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Early in 2006 I received an enquiry to the Parish Website. It was from Elizabeth, the daughter of Angela (Sene) and Ernest Lara who were from Gibraltar. Angela and Ernest had been among the five thousand Gibraltarians who had been evacuated to various parts of Northern Ireland in 1944. They had lived in a camp outside Ballymena and were married in the area in 1945.

Elizabeth's dad Ernest had died but Elizabeth and her sister Eileen were thinking of bringing their mother, now eighty years old, to visit the various camps and was asking for information. I didn't have any so I began searching through the Parish Records and discovered that there had been twelve camps in Northern Ireland, eight of them in Co Antrim. I contacted the Local Museum and visited the Local Studies section of the local library to search old newspapers.

I discovered that in 1940 the population of Gibraltar, except for able bodied men, was evacuated by boat to the United Kingdom, Madeira, Jamiaca and French Morrocco. Families were divided with brothers and sisters being sent to different countries - some would never be reunited.

Later in the war when Germany began to bomb England, it was decided that the evacuees who were living in England were no longer safe. The men, women and children were loaded onto lorries and shipped to Northern Ireland - some arriving in July 1944. No one believed they would be staying long and so they were housed in makeshift camps consisting of Nissan huts situated in fields. Twelve camps were set up in Northern Ireland, eight of them in County Antrim.

The adults were unable to work as they did not have 'Permits' and, for people used to a hot climate, they must have found the living conditions in the camps, and the Irish weather, very difficult to contend with.

Elizabeth told me that it had been to Camp 11, Breckagh (Brekah) Bridge, that the Sene and Lara families had come to live. The camp was made up of large huts to house the school, kitchen and community centre. Then smaller huts for each family. the residential huts were divided into two - a bedroom for the men and one for the women. The heart of each camp was the Community Centre. It was here that everyone came to read, sew, take part in concerts or chat.

Elizabeth sent me some photographs:

This was Rogelio and Isabel Sene and Maribel (parents and sister of Angela, her mum) This photograph was taken at Brekagh Bridge Camp. The dog was called 'Brekagh'. The family were very sad as he had to be left with a local farmer when they returned to Gibraltar.


This was the wedding of Ernest and Angela with their witnesses - Angela's parents - Rogelio and Isabel Sene and Fr Dominic McHugh.



This was Ernest and Angela taken in Gibraltar in 1971.

As I found the camps, newspaper articles and contacted Canon McHugh I relayed the information to Elizabeth. She got more and more excited. So did I.

Angela was living in Gibraltar but came regularly to England to visit Elizabeth and Eileen, usually in August. Elizabeth persuaded her mum to visit England in June 2007 to coincide with the visit of Elizabeth's daughter, her husband and children who were visiting England from China.

Emails flew regularly between Luton and Ballymena. Accommodation was booked and arrangements for meeting with Canon McHugh, a Mayor's Reception in Ballymena, and a sightseeing tour of the area, including visits to the sites of the camps, were secretly made.

Angela arrived from Gibraltar to Elizabeth's home in Luton on 26 May 2007. Eileen, Elizabeth's sister, arrived on 27 May. At a family meal that evening the girls told Angela she was going to Northern Ireland the next day!! I met them at the airport and took them to their B & B to unpack.



After a rest and a cup of tea we then went to visit the sites of the camps outside Broughshane - Dunaird No 8, Drummack No 9, Aughacully No and Brekagh Bridge No 11 - the camp where Angela and her husband and their families had lived.

Angela at the site of Brekagh Bridge Eileen, Angela and Elizabeth at the site of Brekagh Bridge

I had spoken to Fr John Burns who found the entry of the wedding of Ernest and Angela in the Braid records on 25 April 1945. He arranged for us to visit the church of St Patrick at the Braid. I explained to Angela, Elizabeth and Eileen that the original church had been destroyed in a bomb blast in 1973 and had been rebuilt and re-opened in 1975.

We drove around the coast road through Carnlough to Cushendall where we stopped for lunch.

I showed them Harry's pub, said to one of the smallest in Ireland.

We drove up Glen Ballyeamon and down Glenarrife Glen to Laragh Lodge. Elizabeth and Eileen walked up the waterfall path to the car park.

The next day we went to All Saints' Parochial House where I had arranged we would meet Canon McHugh. He had performed the wedding of Ernest and Angela and had not seen them since. He had brought with him his copy of their wedding photograph.


We went to the offices of Ballymena Borough Council where a Mayor's Reception had been arranged. The Mayor had recently returned from a visit to Gibraltar as the towns had recently been 'twinned'. Angela, Elizabeth, Eileen and Canon McHugh were presented with plaques of the Seven Towers of Ballymena.



They then signed the Visitor's Book.


In the afternoon I took Angela, Elizabeth and Eillen to visit the Giant's Causeway and the Causeway Coast.


