Gibraltar literary week an audience with Richard Garcia


Ask anyone in Gibraltar if they have heard the name of John Mackintosh, and they will associate it with the John Mackintosh Hall library. But as we found out in Richard Garcia’s “An Audience with…” at this year’s Literary Week organised by Gibraltar Cultural Services, and held appropriately at the John Mackintosh Hall, there is a lot more. In his excellent talk, Richard highlighted that we all know what John Mackintosh’s money did, but very little is generally known about the man. He is publishing a book about the life of John Mackintosh, which is being launched this December, where he hopes to address this.

John Mackintosh was born in Gibraltar on 15 July 1865 at 22 Prince Edward’s Road, where he spent most of his life. His father, John Mackintosh, a native of Scotland, had settled in Gibraltar to do business as a general merchant. Mackintosh’s father died before he was born, so he was brought up in a one parent family, with two older sisters. His mother, Adelaide Peacock, came from an old Gibraltarian merchant family who were also of Scottish descent. Mackintosh went on to marry Victoria Canepa on 30 June 1909, whose mother was one of the seven Saccone sisters, an affluent family of the times. The couple had an only daughter, Adelaide.

gibraltar literary week an audience with richard garcia

His father came to Gibraltar from Scotland, via Liverpool, when he was twenty-five years old. He was a founder member of the shipping agency, Mackintosh, Middleton, and Bland, and later became senior partner, as he persuaded Middleton to leave. He supplied coal to the ships, and he created the Gibraltar Gas Company in the south district where he used the coal for the supply of gas.

He also realised that there was money to be made in facilitating the crossing of vessels through the straits. Sailing ships could not come into the Mediterranean with an easterly wind and could not go out into the Atlantic with a westerly. So, by having a steamboat and a tug, these unfavourable winds would not be an issue, and they could come and go through the straits without having to wait for the appropriate wind to guide them. When John’s father died, he had not left a will, so his twenty-two-year-old mother was left unable to run the business.

gibraltar literary week an audience with richard garcia

John and his two sisters were educated in the United Kingdom. At the age of twenty-five he worked as an employee in one of the coaling firms in the UK. He returned to Gibraltar to join his uncle, John Peacock, in the cotton goods and shipping trade as Peacock & Company. He later became a partner with C.W. Mathiesen, Consul for Denmark and shipping agent. This partnership was later followed by that of Crusoe & Mackintosh, who prospered by developing its extensive coal business. Eventually John Mackintosh bought out Crusoe and traded as Mackintosh & Co, a company which he formed into a limited company in 1923.

Just after World War One, the coal business was thriving, and Mackintosh was the sole owner of his businesses at a time when the ports of Oran and Algiers could not supply coal.

gibraltar literary week an audience with richard garcia

In the 1930’s some parts of the newly built North Mole were made available for the coaling trade at a rental fee of £30,000 per annum. The 1930’s were a tough time in Gibraltar and people were migrating to South America. Around this time, John Macintosh diverted his attention to the oil business, by introducing the Asiatic Petroleum Company, later Shell, to Gibraltar. He set up the first petrol station in Winston Churchill Avenue, by the Corral, and he also supplied diesel to ships. It was important to diversify, and he had the money to realise all his projects. In the 1920’s he had become chairman of Saccone & Speed, which had offices in Malta and UK, supplying tobacco, wines, and spirits.

By 1934, the company his father had started, the Gibraltar Gas Company, was in financial trouble, and the City Council refused to buy it. It went into liquidation, and as a major shareholder, he took over the assets of the company.

His last love was shipping. Coal was transported from UK on colliers, bulk cargo ships that were used to carry coal. John Mackintosh also acquired control of a Cornish shipping company that owned and managed cargo ships. He bought a company to supply the coal and then built the ships to transport the coal himself. He was in control at every stage of the supply chain.

gibraltar literary week an audience with richard garcia

When he withdrew from the coaling business, he looked at Tangiers, the international city, and went into the property market. He also received a knighthood from Norway and Denmark. John Mackintosh was well read and fond of music. He enjoyed his holiday homes in Pau and San Sebastian. His daughter, Adelaide, had a mental illness, and spent most of her life institutions.

He was very interested in the welfare of his native Gibraltar and addressing the needs of the aged, the sick, and the poor. He endowed an alter at St Mary’s the Crowned, and a window at the Holy Trinity that was destroyed by the Bedenham explosion.

He was a very popular and approachable man. He died at the same house in which he was born, on 28 February 1940, and he was deeply mourned by everyone in the fortress. In his will he left his money to various projects in Gibraltar, as he did not want to leave the responsibility of managing such a huge empire to this wife Victoria.

gibraltar literary week an audience with richard garcia

John Mackintosh Hall

The John Mackintosh Hall Trust built on the site of the old military Grand Stores that was destroyed after the Bedenham explosion in 1951. The John Mackintosh Hall was opened to the public by the then Governor, General Sir Dudley Ward, on 8th April 1964. In compliance with the specifics of the Will, the new hall contained a library, theatre/conference hall, gymnasium, and wing for higher education as well as spacious halls for exhibitions and other public functions.

gibraltar literary week an audience with richard garcia

John Mackintosh Wing, St. Bernard’s Hospital

The John Mackintosh Wing with 76 beds was opened on the 22nd of September 1969, by the Governor and Admiral of the Fleet Sir Varyl Begg. It was described as a magnificent modern hospital splendidly equipped for medical and surgical work including an intensive care unit for medical and surgical work, including an intensive care unit for cardiac cases and a nurses training school.

John Mackintosh Homes

Three homes for the aged were built and maintained by the Mackintosh Trust, namely, Mount Alvernia in St Bernard’s Road, the Anglican home (now leased to a bank by the Board of Governors of the Homes) and the Jewish Home, both in Line Wall Road. They were completed in 1964 and funds were allocated by the Trust to meet the annual running expenses. In 1972 the Trust endowed the Homes with a sum of £1millon and a final settlement of a further £600,000 in 1992. Subsequently the maintenance was taken over by the Government. The Mackintosh Homes are virtually the only care facility available to our senior citizens.

Victoria Stadium

The Victoria Stadium forms part of the main sporting complex in Gibraltar. The financial assistance given to the Gibraltar Sports Association, especially by Mrs Mackintosh, was such, that the stadium was named after her. It was achieved by purchasing the land, and permission was given to build up to one storey in case it was needed to be re-taken by the military.

Student Scholarships

Some £20,000 are provided annually for student scholarships and grants. Most students of the 1960’s and 1970’s will remember that if they did not qualify for a Government Scholarship through their ‘A’ Level results they could apply for a Mackintosh scholarship.

The Magistrates’ Poor Fund

This fund was vested in the body of Justices of the Peace providing some £4,500 relief for the poor and needy annually.

On National Day 2008, John Mackintosh was posthumously awarded the Gibraltar Medallion of Honour by Parliament for his services to philanthropy. There is a bust of John Mackintosh at the Parliament building in John Mackintosh Square.

There is so much to know about John Mackintosh, and it is because historians like Richard Garcia write about him, that we can keep alive our rich cultural history. You would think that there is no history in Gibraltar before 1704 and, when there is, it is all about the garrison. It is the responsibility of this generation to encourage writers to write about our history and our civilian culture.

A copy of Richard’s new book about the life of John Mackintosh is a worthy addition to a collection of Gibraltar books in your personal library and I encourage you to get a copy.

Text By Terence Moss


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