By Reg Reynolds
In researching a story for the January edition of The Gibraltar Magazine (Duke of Edinburgh’s Gibraltar New Year), I learned that Sir John Miller Adye, besides being a career soldier, was a talented artist and writer with a sense of humour regarding some of the rules and laws prior to his serving as Governor of Gibraltar.
Sir John was Governor from January 3rd, 1883 to November 2nd, 1886 and in the final chapter of his book Recollections of a Military Life he wrote, “The old records of Gibraltar during the eighteenth century contain some interesting and amusing regulations concerning matters both of civil administration and army discipline, and I will quote a few examples.
“Any donkeys loose in the town are to be the property of the person taking them away, and any straying on the ramparts are to be shot by the sentries.”
“If sentries are attacked by bullocks in the streets or on the Line Wall, they are to retire into an embrasure or get upon the parapet; but they are not to fire inconsiderately.”
“Fishermen are only to sell their fish after the servant of the Governor has bought what he requires.”
“Whatever settler doth not inform against men that swear in their houses contrary to the orders given out shall be turned out of town.”
“All oysters which come from Portugal are to lie in the sea for at least a fortnight before they are brought into the garrison, as they are found very unwholesome without this precaution.”
“A loose ball and a charge of powder in a cane is to be issued to each man on guard to save their cartridges. The loose ball to be carried in the cock of their hats.”
“On account of the scarcity of flour soldiers are not to have their hair powdered till further orders.”
While bullocks were free to roam, donkey’s suffered death.
“The queue is to be fixed to the hair of the head, but when an officer’s hair is not long enough for this purpose he may be allowed to fix the queue otherwise till his hair is sufficiently long, but this is not to continue longer than two months on any account.”
“No person whatever is to be suffered to go on the line wall or ramparts in a night gown, night cap, or banyan on any pretence whatever, and all sentries are to turn off such as shall attempt to come near their posts in any of the said dresses with distinction of persons.”
“No mackerel to be suffered to come into town.”
“No woman to beat a solider; the first that doth shall be whipped and turned out of town.”
“All sentinels who do not call out ‘All’s well’ every half minute shall be punished with two hundred lashes.”
The population of Gibraltar at the time of Sir John’s governance was approximately 24,000 including between 5,000 and 6,000 military. As can be seen from reading the rules, some made sense but punishments for infractions were harsh, and while bullocks were free to roam, donkey’s suffered death if they wandered into the wrong areas. Dogs had it even worse.
“Officers and non-commissioned officers commanding guards are frequently to send out patrols through the day with their arms unloaded to kill every dog they see going about the streets.”
John Miller Adye was born on November 1st, 1819 in Sevenoaks, Kent the son of Major James P. Adye. He graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, entered the Royal Artillery in 1836 and was promoted to Captain in 1846. Adye served on several battle fronts including the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny and the Anglo-Egyptian War. He became Sir John when he was knighted in 1873 and attained the rank of General in 1885. As Governor of Gibraltar he was noted for his artwork and in keeping a good balance between Gibraltar being a military fortress and of the needs of the civilian population to make a living. During his term the military received rooms for recreation and the civilians enjoyed relaxed trade laws.
Sir John wrote numerous books, mostly about war, politics and military tactics, among them: Indian Frontier Policy; A Review of the Crimea War to the Winter of 1854-5; Sitana a Mountain Campaign on the Borders of Afghanistan in 1863. His books contain many of his own sketches and his Gibraltar paintings can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum; two of India are in the National Army Museum. In 1892 Sir John campaigned as a Liberal in an unsuccessful bid to become MP for Bath. He died at Rothbury, Northumberland on August 2nd, 1900.
Reflections of a Military Life can be downloaded for free courtesy of The Project Gutenberg.