The next day I took everyone on a tour of Ballymena Town centre. We visited the Tourist Office and spent some time in the Library where I had arranged for them to view newspaper records from 1944 and 1945 - any which mentioned the Gibraltarians.


I had found a photograph taken in Brekagh Bridge camp just after the wedding of Ernest and Lara which I was keen to show to Angela. It had been published in the local newspaper at that time.



Angela told me how her wedding was the first to take place here. Lady Sylvia O'Neill had arranged that a wedding bouquet was delivered to Angela on the morning of the wedding.

During my research I had discovered that some Gibraltarians had remained in Ballymena. One,
Mr Albert Bau had lived in Drummack camp. He was living in Broughshane and was known as Gibraltar's unofficial Ambassador. I had arranged for him to meet with Angela, Elizabeth and Eileen. During the conversation Angela realised that she had already met Mr Bau at a reception in Gibraltar in 2006 to celebrate the 'twinning' of the towns.

Tired, but happy, the family made their way back to the airport taking with them photographs, plaques and many happy memories.


They were:

Camp 5 TANNYBRAKE not far from Moorfields






Camp 11 BREKAH (Breckagh)BRIDGE


Four camps - Dunaird (8), Drummack (9), Aughacully (10) and Brekah (Breckagh)(11) were set up just outside Broughshane. In these camps two thousand men, women and children lived in Nissan huts.

I contacted thelocal museum to discover that plaques had been erected in 1998, by Ballymena Borough Council, at the site of each camp. Armed with my camera I set out for Broughshane and with some difficulty found and photographed the sites.



Take the A42 from Ballymena to Broughshane.

In Broughshane Village turn right at McNeill's Hardware shop.

Take the first road on your left at the Church with Lynch Gate

Pass the 30 mile sign

Houston's Mill will be on your left

Large grey house on your right

Yellow electricity sub station set back in a field on left

Orange topped pole

Site of Dunaird Camp (8)



Plaque naming the camp erected in July 1998 by Ballymena Borough Council on the 50th Anniversary of official withdrawal.



Keep on this road and you will see a square red brick building on your left.

In front a plaque marks the Site of Drummack Camp (9)


The remains of one of the Nissan huts which had been home for the Gibraltarians.


Keep on this road, Hazelbank Road

From Broughshane Village you will travel for four miles

Pass an old Orange Hall on your left

Pass a newer on also on your left

A Gospel Hall on your right

Pass Innisfree Residential Home on your left

Pass the Hazelbank Primary School on your left

Keep going slowly and turn left into AUGHACULLY ROAD

Not far down that road you will see the plaque marking the Site of Aughacully Camp (10)



I'm not sure if this was some kind of water tower! It is on the same property as the plaque for the Aughacully camp.


Go for another mile and you will see, on a height, on your left, a white bungalow with a conservatory at the end of it.

On the pillar of this bungalow you will find the plaque marking the Site for the Brekah (Breckagh) Bridge Camp (No 11)


At the end of this road you will see a T junction. This is the main road from Ballymena to Carnlough.

Turn left for Ballymena and you will be driving back through the village of Broughshane.

Turn right and follow the main road to Carnlough.




I found that a friend of my aunt had taught in one of these camps so I went to talk to her. She told me how the whole population of Gibraltar had been evacuated in 1940. Some went to Morocco, some to America, to England and to a number of camps in Northern Ireland - Antrim, Down and Derry.


She told me how she had been asked by the Ministry of Education to take up a post in Dunaird Camp, two miles beyond Broughshane - a village five miles from Ballymena.

On 1 September 1945 she took the bus from Ballymena to Broughshane and then walked the two miles along a country road where there was not a house in sight. After a while she got the pungent smell of paraffin and knew she was almost there. This was a smell she would get used to - the paraffin was used to light the morning fires. The Nissan huts were in a field, one for each family. There were bigger huts for school, kitchen, staff premises and the community. They were linked by concrete paths.

She got a cautious welcome from a group of people and was led to her classroom at the back of the camp by Mr Hermida. The classroom was clean, had a blackboard and chalk, two long trestle tables and benches. That was all! No books, no jotters, no pencils and no glass in the windows.

She found that most of the children spoke no English and she had no Spanish. She recalled fondly how she was young and adaptable and spent the day organising games and having a concert.

The glass was put into the windows that evening, books and stationery soon arrived and all was set for the academic year.

During that year she taught the pupils aged from four to eight years.



Mr Hermida taught the older ones. She recalled how she found the children delightful and remembered them well - from Titi Bagu the youngest, who was often found crawling under the trestle tables, to the top group Jaime Ruiz, Jaime Garcia and the Dalmedo sisters.

She began to learn Spanish with Mr Hermida, aware that she would have to begin preparation for First Holy Communion.

She taught in Dunaird until June 1946.




