hand to try and kill me.”  In disgust, Virginia replied, “That’s what happens for being promiscuous.”

Vita’s grandmother, the famous dancer Josefa Dominga Duran Ortega (Malaga, 1830-1871), better known as Pepita de Oliva, was a true character of this era, and embodied flamenco in the widest sense of the word.   Her personality and fervent life, her artistic successes and performances abroad, an impossible romance and illegitimate children all help to shape her biography, a story to which it is difficult to be indifferent considering the era in which this woman lived.
Born in Malaga in 1830, an attractive Josefa Durán left for Madrid to make her fortune in the world of flamenco dancing where she was pupil of the great teacher Juan Antonio Oliva.  She adopted the stage name of “Pepita de Oliva” and building on the friendship and the generosity of her teacher, in 1851 they got married.

It appears that Peptia and Lord Sackville met in Berlin and when the aristocratic diplomat came to Spain as secretary to the English embassy, he was already romantically involved with Pepita.   It is said that in 1855, the Lord bought an elegant hotel in Arcachón which he named Villa Pepa and gave it as a gift to Pepita and it was in this hotel that the long love affair between the two developed.  This was also where their two children were born and where Pepa died in 1871.  Here, in the romantic gardens, he buried the body of the woman whom he had loved so deeply, having her tombstone engraved with the following, “Here lies Josefina, Countess  Sackville”.   When Pepita died, the Lord went to the registry offices in Bordeaux and declared the assets left by his wife and the children he had had legitimately with her and requested an obituary to published in the French press saying, “Lionel Sackville-West, first secretary to the English embassy in Paris and interim Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, requests the assistance of his friends and colleagues at one of the masses which will be held in the Chuch of Our Lady, on the 21st March, for the resting of the soul of his wife,  Josefina, Countess Sackville-West”.

During this period in Granada a boy was born and baptized in the name of Maximiliano, the legitimate son, according to some, of Pepita and the bolero singer, Oliva, and according to others, of Pepita and the Lord.  Amongst the children named by Lord Sackville in the Bordeaux offices was a Maximiliano.  The birth of this child which is registered as Maximiliano Oliva Duran is the one which is linked with the marriage certificate of the singer and Pepita in Madrid.   On this certificate the name of Oliva is not scratched off but the name of Pepita has been scratched away (to remove it) and is dated 10th January, 1851.  One of Pepita Durán’s nieces confessed something very interesting, after confirming that the child was Sackville’s.  According to this witness, some years after his birth, the boy introduced himself in Spain as Sir William Sackville, brother to Lord Sackville, saying that the Lord who was a member of the highest echelons of English society, was committed to diplomatic affairs and it was necessary to eliminate traces of his marriage to Pepita Durán.   Doña Catalina added: Pepita got married to Lord Sackville in the Church of San Millán in Madrid.  In order for evidence of this marriage not to appear anywhere, the mother of Doña Catalina looked for the dance teacher, Juan Antonio Gabriel de la Oliva who allowed himself to be passed off as her husband and the certificate was “altered” in the house of the parish priest.

Later, the Granada register of baptisms was taken to England where a huge fortune was paid to have the surnames of Maximiliano changed from Sackville to Oliva.

What would be interesting would be to find out if the marriage between Oliva and Pepita was legitimate, before she got together with Lord Sackville.  Another conflicting fact is that in the death certificate of Oliva in 1888, it states that the famous dancer was married to Mercedes Gómez.

“Going back to what I told you at the beginning don’t try and remember the love affair of Arcachon.  It was a love story, an ode in tune with nature, for two hearts, not for one day but for a whole existence.”

Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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Sidney Franklin, “the boy from the synagogue”
15 June 2010

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1903, he was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants which, in some circles, gave rise to the tongue-in-cheek name of The Bullfighter of the Torah.  His original surname was Frumkin.

In 1929 Sidney Franklin was a tall, blonde young man with blue eyes who had that exceptional physical quality that made it impossible to tell his age.  He could have been 20 or 30 years old.  With an inexpressive, childlike face, when he spoke he moved his arms a lot, just like a Spaniard or an Italian, as if he were born in Malaga or Naples.   This made him quite an ungainly, lively bullfighter, with an incomparable charm.  When anyone asked him, “Do you speak Spanish, Mr. Franklin?”, he always replied asking, “and you, do you blag in English?”

