Celebrating 200 years of news on the Rock
         

It's not every day that a newspaper reaches its bicentenary knowing that, barring a short bout of yellow fever,
it has produced continuously and under the same banner. The story of the Gibraltar Chronicle is not very different from the story of modern Gibraltar itself...
 

Gibraltar Chronicle Ltd,
2 Library Gardens,
P.O. Box 27,
Gibraltar.

Tel: +350 78589
Fax: +350 79927
email: gibchron@gibnet.gi

 



To download the history of the Chronicle in a Microsoft Word Document (size 35k) click here.

To download a high resolution image of the first edition of the Chronicle in TIFF Format (size 1.7Mb) click here.

 
 


THE BIRTH OF A NEWSPAPER

On 4 May 1801, a bulletin headed, "Continuation of the Intelligence from Eygpt received by His Majesty's ship Flora in three weeks from Alexandria," was printed at the Garrison Library press and sold by H. and T. Cowper, book sellers and stationers opposite Bell Lane.


It was first published as The Gibraltar Chronicle on 15 May 1801, when the leading articles revealed the wonderful spirit which animated those stirring times, but also foresaw, with surprising accuracy, the pitfalls which would surround the editor of a small paper in a small community.

The first Chronicle
15 May 1801
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This was the year that Britain's Act of Union came into effect, the music of the day was being composed by Beethoven and the industrial revolution was in its infancy.


The first editor was a Frenchman named Charles Bouisson, who had settled in Gibraltar in 1794. Bouisson said to have been "a little man, in his white cravat and knee breeches" was to occupy the Chair for 54 years. On 15 May 1801, on the front page of the newly crowned "Gibraltar Chronicle" he wrote:


The first Editor
Charles Bouisson
"Never did any newspaper commence at a more auspicious era than the Gibraltar Chronicle; the events we have to record, whether from the East, or from the North, have been alike glorious to the British Nation. It is not however to be expected from the mutable nature of human affairs, that it will be our singular good fortune to relate an uninterrupted series of triumphs; misfortunes may come, but we venture to pronounce that disgrace can never attend us. With the unconquerable spirit of Britons, and linked together in the bonds of brotherly affection, our united empire may defy the World in arms. Let the vaunting First Consul of Republican France, pursue his absurd, and self-injuring line of politics, in endeavouring to shut out the sovereign of the seas from the Ports of the Continent, and for that purpose pour his troops into the Countries he has humbled: we trust that under the guardianship of the divine Governor of the Universe, the Commerce of Britain will flourish, in spite of his machinations; her Glory will never rise so high as when she stands singly: and the valour of her intrepid Sailors, and Soldiers, will perpetuate her Fame and protect her coasts.

It may have been expected by some that our Chronicle should have opened with a Prospectus of its plan, and object: but, as our supply of materials for a regular periodical Paper of this sort, during the War, can only be casual, it is not advisable to make promises which we may be unable to perform...........
Tho' we might be able to eke out a paper with such Essays, and Observations as the Subscribers to the Garrison Library might be inclined to contribute, still our readers must be aware that this would be slippery ground.......
We shall therefore, in general, aim at nothing beyond plain matter of fact, since the selecting of the effusions of genius, and fancy, is attended with so much care, and pains......."

The second page of this edition, The Chronicle publishes what is the very first story, of what even to this day fills up pages of the paper in any given year - a charity event, and of course how much money was raised. The report says that a "charity sermon" preached at the King's Chapel had resulted in £819-13-6 being subscribed for the relief of "Wives and Children, Widows and Orphans of soldiers......who are now serving in Egypt."

If one substitutes "First Consul" for the Kaiser, Hitler, Stalin or Franco, or any other world figure of the twentieth century or the dawn of this new Millennium, and "supply of materials" for shortage and price of newsprint, or "plain matter of fact" simply for straight reports on affairs of world and local interest without favour, Mr Bouisson's words have echoed right through the whole history of the Gibraltar Chronicle, just like when he dipped his quill into his pewter ink-well 200 years ago.

Production has never been interrupted through shortage of materials, only on very few occasions has the Gibraltar Chronicle not been published in 200 years. It has had a continuous run from its inception. When the Gibraltar Chronicle was only three years old a terrible epidemic fever struck the Garrison. It claimed 6,000 lives. At the time there were only 15,000 people living in Gibraltar. No paper appeared as a consequence between September 1804 - March 1805. Even in those days the Levanter was held responsible for all "personal and other ills". The last edition before the paper stopped without warning says: "Owing to the unfavourable state of the Atmosphere, and the continuance of the Easterly Wind, the sickness continues, but the increase is inconsiderable......."

That no warning was given for the paper's discontinuance under such terrible circumstances, is perhaps understandable. But subscribers who had expected to buy their paper on 11 February 1804 were made to wait until 17 March, whilst the Printing Press "transacted more urgent business". The Printing Press was wanted for printing at the time, the standing orders of the Garrison, the first book to be printed on the Rock since its capture in 1704.
Famed for its scoop on the Battle of Trafalgar 1805, which reached London over a week after local publication, the Chronicle in its early days cost almost as much as a labourer could earn in a week.

The newspaper commenced in parallel English and French texts but has been otherwise published in English. An exception to this was the Spanish Civil War when a special edition was printed to inform the local population on events in the area.

During the World War II there was a great succession of military editors but one anecdote is that Reg Cudlipp, Hugh's brother was around the premises at the time working on the Rock Magazine and had close links with us.

Spanish Civil War Edition


Apart from being a close follower of local political events arising from Spain's sovereignty claim over the past 35 years - before that the Governor's office ensured censorship on most local news and any issues that might upset either Gibraltarians or Spain - the Chronicle has been in the right place, right time for some dramatic international stories such as the Mary Celeste case, the sinking of Utopia, John Lennon -Yoko Ono wedding, the SAS shooting of IRA members and most recently the enduring HMS Tireless story.


Today, as the Rock's only daily newspaper, it is an institution.

Until the 1990s the newspaper was still owned by the trust composed of serving officers of the Gibraltar Garrison Library. Today an independent local trust, governed by a Charter to uphold its non-partisanship, is its owner.


John Lennon's wedding in Gibraltar


HMS Tireless

 



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