Elizabeth told me that her parents, Angela (Sene) and Ernest Lara had lived in the Brekagh Bridge camp (11). They had been married in the Church of St Patrick, The Braid, Ballymena in April 1945 by Fr McHugh. I found that Fr McHugh - now Canon Dominic McHugh - was alive and well and ministering in Ballymoney.

I arranged to meet with him and hear his memories.

He recalled that during the war the Bishop of Gibraltar was an Irishman - Bishop Fitzgerald. He told me how he was Chaplain for the four camps - Dunaird, Drummack, Aughacully and Brekagh Bridge. About five hundred men, women and children lived in each camp. He lived in Pat O'Boyle's house at the bottom of Slemish and performed weddings, funerals and looked after the spiritual life of the people.

The Dunaird and Drummack camps were about half a mile apart. It was a bit further to Aughacully, with another half mile to Brekagh Bridge. Canon McHugh said Sunday Mass in Dunaird and the people from Drummack attended. Then he went to Aughacully and the people from Brekagh Bridge attended. When I asked him if he remembered Angela and Ernest Lara he produced a copy of their wedding photograph.

This is Angela and Ernest with Angela's parents - Rogelio and Isabel Sene and Fr Dominic McHugh.


Canon McHugh recalled how one of the daughters of Angela and Ernest had been chosen as 'Miss Gibraltar' and had her photograph in the Ballymena Observer.

I did some research and found that Lillian Anne Lara had indeed been Miss Gibraltar in 1975.

Canon McHugh remembered that Miss Maureen Fee from Tempo, Co Fermanagh had been the teacher in Brekagh Bridge (11). She had married Gerard Bogue and is now deceased.

He spoke of Angelo Montado, a Gibraltarian teacher. Her mother died here and was buried in Ballymena - maybe in a Pauper's Grave! Angelo went back and became the Principal of a school in Gibraltar.

Canon McHugh told me that his sister Moira had got engaged to Bill Jones of Glasgow just before the war. Bill was posted to Gibraltar and remained there all during the war. He started a Catholic Library in Gibraltar. Twenty five years after the war ended Moira and Bill returned to Gibraltar and found the library still functioning. When they chatted to the lady in charge, Tilly Peres, they discovered she had been in a camp near Ballymena during the war.



I was now on a quest. I visited the local library and used the microfiche to search through the local newspapers from 19944/45 for more information. I found that each camp had a committee to organise concerts and events. These are some of the articles I found:


29 September 1944 Belfast Weekly Telegraph

Gibraltarians' Tribute to Former Governor - Ceremony at Broughshane

Evacuees from Gibraltar now accommodated at the Camp at Dunaird paid tribute to the memory of a former Governor of their island on Sunday last when a large number of them assembled in First Broughshane Churchyard and a beautiful wreath was placed on the grave of Filed Marshal Sir George White, VC, hero of Ladysmith, who was Governor of Malta from 1900 till 1905.


In the little churchyard adjoining First Broughshane Presbyterian Church is the grave where eight generations of the White family lie buried. A marble inscription on the sidewall of the tomb preserves the memory of the first of the family interred there, Rev Faulke White, who was at one time minister of First Broughshane, and who, it is said, was a member of a deputation to welcome Prince of Orange. The last interment is that of Field Marshal Sir George White, VC, GCB, OM, GSCE, GCMG, GCIE, GCVO, JP, DL who died 24 June 1912. Occupying a central position is a large Celtic cross, inscribed


‘In loving memory of George Stuart White, VC, Field Marshal, Commander of the Forces, besieged in Ladysmith November 2 1889 to February 28, 1900'.


The Gibraltarian deputation consisted of Messrs T Correa, J Garcia, J Lima, J Silva, A Sampere, H Balestrino and A Ruiz.


Captain White and Mrs White and family, of Whitehall; the Rev Robert Strawbridge, MA, and large numbers from the congregations of First and Second Broughshane Presbyterian Churches attended the ceremony, which was held following the morning service.


Brought them happiness

After placing the wreath on the grave Mr T Correa said it was a great pleasure for him to lay this simple token of remembrance and homage to the hero of Ladysmith, Field Marshal George White, who when Governor of Gibraltar, had brought them happiness and had improved their welfare. He thanked Almighty God for having preserved their lives through four years of worries and danger, especially to enable them to render that act of sympathy towards one of the late Governors of Gibraltar.



Exhibiting a Coronation Medal and ribbon, Mr Correa said it may interest them to know that forty three years ago the late Field Marshal had pinned that medal on his breast when he was a boy at school, with the remark ‘Boy, you will love your God and King, and your country expects you to do your duty'. Continuing he said he thought he was doing a sacred duty by paying homage to a glorious officer of the British Empire. In conclusion, he wished to express sincere thanks to the people of Ulster for the kindness and hospitality which had been extended to them since their arrival.