The whole of Spain was amazed that there was a North American bullfighter as everything was missing there for such a thing to exist – interest and the right atmosphere, but if the USA allowed it, bullfighting would have had just as much success as in Mexico.

Sidney Franklin’s interest started when he was working in Mexico and he attended “tientas” (trials where young bulls’ strength is tested with lances) where he began to take part, realizing that “bullfighter’s blood” was in his veins.  One day he took up a cape and discovered that it wasn’t as difficult as he had imagined.   He learned the art of bullfighting officially in Mexico and Peru before coming to Spain where he fought as an apprentice matador in the main bullrings of Seville, Madrid and San Sebastian.  His favourite bullfighter was Cagancho.

As is the case with all celebrities, Franklin was surrounded by a cloud of freeloaders: the friend who would give up his life for him, his contacts in the press, his manager, instant “close” friends.  However, with regard to these others, he displayed another great quality: he knew how to smile at them all and knew how to step away from them when he needed to be alone.  In this respect he was very much a New Yorker.

In his autobiography, A Bullfighter from Brooklyn, Franklin stated that he learnt the art of bullfighting on the cattle ranch at Xajay and his mentor was none other than El Califa de León, Rodolfo Gaona.

Later on Franklin came to Spain where a media campaign began and thus, from the end of 1928 brief announcements appeared in the press informing that the New York bullfighter would be appearing in the bullrings of Spain.

Sidney Franklin was the first North American to take the rites of initiation to become a matador and during this they sent two bulls into the ring as he was not capable of killing them.  He was a close friend of Lorca and Hemingway.

Franklin was essentially an adventurer, belonging to a certain group of North Americans at the beginning of the last century.  He was Hemingway’s assistant during his correspondence in Spain during the civil way and abandoned an enviable position and his studies in his home country and began to travel the world.  He was a bullfighter, journalist, television presenter and wrote one autobiography, The Bullfighter of Brooklyn.  He travelled and lived out adventures in Mexico, Spain and Cuba with Hemingway until a misunderstanding came between them.   He died in anonymity in an institution in New York in 1976.  To the whole of that generation lost through wars and adventures he left the Aristotelian and laconic quote with which he began his book, “living honorably is worth more than just living”.

Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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King Edward in Cartagena
08 June 2010

At the time when Her Majesty Queen Cristina was visiting the city’s hospitals, King Edward of England and King Alfonso XIII of Spain were sailing around in the English navy battleships “Queen” and “Venerable”.

On board the “Queen”, the Lord Admiral treated them to a lunch, attended by Queen Cristina.  The banquet was held in the royal dining room which was permanently decorated with sporting trophies and pieces of artwork seized over a long period of time by the captain and crew.  As soon as the lunch was over, the monarchs returned to their respective ships which were moored alongside the “Queen”.   In the evening, the King of Spain paid a visit to the batteries and the arsenal of weapons before attending a banquet with the King of England on his ship, the regal “Victoria and Albert”, with the cutlery and vases, heavily decorated with carnations and roses, rolling left to right due to the heavy swell of the sea.   Queen Cristina was dressed in purple with sparking jewelry and the English sovereign was wearing dark grey and also heavily adorned with jewelry and with pretty flowers at her chest.   Accompanied by Kings Alfonso and Edward, the Spanish General Captain and the English Admiral respectively, the English monarch was wearing for the first time the high rank uniform which he had been given just the day previous.   Princess Victoria was wearing a black dress with jewelry.  English music played throughout the mea, starting with the march entitled “Long Live King Alfonso and Queen Victoria”, based on the “Royal March”, and followed by various regional pieces from Great Britain played on instruments unknown in Spain. 

On making a toast, King Edward improvised in English, congratulating himself on his visit to Cartagena and announced his intention to visit Madrid.  He made a tender dedication to Queen Victoria, giving his congratulations on the birth of the heir to the crown, claiming that this would be a new link bonding together the English and Spanish royal families.  He paid a warm tribute to the talent and the virtues of the Queen Mother and ended by toasting to the health of the King and Queen and the people of Spain.  Alfonso XIII responded by congratulating himself on having welcomed the English monarchs into Spanish waters and he assured them of the deepest support from his nation.  He then made a toast to the prosperity of the royal family and the English people.   The Kings spoke to each other alone, but only for a brief time.   The departure was very friendly, the Kings shaking hands, kissing each other on the cheek and saying, “So long, until we meet again”.   The King of Spain also kissed Queen Alexandra.   The Queens also said their goodbyes the same way.   The following day the King and Queen of Spain left for Madrid by train and the English monarchs set sail in their ship, heading for Malta.  The members of the English entourage were all given a gift of a Spanish crucifix and the Spanish crew received English medals.    The meeting in Cartagena was described in glowing terms by all the English newspapers and was considered as a great sign of understanding with England.

