Over 200 years ago, in the early months of 1801, five regiments of Foot from the Gibraltar Garrison were hurriedly shipped to Egypt to face the threat of Napoleon, First Consul of France. They left behind their womenfolk and children.
Official casualty lists and news were slow and scanty at the time, although all the news received was posted on a notice board in the Gibraltar Garrison Library. So much interest was created it was decided to make the information available to the public.
On 4 May 1801, a bulletin headed, "Continuation of the INTELLIGENCE FROM EGYPT 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.
The edition of 4 May consisted of four pages, the first three being in English and French. The fourth page gave the names and regiments of officers who had fallen since the army had landed in Egypt in 1801, and the "glorious news" of Nelson's victory at Copenhagen. The second edition was printed on 8 May 1801.
It was to be published weekly, every Friday, and 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.
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:
"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 SOVREIGN 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..."
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