Captain White's Thanks

Captain White, returning thanks, said ‘It is not only me as my father's son but, I think all the people of Broughshane and the Braid Valley who honoured my father when he was alive, who will appreciate the very kind gesture in honouring his memory now he is ‘what is called dead'. In this graveyard of a Christian Church I need not apologise for using the term ‘what is called dead' for we hope and believe that the spirit lives on and it influences the present and future.


It looks as if there were something deeper and more purposeful than blind chance when my father was Governor of Gibraltar, and where I was with him for three years as his aide-de-camp, when my first wife was a native of Gibraltar and was, I believe, actually in charge of you people on your arrival in England, that you should circle round under the strange forces of war to the Braid Valley, where my father had his home, where I have my home, and where his grandsons carry on his father's name. I have been so struck with the strangeness of this that I immediately made contact with you and offered you the limited hospitality which war-time allows. This ceremony is the result.


In groping for any purpose behind such strange concatenations of events, I would suggest that the small nations may have a larger part to play than the Great Powers in the world of the future if civilisation is not to be destroyed by further wars. two of these small nations are Ireland and Spain, not the Spain of Franco - god forbid - but the Spain of the Spanish republic which might have emerged had it not been strangled at birth. Though Gibraltar was an English possession, it was geographically part of Spain, and I think you have proved since your arrival here that there is a strong natural sympathy and affinity between the Irish and Spanish people.



I HOPE THEN, IT MAY BE PART OF God's plan for a better world in the future that all that is best in the Spanish: English and Irish spirit may combine, perhaps under the continuing guidance from behind the veil of such fine spirits as my father, to bring about peace and harmony between the peoples of which your kind gesture today and your appreciation of what welcome we have been able to show you is a hopeful symbol'.


Replying Mr Correa said he could assure them they would never forget the kindness they had received in Ulster, nor the benefits that the late Field-Marshal had conferred on Gibraltar. They would return to the ‘The Rock' to work for just such a wider understanding as Captain White had referred to.


The wreath, which was composed of a beautiful garland of natural flowers and heather bloom, was entwined with the Gibraltarian colours of red and white, and bore the inscription "Gibraltarian Evacuees at Emergency Camp No 8 Dunaird".



29 September 1944 Belfast Weekly Telegraph


Great praise is due to the Aghacully entertainment Committee for the splendid concert presented at that camp on two afternoons of last week, when an all-Aughacully troupe of Gibraltarian artists acquitted themselves like professionals. The programme consisted of ‘The Dress Rehearsal' (a Spanish musical play, the music being selected from various Spanish operas). ‘The Spanish Fiesta' (written and produced by Mr R L Mannia), and various solo items by members of the cast.


Programme in detail

'Nardos', Miss C Yeo and chorus (girls); ‘You Never Know' Mrs V Adams; Portuguese song, Mrs C Bensadon and chorus; Tango - ‘Trago Amargo' Mr G Iche; Tango ‘Quiero que quieras' Miss A Gonzalez; ‘Currieto de la Cruz', General chorus; ‘Yours' Mrs Adams; ‘Fru Fru' Mrs L Gonzalez and chorus; march ‘Los Monteros', Mrs Bensadon and chorus; folk song ‘Jota Aragonesa', Mrs Adams and Mr A Calamaro; comic duet ‘The Ducks' Mrs F Calamaro and Mr F Mosquera; tango ‘Scars' Mrs Adams; folk song ‘Iamplona'.


The scenery and costumes were most colourful, the dancing was in keeping with the traditional grace of the natives of Gibraltar, and the unanimous opinion of all the local people present was that such a show, if presented in a larger venue, such as Ballymena Town Hall, in aid of the Red Cross, or similar object, would draw an overflow audience.



29 September 1944 Belfast Weekly Telegraph


Ways and means of saving the crops in these days of labour shortage is a topic which interests everyone, and when Mr Hunter McCabe, who is rendering excellent service as organiser of the local Voluntary Land Scheme, spoke on the subject at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Ballymena on Tuesday he had a sympathetic and appreciative audience. He was cordially welcomed by President Patrick Murphy, as was also Rotarian John Carson, following his recent illness.


When the Voluntary Land Service was inaugurated in Ballymena last year, Mr McCabe said, it did not take on too well at the beginning, partly because of the lack of interest of the townspeople, and partly because of the doubts of the farmers concerning the ability of the people who were going out to work.


He caused amusement by saying that when he took the first two lorry loads of helpers to the country the farmer for whom they were intended had a look at them and told him to take them away as they were no use. On the way back he called with another farmer. He was more responsive, and after the volunteers had done some work for him he gave them tea and said they were the best workers he had ever had!


Mr McCabe said he had the greatest difficulty in persuading farmers that townspeople were really fit, and he pointed out that a big percentage of the helpers were farmers' sons.