The Standard said, “England and Spain have common interests which we all have no objection in recognizing.  Although they don’t yet think this way in many other European capital cities,  in the interests of Europe and maybe even other continents, they are strengthening the ties which bind these two western countries”.

The Times: “It is not simply the royal wedding which contributes towards bringing together Great Britain and Spain, but the common interests of both nations which, albeit not as essential as during the period of Lord Wellington, put great value on the understanding between both countries”.

King Edwards headed to Italy to repeat the actions of Cartagena with the King of Italy.  The political goal of the journey could not have been clearer. 

A few days after the royal visit to Cartagena, “La Epoca” published the following official notice from the Government:
    “Before the meeting between  the King and Queen of Spain and of England, we explained the reasons and the importance of such success in a way that highlighted the fact that this was an act of courtesy between the two sovereigns, without the presence of the Spanish Ministers of State and of the Navy,  validated by the official nature of the visit and without the assistance of the President of Council changing in any way the nature of things.”

However, behind all of these events were the consequences and the developments from meetings which had taken place many years earlier; the Conferences of The Hague and Algeciras were both high on everyone’s agenda, including the parallel conversations between the Spanish ministers and Sir Charles Harding and Sir John A. Fischer.

Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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Salvochea and the doctrines of Owen.
24 May 2010

Firstly, Salvochea was a  “child from a good family”, driven crazy by the epic,  generous and unselfish struggle.  Next he was an internationalist with a first-class passionate support for the militants and later on, a communist.  This was Salvochea when he fuelled the uprising in Cadiz.  His republic represented communism and a universal brotherhood…..  Later on, the Republic itself and its republican counterparts proved him wrong.   Later still, a study showed him that it was anarchism that he dreamed about, or rather fantasized about.  From that moment onwards, he became an anarchist.

Fermín Salvochea was born in Cadiz in March, 1842 and died there in 1907.  He was educated in England where he stayed until the age of 20, dedicating all his free time to the study of radical English literature.  Firstly he studied the work of Thomas Paine which had a powerful influence on the young man.  Later on he got to know personally Charles Bredlow and his friends.  Atheist propaganda in England encountered many problems during this period, but Bredlow and his friends put all their energies into standing up for their convictions, attempting to destroy the medieval idea of theism which permeated all echelons of English society.  

He began his political operations in 1866, committed to the plot to free the military prisoners of Madrid who were incarcerated in the castle of San Sebastian who had taken part in the events at San Gil barracks, awaiting deportation to Manila (Philippines).  

During this time there were anarchists in London, theosophists and Christian anarchists, and throughout the islands there were also various groups of “tolstoyan” communists.  However, in contrary to the spiritual communism on the continent, the English never renounced their church in favour of the common good.  They were deeply religious but not deeply catholic or protestant and they didn’t  pin their passions to any positive cults or to the communist rules that demand a rigid and gloomy lifestyle.  Theirs was a different type of anarchism, a psychological anarchism.  There were anarchist-communists who sacrificed absolutely everything, including themselves, to the common good.  Just like religious legends who converted everything into the love of God, these anarchists turned it all to love of humankind.  Their passion for others and for humankind made them pay so little attention to their own wellbeing that they often fell ill.  The perfect example of this type of anarchist was Luisa Michel.   From this type of sentimentalism and deep sensitivity was born the so-called action anarchists.

The psychology of the Spanish anarchist was, and still is, a lot more complex.  In Spain, even the communists were individuals in both their own lives and their activities.   However, the Spanish anarchist who was most similar to those in central Europe was Fermín Salvochea, whose morals were characterized by Luisa Michel.

