Plaque commemorates Mons Calpe’s community history
A commemorative plaque was unveiled yesterday by the Minister for Housing Samantha Sacramento and members of the Gaggero family including John G Gaggero at the Mons Calpe Mews Estate.
The Gaggero family operated the ship the Mons Calpe which for 33 years was the life line between Gibraltar and Morocco especially during the closed frontier years.
The blocks on the estate have been named after tender vessels, which serviced the Mons Calpe. MH Bland procured a plaque depicting the Mons Calpe, now installed on the wall at the main entrance of the estate adjacent to the zebra crossing leading from Watergardens.
The idea was the brainchild of MH Bland Marketing Manager Mandy Gaggero, who on approaching Ms Sacramento with the idea found it was immediately welcomed and praised.
“Mandy approached me and said I have this idea, given that the estate is named after the Mons Calpe wouldn’t it be nice if MH Bland commemorated it in some way because of all the blocks in the estate named after ships,” said Ms Sacramento.
Addressing the former crew members of the Mons Calpe and guests Ms Gaggero called the vessel her father’s baby and said “it is a privilege and an honour to have these buildings in Mons Calpe Mews named after such an iconic vessel that played such an important part in our history. Everyone has such fond memories of Mons Calpe.”
Crew and administration members of the Mons Calpe Bob Jeffries, Diego Yome, Charles Wilding and Louis Pereira were all present at the unveiling.
All of the men were impressed with the plaques and the naming of the buildings, “This is beautiful, a very good idea,” said Mr Jeffries.
“I think it is a great privilege and it brings back very happy memories,” said John Gaggero.
“It was a super crew we worked as a team for 33 years, we never had a break down in those years, we went across the Strait when other vessels cancelled, it was a happy ship, busy but happy,” he added.
His wife Valerie was also present at the unveiling, as a young mother she stayed at home and raised the family while her husband operated the Mons Calpe.
“I feel very proud that the family did that, operate the Mons Calpe, it was very tough times for Gibraltar, for 16 years we were locked up and it was the only way out other than the aircraft,” she said.
Both Mr and Mrs Gaggero recalled their favourite story about the Mons Calpe days.
“Children used to get taken to Tangiers for the day so they would get to see fields, and their mothers used to always say buy me some fresh vegetables,” said Mrs Gaggero.
“One of them brought a carrot and two boys were having an argument about which way did the carrot grow, one said the leaves were up the other said don’t be silly the leaves go down,” she added.
“This is a true story,” said Mr Gaggero. “
“Two boys on the deck debating whether a carrot goes up or down,” he added.
Four more plaques were installed at the entrance of the blocks which were named after MH Blands tender vessels: Abyla, Express, Seagull and Express. The plaques depict the silhouette of the historic vessels that serviced the port in Gibraltar and provide a brief history.
The remaining two blocks, Viking and Sea Master, have had plaques installed by Wilhelmsen and Tarik Shipping, whose tender vessels they are named after.
Ms Sacramento thanked the company for their donation of the plaques.
“MV Mons Calpe, a purpose built vessel manufactured in 1954 by MH Bland for the transportation of cars, goods and passengers to and from Tangier. Upon the closure of the frontier between Gibraltar and Spain in 1969, MV Mons Calpe became Gibraltar’s umbilical cord, transporting many essential goods such as oxygen for the hospital and fresh fruit and vegetable to locals from Morocco.
“ To this day, many Gibraltarians are grateful to MV Mons Calpe for the life line it provided during those difficult times,” said the Government.