Last year the voluntary helpers were mainly townspeople and numbered three hundred and ninety five. This year the majority were evacuees from Gibraltar; they numbered eight hundred and fifty and the local workers two hundred. Assistance was given to one hundred and twenty farmers last year, and this year to one hundred farmers. With seven weeks of the harvest season still remaining, he expected that the help which they had been able to provide last year would be doubled.


Explaining why he had taken up the Voluntary Land Scheme, Mr McCabe said that part of his life was spent with the Merchant Navy in bringing in food, and he was desirous of making things easier for those gallant men if at all possible.


More help had been needed this year in saving the harvest. Because of the inclement weather the crops were flattened, and in some place, five or six men were required for work which could normally be done by two or three with the use of machinery.


In conclusion, Mr McCabe referred to the transport problem and acknowledged the assistance given by the Civil Defence in supplying vehicles and invaluable help which he received from Messrs Thomas B Whiteside (Town Clerk), J E Owens and J V Caldwell. In addition to three regular journeys to the Toome, Glarryford and Clough districts they served isolated places, chiefly in the Ballymoney area, and he appealed for the use of private cars for this purpose.


The President conveyed the thanks of the club to Mr McCabe for his interesting talk.


24 November 1944 Ballymena Weekly Telegraph


A concert, promoted by the Gibraltarian Entertainment Committee of Dunaird Emergency Camp, was held in Camp 8 last week and proved most enjoyable. The programme consisted of eighteen items, ranging from very clever dancing a la Fred Astaire to tuneful singing by pretty girls in nautical costume.


Details - Spanish quickstep, ‘'Gato Montex', Misses W and R Collins; song, ‘Darling' Miss A Pitto; ‘Please Listen to My Song', Misses W and D Collins, A Pitto, A and R Penalver, A and E Attias; ‘ Three Sisters' Misses W D and R Collins; ‘Trinia' Miss Aida Attias; tango, Miss R Collins and C Macias; tango, C Macias and group; ‘Limonera' quickstep, Miss R Collins and group; ‘It Can't Be Wrong' Miss A Attias; ‘Sailor with the Navy Blue Eyes' Miss W Collins and group; ‘La Paloma' Miss A Attias and M Finlayson; ‘Mr Lyons' comic sketch by John Macido; ‘Heaven' Miss W Collins; ‘Camilleno' E Balestrino, G Bocio, J Padina; ‘La Chupeta' (the Comforter) men's group; ‘Lamentos de un Evacuado' (song written and composed by Miss Angeles Caetano and E Balestrino and sung in public for the first time by the latter); ‘Patio Sevillano' (a courtyard in Seville) mixed chorus, with E Balilisco, traditional Spanish singer; ‘Penon' mixed chorus, Mr Paco Galia was at the piano and Mr M Glynn was an accomplished accordionist. At the close of the show Mr J Davidson, warden, was the recipient of a spontaneous ovation from the audience.

8 December 1944 Ballymena Weekly Telegraph


A high standard was maintained by the group of Gibraltarian artists who presented a very enjoyable concert at Camp 9, Drummack, last week. The scenery, costumes and singing in the operetta, ‘La Dolorosa' reflected great credit upon the producers and players, and several others items were of a class worthy of presentation to a larger audience.




‘Silver' Mrs A Martinez; ‘Mi Mare' Mrs P Vilia; ‘Tatuaje' Miss H Casey and W Mascarenhas; Rumba Miss R Pons; Pasodoble Miss C Viagas, Operetta, ‘La Dolorosa' cast - Nicasia Miss M Bijeranp; Perico F Rocca; Rafael W Vinet; Padres W Marcarenhas, P Gole, Jose F Spiteri; Bienvenido M Bensusan; Juanico Mrs Monteverdi ‘Mario de la O' Mrs Martinez and chorus; ‘Talaverano' Miss A Bejerano and chorus; ‘Ranchera' M Macias; ‘Wus Comico' Mrs Martinez and A Ferro; ‘Salome' Mrs Villa; ‘Malavena' Mrs L Spiteri; ‘Oigami' Miss A Bejeramo and W Vinet; ‘Morena' Mrs Martinez and W Vinet with chorus; ‘Manojo de Claveles' Miss H Casey; ‘That's the Moon' Miss H Lucas; ‘Los Claveles' Miss Viagas and W Mascarenhas; recitation Mrs Villa; ‘Agua del Mediterraneo' sung by the entire company and ‘God Save the King'. The producers were Mrs P Villa, Messrs J Lenia, M Bensusan, and D Monteverde, and the pianist was Mr S Bugga


8 December 1944 Ballymena Weekly Telegraph


Lady O'Neill's letter

Lady Sylvia O'Neill, Cleggan Lodge, Ballymena writing in Monday's ‘Times' in answer to a letter in that paper asking for information about the Gibraltar evacuees, says:


There are one thousand six hundred of them living in Nissen huts in four camps in the valley and about three thousand five hundred in other camps in Ulster.


They came in July and, rightly or wrongly, were convinced they were only to be here a short time on their way home. These camps are quite unsuitable for people used to a warm climate.