If Fermín Salvochea wasn’t the first Spanish anarchist, then he was definitely amongst the first communists.   In this unusual case of a Spaniard who was a communist before becoming an anarchist, we need to remember that Fermín Salvochea was born in Andalucia and was educated in England.   The republican communist phenomenon was nothing new in Spain; many republican activists believed that the Republic represented communism and in Andalucia they not only believed it, but some were even waiting for the success of the Republic to be able to distribute the land amongst the rural folk.  This was Salvochea’s belief.  

Salvochea outlined his Andalucian origins and the development of his ideas  in England:


Salvochea’s teachers were the following: Paine, English but also a French MP and one of the driving forces behind the independence of the USA, Robert Owen y Bradlaugh, an Anglican preacher who ended up questioning the doctrines of the church.  However, the real masters in the true sense of the word were the rural folk of Andalucia.  It was in one of these men, in the details of his everyday life that he saw reflections of nobility and generosity at an almost exaggerated level despite the fact that social injustice made them permanent victims of the environment which surrounded them.

At the outset of the movement in 1868, he was part in the revolutionary junta in Cádiz and when, under orders from the provisional government, General Caballero de Rodas and his vast number of troops entered Cadiz, Salvochea was imprisoned in the Castillo de Santa Catalina until 1869.  Subsequently, he emigrated once again to London and Paris until 1870.  On his return to Spain he was one of the first to enroll with International, not because he stopped being a republican, but because he was a man of progress who supported everything that represented progress.  He was always a enthusiastic follower of Owen’s doctrines.

In 1873, whilst Mayor of Cadiz, he started a cantonal movement and, due to his selflessness and nobility, the Republic rewarded him with a life sentence in the prisons of Africa.  Granted amnesty although not wanting to accept it, he finally returned to mainland Spain only to receive other prison sentence when,  in 1892, an insurrection broke  out amongst the rural folk in Jerez.  Following this he was sentenced to twelve years in prison for being an anarchist.


Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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Messages in bottles.
11 May 2010

The coastline of the Straits of Gibraltar, 8th July, 1868.  The Englishman, Mr. Garlick, grandson of one of the English who remained in Spain following the war of liberation against France, is the owner of one of the most unusual marine collections along this rough stretch of coastline.  He has dedicated over half of his life to his obsession with collecting all the warnings, requests for help and the final wishes that the sea regularly throws up, creating one of the most unique collections in the world.
Every one of the thoughts which are written down in these documents is a story which sheds a gloomy light on us mysterious humans, our virtues and our miseries.  Some messages show the final desperate cry of a man who is slipping away into the waves and others paint an image of a poor shipwrecked man who sees the hook of death taking its hold.

Three years ago Garlick found a tin can with a note inside signed by someone named Browning, claiming that his ship had been wrecked on purpose as it was insured for the amount of two million pesetas, the new Spanish currency.  The captain, pilots and two sailors had escaped in rowing boats, but the remainder of the crew, including the writer of the message, drowned.  Two days after the disaster, the tin receptacle was picked up by a boat heading for Gibraltar y sold to Garlick without being opened.   Garlick opened it, read the contents and made the information known to the insurers, first making sure that they would give him back the tin container and also a small amount of money as a gesture for his honorable and prompt actions.  The delivery of the message was so opportune that the insurance company managed not to lose the two million pesetas and the captain and the owners of the wrecked boat received a prison sentence.

As you can see, Mr. Garlick’s collection was not simply the satisfying of an innocent and childlike desire to hoard objects of interest, but he also strove to meet the final wishes of the unfortunate shipwreck victims.

One of his bottles tells a tale worthy of telling, written by James Gibson, captain of a coal ship which sailed the Libson-Gibraltar route – a sailor who had saved an enormous amount of money and who had decided to retire from merchant sailing and was making the final journey of his career.  During this final crossing his ship collided with another and several hours later was completely destroyed.  In haste, Gibson wrote his Will and before the ship finally sank, he found a bottle, put his message inside and threw it into the sea.  The bottle was found by a tuna fisherman in Barbate who, informed of Mr. Garlick’s interest in the coastline, hurried to take it to his house in Punta del Camarinal in Zahara de los Atunes.  Thanks to this message, Garlick discovered that the unfortunate captain had a son who he tracked down with the satisfaction of knowing that he was meeting the final wishes of the boy’s father.

