John Mackintosh (Hall)

We I interrupt the endless medical bulletins to talk about something that doesn’t involve drugs and broken bones.

For any readers who don’t know, I live in a tiny flat, a kennel flat no less as it is only about big enough for Pippa, let alone me, Partner and Snowy. It is the bottom end of the market, partly because I didn’t want to extend ourselves, and partly because they tend to be easier to sell.

It is however, prime real estate within the city walls and within the Jewish quarter. The Jewish community is always a safe spec when buying property, not that I realised we were in Jewry when I bought.

Be all that as it may, and financial investments apart, the main attraction of our flat is location x 3 because we are so central and near to everything. OK everything is near in Gib terms, but everything is very near to us.

Over the road is the library, meeting rooms, lecture theatre and a home to performing arts.

John Mackintosh Hall was opened in 1964 and is a typically disgusting piece of 60s architecture. All around it are nice twee buildings so I found this ugly piece of work quite discordant and dismissed it as typical 60s modernism, rip down the old and put up something new and unsightly.

Ugly 60s building
Ugly 60s building

Originally it was the old military Grand Stores but the building was destroyed by an explosion in 1951.

The Grand Stores
The Grand Stores

Naval armament carrier RFA Bedenham had tied up at Gun Wharf but during the unloading of some depth charges, one ignited causing a fire which spread to the Bedenham resulting in a violent explosion. Thirteen people were killed, and not only were the Grand Stores damaged, the two cathedrals and The Convent (governor’s residence) also suffered from the explosion.

But it was to be more than ten years later before the new hall was built and opened on the site.

Architects' designs for the new hall. Totally out of context for the surrounding area
Architects’ designs for the new hall. Totally out of context for the surrounding area

Originally designed for the youth of Gibraltar, it was opened with a library, theatre/conference hall, gym, hall for exhibitions and other public functions, and a wing for higher education.

Now, the library has been extended to take up the whole east wing and it is open from 9.30-7.30 from Mon – Fri. I use one of the small meeting rooms for my block committees (room hire is free for non-profit groups) and often wander over to attend lectures or visit exhibitions.

This particular exhibition was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the hall, and in my healthy two-legged state last month I wandered over to have a look.

Why John Mack and who was he?

Well, he’d died well before the hall was opened. Or even built in fact.

He was your typical old-style philanthropist, born in Victorian times and continuing with the traditional values of well-off merchants of the times.

Mackintosh was born in 1865 to a Scottish father and Gibraltarian mother whose family was also of Scottish descent.

He went to work in the City (of London) and came back to Gib, where he was successful in trade, shipping, and the coal industry amongst others.

At the same time, he was approachable, popular, and public-spirited, supporting worthwhile causes.

Mackintosh wanted to help old people, sick people and poor people in Gibraltar, providing homes for old and poor people and funding an extra wing to the former colonial hospital in Gib. He was also interested in young people, and established a trust to promote cultural links with the UK and help with the education of young Gibraltarians.

While the old colonial hospital may have gone, along with the 76-bed wing that bore his name, his generous legacy to Gib is still remembered with the central John Mackintosh Square named after him and also known as The Piazza, and the topic of this exhibition – the John Mack Hall.

A legacy for the people of Gibraltar
A legacy for the people of Gibraltar

The first room of the exhibition was pretty dull.

Photos of plays from the past. Yawn.
Photos of plays from the past. Yawn.

About the best exhibit was the lilies.

Beautiful lilies
Beautiful lilies

But, as the history unfolded, there were some great moments from Gib history.

And to end with, JMH has paintings dotted all over, a cool patio, a refreshing fountain, plants and trees. It’s a popular venue, and I hope it’s in keeping with the ideals of JM.

Source for info: the brochure produced by HM Government of Gibraltar.

On a totally different subject, I received an offer from a good blogging friend who was willing to write a guest post over on Pippadogblog about my recent accident. It’s told from the dogs’ points of view as DDI Pip undertakes an investigation. Makes a light-hearted change and is a refreshing take on my over-dramatisation. Here is Misery’s Mishap.


58 comments on “John Mackintosh (Hall)

    • For me or my merry band of readers?

      Actually I always wondered a) who John Mack was and b) why there was a strange 60s building in the midst of historic Gib, that anywhere else would be designated a conservation area.


      • I just like to read history. Not great tomes of the stuff, but just enough to add to my mental data base.

        ( That could be misconstrued and there isn’t really any way to make it sound better) ;)


          • Yes, I remember you mentioning about the history degree but can’t place it.
            My memory drops out more often than my internet connection at times,and I thought it would become sharper having given up smokes and booze. Alas…it seems i must quite cheese sarmies as well.


          • I don’t remember where it was either. Sparring with Pink perchance? Or anyone really.