At present they are seas of mud. There is no electric light and the sanitation is of the most primitive kind. The evacuees' clothes and shoes are most inadequate, and many of them have not the means to purchase more.


The worst aspect, to my mind, of the whole affair, is that it is impossible for them to find work, and it is soul-destroying for people, especially those, many of them who are young, to spend weeks and months with no work and very little amusement.


We are a purely agricultural community, nearly all family farms. During the harvest some of the men were employed but the Gibraltarian is not an agricultural worker. A few have found work in Ballymena, six miles away.


The Gibraltarians were mostly earning good ways in England and of course paid their unemployment insurance contribution, but they cannot draw any benefit because of the residence qualification enjoined by Ulster legislation.


The Gibraltarians feel this is a great injustice and the very small allowance of pocket money they receive is much resented.


Theoretically, the Gibraltarians are at liberty to leave the camps, but as residence permits are needed for strangers living in Northern Ireland and are not granted to the Gibraltarians and travel permits to Great Britain are almost unobtainable, these people are to all intents and purposed in concentration camps.


The Gibraltarians are most loyal British subjects and it seems to me little short of a tragedy that at the end of the war we should return to Gibraltar (one of our most vital links of Empire) five thousand people who feel they have had a very raw deal at the hand of the British Government.


23 February 1945 Ballymena Weekly Telegraph


The Gibraltarians at the Braid camps are displaying more and more talent in entertainment as was proved by a concert staged at Breckagh and Aghacully last week. Several items notably a ‘BBC Broadcast to Gibraltar', were most entertaining and refreshingly original, the ingenuity displayed in capturing the atmosphere of a real broadcast being an outstanding feature. Mr Harry Pearce as the announcer and commentator was ‘BBC' to the life!


The various items, Mr J L Gomez acting as accompanist throughout, were Rhumba sung by Miss C Gomez and danced by eight graceful girls; Spanish tango ‘El Pericon' sung by Mr J Roderiguez; Argentine dance, Spanish Pasodoble; song @I Wonder Why' by Misses J Olivero, Lourdes and Juana Ferrari; ‘Espada Trium' sung by Mr L Suarez; ‘The Bells are Ringing' action song by eight lovely lassies; Tango by Mr H Vinales; ‘The Great Illusion; a clever piece of Maskelyne magic by Messrs H Pearce and J Gomez; A pleasant surprise! Eight bonnie Braid lassies (whose birthplace was the Rock!), dressed in a near approach to Irish costume, gave an exhibition of an eight-hand reel which reflected great credit both upon themselves and their teacher, Miss Sheila Hughes. ‘Public Bench' a humorous sketch depicting what might happen at any seat in any park in our democratic country; ‘Alegria de la Huerta' a Spanish operetta, from which a lovely song was sung by Mr M and Mrs Reyes and Mr L Suarez; Hungarian dance by Miss G Vinales and Miss C Garcia. ‘The Somnambulist' comic sketch by Miss T Vinales, Messrs H Pearce and H Vinales; Spanish song, with castanet accompaniment, by Miss E Gomez and Mr L Suarez; ‘Seranade' (Schubert), accordion duet by Misses E Gomez and R Vinales; ‘Three Little Sisters' Misses R M and T Vinales; Irish reel, six Breckagh belles; ‘El Sembrador' Mr Manuel Reyes; ‘Broadcast to Gibraltar'.


The following committee merit a attribute on their faultless organisation; Messrs John Gomez, Carlos Perez, Thomas Estelle and E Lara.


Visit of Bishop of Gibraltar to All Saints' Church 2000

All Saints' Church, Ballymena had a visit from a group of Gibraltarians, led by their Bishop, Monsignor Charles Caruana. All the members of the group, including the Bishop, had spent time in Northern Ireland as evacuees. They had come to thank our people for kindness shown to them at that time. They presented the parish with a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Europe.

In Gibraltar the 'Shrine of Our Lady of Europe' has a long and interesting history. During a brief Spanish occupation of Gibraltar 1309-1333, the first mention of a Christian Shrine was recorded.

Historical notes on the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe


The Iberian Peninsula was invaded and occupied by the Moors from Africa. The first Moorish tribes came in 710 to spy out the land. Tarik Abu-Zara landed at the most southerly part of Europe, the area was called Tarifa in his honour.

In April 711, thousands of wild tribesmen under Tarik ibn Zeyad, scrambled ashore on or near the Rock and renamed it Jebel-Tarik, mountain of Tarik.

Between the years 742 and 1300 they had already built what is now known as the Moorish Castle. At the southernmost tip of the rock close to the sea, they built a mosque, a place of Islamic prayer. They lived in Gibraltar until 1309, when they were expelled from Europe.

There is historical evidence to corroborate the belief that the mosque was built before 1309. It is known that already at that early date, during a brief Spanish occupation (1309-1333) the mosque was used as a Christian shrine.