In order to obtain the largest of these types of objects in Spain, Garlick cooperates with over 300 fishermen and sealovers along the coast of Spain and Portugal, so that they advise him of their finds, and bring him the messages tossed up by the sea.
In January, 1869, Garlick received an unusual bottle which had been found along the coast of La Coruña and in the mouth of the bottle was a small vial containing a small amount of phosphorous, designed so that when the sea shook up the bottle, it set alight.  The glass bottle contained the following message: “ My darling wife, in the hope that it reaches you, I am writing you these few lines.  Our boat has sunk after colliding with another.  I am letting you know that David Hill has the share of capital which is owed to me from the sale of the mine.  David will give you this money.  Pray for me”.

Garlick sent the note to its destination and several months later he was informed that this final wish had been met.

Garlick’s unusual hobby means that he is always close to the coast and always watching it closely, especially in the rough and stormy days.   He once found a can tied to a piece of cork used in fishermen’s nets, and the note which was found inside the can said, “If God doesn’t help us, no-one will.  Tell Rachael MacLeod that I love her.”

It took Garlick one year to find the young Rachael referred to in the note, but in the end he didn’t want to deliver the note to her.  As Rachael MacLeod had recovered from the loss of the shipwrecked sailor and was about to marry another sailor, Garlick felt it was not the right thing to do to bring up such a tragic event.

Mr. Garlick has paid up to two thousand pesetas in Spain for some of the objects found by the sailors, although the majority of them are handed over purely to ensure that those final written requests reach their required destination.

Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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The man in the tartan jacket.
29 April 2010

On the 21st of March, 1970 at home in Alicante, in the city where, through his cunning and bravery he helped hundreds of Spaniards flee whilst fighting for freedom during the Spanish Civil War, a man died of a heart attack.  Christopher Edwin Lance was an Englishman, well-known in Republican areas during this ill-fate period.  Captain Lance, or “the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Spanish War” as he was known by many Spanish fugitives who sought refuge in foreign embassies, was also known as “the man in the tartan jacket” and was considered by the Republican Army to be their public enemy number one.

Edwin C. Lance was a civil engineer, born in Wells in 1893.  In 1914 he signed up in the First World War and rose to the rank of Captain.  In 1926 he came to Spain to take part in the construction of the Santander-Mediterranean railway and returned again in 1931 to help protect English interests in a Spanish company.

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War the English ambassador, Sir Henry Chilton, left Spain and consequently, as agreed by the Chief Consul John H. Milanes, the embassy was re-opened by Captain Lance and it was then used as a refuge for the six hundred or so English, or those who called themselves English, that lived in Madrid.  All of a sudden, despite not knowing their birth date, hundreds of people remembered that they had been born on-board an English ship or in Gibraltar; many of them not knowing a word of English and some were even known to be opponents of the English.

Lance took control of his businesses and was handed the responsibility for the Embassy vault by Ogilvie-Forbes, which was then used to protect the jewelry, cash and documents of many wanted people, such as the Duke of Alba.  Forbes arrived at the beginning of August, sent by the British Diplomatic Service and nominated Lance honorary attaché.  They were artificially protected by the British flag which was displayed on all their vehicles and they all wore red, white and blue wristbands.  He and the other British subjects could travel around with a certain degree of safety as the Republicans had great respect for foreigners, so long as they weren’t Germans or Italians.  With the help of other members of the British embassy such as Marger Hill, Eric Glaisher and Bobby Papworth, he organized trips travelling by road to Alicante to board them on ships destined for foreign ports and out of Franco’s Spain.  Nobody knew how Captain Lance managed to arrange these trips to reach Alicante, usually with him leading the expeditions and travelling during the night time.

At the end of 1936 he was taken prisoner by the state troops in the university area of the city.  After being registered he was then taken to meet Franco.  In Burgos, General Merry del Val gave him the names of some people who he had to rescue from the republican zones.  He returned to Madrid and continued organizing trips to Alicante and obtaining the documents of those who he rescued.  Amongst the many were Domingo de las Bárcenas who then went on to be ambassador in London, Pedro Muguruza who later conceived the Valle de los Caídos project, one of Don Pedro Muñoz Seca’s daughters and one of the sons of General Martin Moreno, head of General Franco’s headquarters.

