Gibraltar – Hitting the Headlines
All the world, according to Shakespeare, is a stage, and certainly Gibraltar, whose size would suggest a small role in the global cast, has seen more than its fair share of drama.
The Battle of Trafalgar, 1805
The first story to hit the headlines, and ‘scooped’ understandably by the Gibraltar press a week before its appearance in the eagerly-awaited British papers, was that of the Battle of Trafalgar. A decisive battle in the Napoleonic Wars, it saw two-thirds of the Franco-Spanish fleet defeated by the British Navy, yet without the loss of a single British ship. The British however, paid a high price for this victory, and it was with deep regret that the newspapers also reported the death of Admiral Lord Nelson, Britain’s greatest naval hero.
The Mary Celeste Case, 1872
Found floating, crewless, in the Atlantic Ocean in December 1872, a beautiful two-mast brigantine named Mary Celeste was towed into Gibraltar where an enquiry was launched into her mysterious circumstances. There was no sign of distress, nor piracy, nor any evidence to suggest what had happened to the Captain and a crew of first-class sailors. All the crew’s personal belongings were found on board, including valuables. The weather was fine, and provisions on the ship would have seen them through at least six more months at sea. With no explanation ever concluded, the Gibraltar Law Courts reported the case as a mystery – still believed to be the greatest ever in maritime history.
The Wedding of John and Yoko, 1969
Gibraltar hit the headlines of the popular press when it provided the location for the wedding of John Lennon to Yoko Ono on 20 March 1969. Describing the three-minute ceremony as ‘quick, quiet and British’, the Beatle explained that the couple had chosen Gibraltar after spending a week trying to arrange their marriage. Gibraltar’s special licence cost £4, 14s, and was organized by solicitors in London. British newspapers described it as a predictably, ‘unconventional affair’.
Miss Gibraltar wins Miss World, 2009
Describing it as a ‘Red Letter Day for Gibraltar’, it was with enormous pride that Gibraltar’s daily newspaper, The Chronicle, broke the news that its very own Kaiane Aldorino, Miss Gibraltar, had won the title of Miss World. Broadcast to an estimated one billion global viewers, the contest brought Gibraltar to a standstill according to the paper, with mobile phone networks crashing as Gibraltarians rushed to spread the news. The Chief Minister promised a ‘royal’ homecoming for Kaiane, which she duly received with the majority of the tiny territory’s 30,000-strong population turning out to welcome her home.
The IRA Shooting, 1988
Provoking one of the biggest controversies in Gibraltar’s history, three members of an active IRA service unit were shot dead by security forces in Gibraltar as they walked towards the Spanish border in March 1988. Newspaper reports claimed they had positioned a car bomb close to the Governor’s Residence, with the intention of detonating it during the popular ceremony of the Changing of the Guard the following day. Despite an inquest concluding that the IRA members had been lawfully killed, it was ruled by the European Court of Justice in 1995 that the security forces had violated their fundamental right to life.
HMS Tireless leaves Gibraltar, 2001
Causing uproar among environmentalists, and straining relations between Gibraltar and Spain, a British nuclear submarine which had been docked in Gibraltar for repairs for almost a year, finally left in 2001. Reportedly undergoing repairs to a crack in a cooling pipe close to its nuclear reactor, the submarine allegedly posed no risk to either the environment or humans yet this did not allay the fears of the local people or the environmentalists. Twenty protesters arriving from across Europe were involved in a demonstration demanding the removal of nuclear arms and reactors from the oceans and ten Greenpeace volunteers were arrested.
David Walliams and James Cracknell swim the Straits, 2008
In order to raise money for the BBC’s Sport Relief, James Cracknell and David Walliams swam across the Straits of Gibraltar in March 2008, a feat achieved by only 10% of all those who attempt it. The pair completed the 14-mile swim in four and a half hours, with Walliams, who suffered from violent sea-sickness, describing it as ‘really tough’. They raised over £340,000 for charity.