During 1333 Gibraltar was again occupied by the Moors and they remained here until they were finally expelled in 1462.

On 20th August 1462, on St. Bernard of Clairvaux's feastday, the Spaniards under Don Rodrigo Ponce de Leon recaptured Gibraltar from the Moors and expelled them once and for all. They found this little mosque and soon it was converted into a Christian shrine in honour of Our Lady as Patroness of Europe, with devout intention of consecrating to God, through Mary, the whole continent, from a place of prayer and worship at its southernmost point.

The Spaniards built a large chapel at right angles to the mosque's east wall and the whole area became the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe.

A statue of the Virgin and Child was installed in this shrine. The statue was quite small, only two feet in height, carved in wood and polychromed in royal red, blue and gold. The Virgin was seated in a simple chair, with the Child Jesus on her lap. Both were crowned and the Virgin held in her right hand a sceptre with three flowers denoting Love, Truth and Justice. The shrine prospered in fame and popularity, for well over two centuries. Ships passing through the Strait saluted Our Lady as they passed Europa Point and mariners often came ashore with gifts to the shrine. Provisions were made by them for a constant supply of oil so that a light could be kept burning not only in front of the image but also in the tower. We read of special favours and graces being granted to people who invoked her name.

Gibraltar suffered many raids during these years by Turkish pirates. The most notorious took place on 10th September 1540. The Turkish corsair Hali Hamat, one of Barbarossa's captains, guided by an Italian renegade called Caramanli, sacked the shrine and robbed it of all its valuables. They moved down to the town capturing many captives and tried to enter the Cathedral, which was well defended by a priest called Francisco Saavedra. The pirates set sail with their treasures and captives but were intercepted by the Spanish fleet under the command of Bernardino Mendoza and were defeated near Cartagena. Caramanli was killed in this battle. This incident led to the hermit who lived at the shrine to write to the King of Spain, Charles V, asking him to do something to protect the shrine. Charles V did nothing but his son, Philip II, had high walls erected around it. The shrine was used as a refuge whenever there was trouble in the town.

Portillo the Spanish historian of the 17th century gives evidence in his books of the many miracles that occurred at the shrine and how beautiful and richly endowed it was. Father Jerónimo de la Concepción who wrote a book on Our Lady of Europe also mentions the miracles.

In 1568 Giovanni Andrea Doria, son of the great Genoese sailor presented a beautiful silver lamp to the shrine. Don Juan de Austria, brother of Philip II, also presented two massive silver lamps to the shrine after winning the battle of Lepanto.

The small building was clearly painted in one of Don Luis Bravo's drawings. He had come to Gibraltar in 1627 to prepare a report for the Courts of Spain, showing the existing fortifications and buildings of the town.

On the 4th August 1704 Gibraltar was captured by the British fleet under Admiral Rooke. The shrine was stripped of all its valuables by the marines. The statue of the Virgin and Child was mutilated and flung onto the rocks below, but being made of wood it floated out to sea. The pieces were found by a fisherman, who took them to father Juan Romero de Figueroa, the priest in charge at the Cathedral. This priest took the pieces of the statue to Algeciras for safekeeping.

The shrine itself now ceased to be a place of worship. During the Great Siege of 1779-1783 the shrine was badly damaged and consequently the Spanish extension was demolished. The people of Gibraltar always sought the return of the statue, so a replica was made. The statue was decorated by the people with all kinds of precious jewels. The statue was taken to the Cathedral. It still reveals the numerous tiny holes that held the gems in position around the neck of Our Lady.

A guild of devotees to Our Lady of Europe was formed. Their main aims were to encourage devotion to Our Lady, organise pilgrimages and also the care of the poor. They provided funds to bury those who died without any money for a Christian burial.

In 1779 during the Great Siege, Father Mesa, seeing that the Cathedral was on fire, took the statue image to Windmill Hill Flats where the people had taken refuge.

The image was received with great signs of joy. It was housed in a little chapel they had there. When the siege ended the image of Our Lady was brought back to the main altar in the Cathedral, where it remained until 1932, when it was taken to the sacristy. The image saw the light again forty years later in 1973, when it presided at the altar in the R.A.F. hanger where Monsignor Rapallo was ordained bishop. Meanwhile the original statue of Our Lady of Europe, remained in Algeciras until May 1864, when Bishop Scandella, with the help of Pope Pius IX, received permission to recover the image to Gibraltar. On the day it was brought back the army lined the route of the procession from Waterport to the Franciscan Convent, opposite the present Government House. A copy of the statue was left in Algeciras.

During the First Vatican Council, Bishop Scandella succeeded in winning the Pope's enthusiastic interest for the shrine of Our Lady of Europe and he offered to help build a temporary chapel. This was completed by May 1866. It stood in what is now Mount Alvernia, (the old people's home), in St Bernard's Road. The Pope donated the marble for the altar. The front piece of the altar depicted the coat of arms of Pope Pius IX and Bishop Scandella's, together with a monogram of Our Lady. During the war in 1939 the image was transferred to the Cathedral for safekeeping.