The man in the tartan jacket was arrested in Valencia in October of 1937.  First he was in jail in Valencia and then taken to Segorbe and later was transferred to the ship “Uruguay”, anchored in the waters outside Gerona.  His name figured on the list of those condemned to the death penalty.  However, early one morning at the end of January, when Franco’s troops had already reached Barcelona, he was rescued.  Captain Lance thought he was living his last few days and was going to be executed but instead he was taken to a house where a member of the British consul, and ultimately his freedom, awaited him.  He had spent fifteen months in jail.

He remained an anonymous figure until 1960 when the British version of the book by C.E. Lucas Phillips was published, in which his achievements in Spain were revealed.  Editorial Juventud published the book in Spain in 1965 under the title, “The Pimpernel of the Spanish Civil War”.

In November of 1961, Edwin C. Lance returned again to Spain, as guest of the city of Madrid who awarded him an official recognition for the humanitarian work which he had carried out during the war.  “I never dreamed of receiving such an award”, he told the various journalists who attended the press conference.  He had lived for twenty years in total anonymity until an English writer published a book about his achievements.

Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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Charles Pickman, Christopher Columbus and Seville.
28 April 2010

The remains of Columbus and other members of his family are buried at the ancient monastery of La Cartuja.  Family members of Don Carlos Serra Pickman (1881-1951), grandson of the founder of theCartuja factory, still have the documents from research carried out which describe in detail the backgrounds of the various “Columbus´s” buried in the monastery.   This document was published in 1992.

In the book, the Marquis of Serra claims, and corroborates with evidence, that Columbus´s remains were never removed from their provisional tomb in La Cartuja in Seville.  To prove this, in May 1952, a group of academics, historians, forensic experts, journalists and representatives from the church began to dig up the ground of the Columbus’ chapel and exactly in the spot indicated by the Marquis, they found the bones of a man which he assured them were the genuine remains of Christopher Colombus.

Charles Pittman Jones Alnutt, born in London in 1808, arrived in Cadiz in 1822 from Liverpool to continue with the business started by his step-brother, William Pickman Hicks.  Charles Pickman continued with the same business activities as those of his step-brother, the commercialization of English-made products that were successful in the Spanish market of the time.  Taking advantage of the ecclesiastical confiscation’s of Mendizabal, the trader Carlos Pickman who was now set up in Seville, in 1838, rented the monastery that was previously abandoned and in ruins and then in 1840 he bought the premises, transforming it in 1841to become a ceramic factory and hence linking the names of Pickman and La Cartuja de Sevilla right up to the present day.
During this time, in the 19th Century, the location of the Cartuja monastery was excellent due to its isolated position facing Seville, on the right bank of the Guadalquivir river, in the Triana lowlands.  It stood out from the surrounding area with its grand elevations and raised kilns, tall chimneys, chapel, clock tower and elegant windowed balconies, creating a beautiful sight which was eye-catching even at great distance and the Cordoba and Huelva train lines passed by the buildings only eight hundred metres away.   From the building you could see Seville with her cathedral and slender Giralda tower, the Torre del Oro, iron bridges and the great Portilla White foundries, the gas works and the neighborhood of Triana.  Along the train line to Huelva, the Pickmans had set up a Decanville railway line which terminated inside the factory, passing through all the workshops and it was by this means that thousands of tons of coal reached the factory from Belmez, Espiel and Villanueva.

Production during the first years was simply the reproduction of English designs, and later they started with Spanish-style works.  For many years they supplied Spain and America with ceramics, replacing the ordinary ceramics of Talavera and Valencia which were usually seen on tables during the first years of the 19th Century.  The quality of the products made in La Cartuja was recognized both in the national and international press, in addition to the well-deserved awards earned in all the shows and exhibitions in which they participated. Their successes in London in 1862, in Paris in 1867 and  in 1878 in Vienna were much talked-about, where, amongst all the most outstanding products of the civilized world, Pickman was awarded first-class medals, having also earned the privilege of having the La Cartuja products  displayed in the most prestigious museums of Europe.  During the Centennial Exposition of Philadelphia in 1876, the Pickmans were rewarded with considerable accolades and awards, as well as the gold medal in the Barcelona World Exposition of 1888.

This explains the tendency of the public to purchase the ceramics of La Cartuja that not only were on sale in Spain but which also were exported to the Americas and other remote countries where, like here, it is sought after for its durability, delicate shapes, cleanliness, evenness, image detail, brilliance of colour and exquisite finishing touches.
The manufacturing programme followed in the factory was the same as that of the factory in England, having replaced almost all the original English workers with Andalucians.

