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The ‘Minorkeens’ of Gibraltar - The book that looks at the origins of our Menorcan roots

A review by Mojluf Cohen

This book relates, for the first time, the story of the Menorcans who came to the Rock to trade, work and settle during the period when both Gibraltar and Menorca were under the British flag.

Published in the original Catalan in September 2018, with the English version appearing in August 2021, the book started as a project some 20 years ago when its author and friend of Gibraltar, Martí Crespo i Sala, wrote an article on the origins of the Menorcan surnames of Gibraltar.

By 2018, after frequent visits to Gibraltar and research in the archives in Cadiz, Menorca and Gibraltar, Martí had expanded the original study to a book of eleven chapters and five appendices.

‘By the end, Bishop Caruana and I would walk the streets of Gibraltar seeing only the historical figures we had been discussing for so long, standing at every street corner,’ said Martí in conversation in December 2019.

The ‘Minorkeens’ of Gibraltar

Following the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), Gibraltar and Menorca became British Crown possessions under Articles X and XI, leading to an intense period of military, commercial and migratory contract between them until Menorca returned to Spain under the Treaty of Amiens (1802). Many Menorcans, almost exclusively from the town of Sant Felip (St Philip’s Town), the settlement which grew under the shadow of the British fortress near Mahon, headed to Gibraltar and it is their contribution to today’s Gibraltarian society which this book, drawing on new material based on research in the archives of Menorca, Cadiz and Gibraltar, now brings to a wider audience.

The title of the book comes from the ‘List of inhabitants of Gibraltar taken by General Boyd’s order in February 1777,’ in which the resident population of Menorcan origin was significant enough to merit its own separate category, alongside Genoese, Jews, Portuguese and Spaniards. They were listed under the title of ‘Minorkeens.’

Since then, the ‘Menorcan strand’ in our society has often been obscured by two factors: the Gibraltar-born children of Menorcans were classified as ‘Natives’ and, once Menorca returned to Spain, the census entries for persons previously listed as ‘from Mahon’ or ‘Minorkeen’ were shown as being ‘from Spain’.

Although the contribution of the Genoese, Jews and Maltese who settled here has been well documented, the story of the strong links of Menorcans who journeyed back and forth to the Rock has not attracted as much attention – until now.

Success of the book

Despite no particular promotion of the English language version and no launch event, the book has sold over one hundred copies in Kindle and paperback formats in various countries: Australia, Italy, Spain, USA and UK.

In Gibraltar, the initial thirty copies ordered by Gibraltar Heritage Trust sold out.

There are copies lodged at the British Library and, closer to home, two copies were gifted to the John Mackintosh Hall Library.

It is also available via Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1919650806

What readers have said about ‘The “Minorkeens”’

The book has had a good review on Amazon.

A former EU head of translation said:

‘5.0 out of 5 stars

A fascinating account of the little-known history of Gibraltar and Menorca

This book recounts the fascinating if little-known history of Gibraltar in British hands, and its relationship with the people of Menorca. It offers valuable insights into the military and religious background of Gibraltar that help to decode the Rock's present-day relationships.’

If you are unable to read the Catalan original, this fine and sensitive translation by Brian Porro is a must.’

Richard Garcia had nothing but praise for the English version and, through it, the original work by Martí Crespo.

He wrote:

‘The best compliment that I can offer is that the book does not read like a translation: it appears to all intents as if it had originally been written in English. [Brian’s] style is enviably fluid, clear and readable. I know that I am not alone in appreciating the time and effort [he] put into this work. [Brian has] done us all a great service in making such an interesting work accessible to those, like me, who have little Catalan.’

Further reading

Sample the English of the book at version at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1919650806

Also, since publishing the Catalan and English versions, the author has launched a website: http://gibaltar.cat, where he showcases more Gibraltar-related information on Menorca and our connected history.

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