Meanwhile the shrine had been used as an army storehouse for oil and packing cases. In 1910, E.R. Kenyon describes the shrine, in one of his books about Gibraltar, as "an ugly only little building which stands among the army barracks." Later the shrine became an army guardroom. The whipping post outside the shrine dates from this period. There are records that in 1928 it was used as a library for the garrison stationed in Gibraltar. In 1939 during the Second World War it again became a store.

During the Marian Year in 1954, on the evening of Sunday 15th August, the Feast of the Assumption, a torch-lit procession took place and the image of Our Lady was moved from the Cathedral to St Joseph's Church, the nearest parish church to the shrine.

By 1959 the military authorities had no use for the building and they decided to demolish it. However it was saved from demolition and was declared an ancient monument and so preserved. From then on the Church authorities worked to promote devotion to Our Lady of Europe and so prepare the way for installing the statue again at the shrine.

The keys of the building, which was in a very dilapidated state, were given to Bishop Healy on the 17th October 1961, at a private ceremony in the shrine. The work of restoration began in 1962. On 28th September in this same year Bishop Healy celebrated the first Mass at the shrine after 258 years, it was on the eve of his departure for Rome to attend the Second Vatican Council. The first Baptism was held in November 1966 and the first wedding was celebrated in July 1976.

On the 7th October 1968 came the triumphant moment when Bishop Healy was able to restore the statue of Our Lady to the shrine. It was brought in public procession from St Joseph's Church.

During 1973 the renovation of the shrine started. An extension was made to the chapel, a new altar and a pedestal for the image were made from the original marble donated by Pope Pius IX. When the existing canopy entrance, between the two large buttresses, was being constructed the workers discovered that another doorway had been there. It was the original entrance to the shrine at the foot of the tower. During the restoration work, the image was taken to Mount Alvernia, where it remained till the 14th February 1974.

To the joy of the Gibraltarians, the preamble to the New Constitution, stating that Gibraltar would never be handed to Spain or to any other nation without an Act of Parliament and without the people's consent, was published on the feast of Our Lady of Europe, 30th May 1969. This same year a hymn to Our Lady of Europe was written and composed by Sr J. Imossi. In 1979 Pope John Paul II officially approved the title of Our Lady of Europe as Patroness of Gibraltar and the transfer of her feastday to the 5th May, which was also Europe day.

The shrine was consecrated by Bishop Rapallo on the 5th October 1980. A commemorative postal cover was issued to mark this occasion.

On 10th. September I995, Gibraltar's National Day, the plans for the intended renovation and refurbishment of the Shrine, as a more worthy focus of the Marian devotion of the people of Gibraltar and pilgrims from abroad, were revealed.

These would include the building of an extension to accommodate the sacristy, office, toilets, shop and museum. The shrine itself would be extended and a tower built.

The Shrine's restoration was half funded by the European Commission and the Gibraltar Government. In conjunction with the fund raising a set of gold, silver and nickel commemorative medals were produced to be sold as collectors' pieces.

His Holiness the Pope, noted with particular interest the intended renovation and sent the following letter to the Bishop.

From the Vatican, 6th September 1995

My Lord Bishop,

The Holy Father was pleased to be informed of the ceremonies to be held at the Shrine, set up by King Ferdinand IV in the year 1309 and dedicated to the Mother of Christ under the title of Our Lady of Europe. He has noted with particular interest that the venerable building is currently being extended and refurbished as a more worthy focus of the Marian devotion of the people of Gibraltar and of the many pilgrims from elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

At a time when the unity of the continent of Europe is being fostered and strengthened, it is indeed appropriate that Gibraltar should house such a potent symbol of such unity, which belongs not only to the civil and political level but is also and specially a reality in the spiritual sphere.

It is the prayer of His Holiness that the Shrine will be an ever effective centre of unification, a place where, under the patronage of Mary, the human family will be drawn ever more closely into fraternal unity and peaceful coexistence.

With these sentiments the Holy Father invokes abundant divine graces upon those gathering for the religious observances, and with affection in the Lord he imparts his Apostolic Blessing to you and to the whole Church in Gibraltar.

With fraternal best wishes, I remain

Yours in Christ

G. B. RE


Information & pictures supplied by G J Linares MBE


The presentation of the statue occurred after the sermon of the Bishop at a special Mass, which was attended by our own Bishop Farquhar, our local priests and a large congregation. The choir provided beautiful hymns and music.

At the celebration the Bishop mentioned that two people in the Congregation had special links with Gibraltar - Monsignor Dominic McHugh and Sister Josephine McVeigh and they received a special blessing as the procession of priests left the Church.

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