In the luxurious salon of the factory were displayed elegantly-decorated items of artistic crockery, glassware and vases, reflecting the style of the Arabic embossed tiles such as those of the Alhambra and other styles, decorated in brilliant colours on chinaware and metallic reproductions of those found on the tiling of magnificent Seville buildings, the Gran Casino in San Sebastian, the Palacio de Ciencias in Zaragoza amongst others.

When Charles Pickman arrived in Seville he was a modest un-trained worker with little money who, with constant effort, hard work and ingenuity, managed to create and bring to life one of the most famous manufacturers in Spain.  He adopted Seville as his hometown and attempted to employ everyone who asked for work in his factory, in particular the potters from the neighborhood of Triana.  He was awarded the Order of Isabel the Catholic, the Knighthood of the Order of Carlos III, Order of Christ (Portugal), San Mauricio and San Lorenzo of Italy and was Royal Commissioner for Agriculture.  The title was then inherited by his eldest son who married one of the factory workers.

Amongst Pickman’s family successors were José María Piñar who was Mayor of Seville between 1947 and 1952 and for four years was rector of the technical college; Guillermo Serra Pickman who was a senior member of the Sagrada Mortaja (Holy Week Brotherhood of Seville) for forty years; Antonio Serra Pickman who was a senior member of the Santa Caridad (Seville Holy Week); Ricardo Serra who is the current president of the agrarian organization, Asaja-Andalucia; Guillermo Pickman Albandea who was captain of the Spanish rugby team and senior member of the Montserrat Brotherhood, just as his father was, Guillermo Pickman y Pickman.  The city shows its gratitude to this family by naming a street Primer Marqués de Pickman.

 Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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British Havana, 1762
14 April 2010

Following a 64-day siege, Havana was taken in 1762.  It was the main post captured by the British Army in Hispanic America.

The age-old, endless desires of the English to continue with their conquests in Spanish America were once again stirred up during one of the many rifts between Spain and England during the 18th Century.  The British government was busy with a project to purposefully start another war between the two nations which involved the taking of Havana, considered to be the military port of New Spain.   The aim of this was threefold: firstly, the closing off of access to the Atlantic Ocean to the fortunes leaving America, secondly the opening of free trade for English shipping in the local seas, and thirdly, to threaten the other Antilles islands and further territories that did not belong to them.  To turn attention away from the real aim of the project, word was spread that the forces were to be stationed in Santa Domingo, using the excuse that this island was closer to Martinique than to Cuba.

On the 6th of June, a powerful fleet made up of 70 battleships and 20,000 men and led by Admiral Pocock appeared outside of Havana.  The General in charge of the land forces, appointed by George III, was Lieutenant General George Keppel, Earl of Albermarle and the island was defended under the command of General Juan de Prado Portocarrero.

The taking of Morro Castle (Castillo del Morro), the main bastion of the city’s defenses, was the key objective of the English.   On the 29th of July, Albemarle’s troops, who were set up in Guanabacoa and in the hills around La Cabaña, descended on and took Morro Castle.  The defense of the fort by the 4,000 men led by Luis de Velasco was significant and de Velasco, who died during the siege, was considered a great hero.

The Spanish authorities made no efforts to remove the Crown’s or the people’s wealth from the city.  The loot gained from the city was several million minted silver pesos and eleven unscathed battleships as well as considerable amounts of merchandise.  “The leaders of the operation, the Earl of Albermarle and Admiral Pocock, both received over half a million pesos for their efforts, whilst each soldier was given little more than twenty pesos and slightly less to each sailor”.   

Since before the middle of the 18th Century, the British government had tried to take control of the island of Cuba.  From around this period, discontent towards the Spanish was clear and was even expressed in documents written during this period.  The sworn declaration by a man named Toler, onboard the ship “Boyle” in Guantanamo bay stated that they wanted the English to conquer the island to free them from the tyranny of the Spanish.  Previously, the peasants had rebelled and had laid siege to Havana, putting in a difficult situation the authorities who finally reached an agreement with the popular masses, using Bishop Agustín Morell of Santa Cruz as mediator.

 Prior to the British attempt of 1762, a more significant attempt took place on the 18th of July, 1741, when the English landed on the island and carried a geographical survey, based on which they believed that the island was undefended.   After landing, General Wentworth and his troops reached Santa Catalina (Guantánamo) and began organizing his troops, planning to march towards and conquer Santiago de Cuba, around 150 km away.  However, he was not expecting the tropical diseases which struck his troops, including fever and dysentery and therefore aborted his mission.    During the eleven months of occupation, Cuba enjoyed sharp economic growth, stimulated by certain measures imposed by the English, such as the opening of trading ports,  and the importation of slaves that the badly-hit economy desperately needed.  However, despite all of this, relations between the people of Havana and the English were never good as the Cubans considered them to be an occupying force.

In July, 1763, England and Spain reached an agreement in which part of Florida would remain in English hands in exchange for Havana.   The English erected a monument to Velasco in Westminster Abbey and during many decades, on sailing past Noja (Velasco’s birthplace), the British naval ships would fire their cannons as homage to the Spanish hero.


Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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Gibraltar, 1920
13 April 2010

The most easterly point of the world is Gibraltar, and from there the nations of the Americas took the symbol which is displayed on their coins.  The Spanish coat of arms has two columns which symbolise the columns of Hercules and wrapped around them is a ribbon, originally with the motto “Non Plus Ultra”, then later “Plus Ultra” .

This symbol was adopted in particular by Charles V and became part of his coat of arms and as a symbol of his territories in the Americas.  When the Spanish conquistadors discovered gold and silver in the New World, the symbol of Charles V was stamped onto the coins minted in these metals.  These coins with the columns of Hercules on two worlds were distributed throughout Europe and the Americas and the symbol was adopted by many of the independant nations of the Americas.

The Straits of Gibraltar were the southern gateway to the ocean, later becoming the gateway to the East when Fernando de Lesseps created the Suez canal. 

However, the most peculiar and rigid part of the history of the Rock is not its geography or the various stories and events occurring on or around it (the Straits and Campo), but its people. 

The people of Gibraltar loyally represent all the different nationalities that have at one time been owners of the Rock of Gibraltar.  It is a cosmopolitan population.  The experienced meat trader from Tarso can be seen, with Phoenician blood in his veins depsite his English suit, also the slim, arrogant young Italian whose predecessors aided the colonization of Carteia (in Roman times the Colonia Libertinorum Carteia was the first latin colony established on non-Italian soil), alongside the moslem who supplies provisions in his red cloak, his yellow slippers, bare legs and purple turban, the Spaniard with his pale face and his haughty look and the English solider, the then-owner of the rock with his red cape and neck burnt by the Andalucian sun to which he is not accostomed but which he loves all the same, the sun reflected in his military boots.  There is also the Yanito (native of Gibraltar), as proud and zealous about his country as all of the others put together.  In Gibraltar there is also the Moroccan Jew with his kaftan and skullcap and the Spanish Jew with his air of shrewdness.  Also the tourists – the well-dressed and affected American tourist, the fugitive from Tangiers and the small, ostentatiously dressed, wide awake Japanese.  

Such are the different characters that can be found there every day and such is the movement of life that flows into the Rock of Gibraltar, not just now, but ever since medieval times.   In the early years of the last century not only was it a stopping place for the large steam ships leaving England en route to India and Australia, but also for the ships heading for the various ports of the Mediterranean from the Atlantic.

The first impression on seeing Gibraltar for the first time is that of a totally English city.  Its tall houses with numerous windows which close vertically with a guillotine system, the perfectly paved, clean streets that look like the pathways of a grand house.  Almost all the food is driven in daily in hundreds of trucks from the neighbouring villages (Campo de Gibraltar) and is sold cheaply.  In the city, Spanish is spoken much more than English.  Spanish currency is in circulation in Gibraltar and when given change in a shop, it will be either English or Spanish currency.  The names of the majority of the shops are in Spanish, Spanish newspapers are sold, such as el Imparcial and el Liberal and inside Gibraltar there are other newspapers published, such as el Calpense  and Gibraltar Chronicle which the Yanitos call in Spanish “la crónica”. 

Close by to each other are the synogogue, the Protestant cathedral and the Catholic church, and example of the fantastic tolerance which exists in England.  There is also an Arab mosque and numerous Masonic lodges .  All beliefs and religions are guaranteed freedom of Creed.

Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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