            Blogging is so competitive. I’m thinking of putting my letters after my name and photocopying the remaining cents that haven’t disintegrated into dust.

            No nicotine, no alcohol, no cheese. Could you be a vegan convert?


  1. Actually, I don’t mind the medical updates. I read your blog and your comments and get to know you a bit, care a bit, so I am glad to hear, especially with the dark humour.

    As for sixties architecture, it is not all bad, surely?


    • That’s good Clare, as there will be another. Comes of my fascination with being on the patient side after so many years on the managerial side.

      My gripe about JMH is that it sticks out like a sore thumb where it is. The inside is OK. But the outside doesn’t fit with the local colonial architecture.


  2. It is a shame when something sticks out like a sore thumb or as Prince Charles would call it, a Carbuncle. But at least it serves a good purpose and the original intentions were good.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx


  3. Nice informative post. I like the pics. You’re right about the Lilies, though. They are also the most interesting part of the post for me. :)


    • Gib exhibitions are often quite dry. Suits me, but there’s something missing sometimes.

      The info for the post came from the leaflet. The exhibition was, what it was. A look to the past I suppose.

      But yes, beautiful lilies. And maybe their life and vibrancy was why they appealed.


      • Absolutely. I tend to get drawn in by something in an exhibition…but I wish there would be more that have me thinking…ooh, I’d like to go back! That would be nice.


        • Apart from the furniture, which I thought was interesting, it was the photos of news events that I liked, the referendum in ’67, and Bossano in ’88 when he became chief minister, in particular. The trouble with a roomful of photos of plays was that they were static and lifeless.

          And I’ve no idea why the lilies were there, but they were stunning. A neat idea actually. The free brochure was good too.


    • It is so convenient to have a useful community building across the road. It means I make more use of it, re exhibitions and lectures than I would if it was further away.

      We have the same saying here, but I was too idle to write it out three times! Hence the ‘x3’.


    • I learned something I didn’t know, so as well as being enjoyable, it was a good use of time.

      Yes, sort of 😉 I’ll try to remember to include something in the next medical bulletin.

      Aren’t the lilies just gorgeous? So many of them. I’m not sure why the box was there. I don’t remember any info with it. Maybe inside somewhere back then? Or on the street at the entrance?


  4. As the 60’s was my decade of birth I always wondered why so many buildings of the time were so ugly, in juxtaposition with swinging, peace, love, flowers. Wiki (of course) provided the bald answer “Brutalist architecture is a fragmented movement in architecture that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, descended from the modernist architectural movement of the 1930s. Brutalism became popular with government and institutional clients… In its ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy, Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism and frivolity of some 1930s and 40s architecture.”
    But what a great exhibition… and post. I love the pics of the great moments (especially RSPCA coin donation bank and the chic chairs) and the venue (especially the fountain).


    • That’s an interesting piece of info re 60s architecture. Although I narrowly avoided the 60s for my birth year, I certainly grew up in the 60s and seemed surrounded by these ugly designs. Indeed a lot of them were govt/public buildings. I suppose too, the UK had a lot of post war rebuilding to carry out.

      I liked the exhibition because it answered a lot of questions for me. Who was John Mack? Why was this 60s building in the midst of older historical ones? What was on the site before?

      I think actual objects bring something extra to an exhibition, rather than relying on storyboards around the wall and these were two good choices. Whoever set the chairs out got them beautifully in line.

      While the outside is ugly, the inside works well, capitalising on the typical Med style of internal patios with water and shade.


  5. I wish they had great history lessons like this in school Kate! Stunning photo’s and those lilies are gorgeous indeed. It looks like a beautiful libray, inside and out. :D ♥ Hugs ♥


    • As I’ve always loved history I’ve never understood why it had such a poor image as dry and dusty in schools. It’s so exciting. And in this case, it was good to learn about a man whose name is remembered so prominently in everyday life with the hall and the square both bearing his name.

      For once I remembered to take some photos of the exhibition. I often get so engrossed that I forget! It really is a nice venue and I’m a big user of the library. Which reminds me, my books are long overdue to return!


      • I never did – but would have if they had teachers like you. :D

        It sure was and what an interesting and compassionate man he was indeed!

        I am glad you did. I love libraries and would sit in one for hours just reading away. Glad this post made you remember that. I hope we won’t have to come down there and feed you peanuts in the library jail. LOL!


        • Teaching has never been my thing, although I have done journalism/PR workshops. That was ok. I think the challenge for history teachers (unless they are dealing with people like me who just soak up everything) is to try and make it interesting and, where possible, relevant to today.

          As this was an exhib about the hall mainly, but therefore about him by default, it would be interesting to know if there were any negative aspects to his personality. Not to throw mud, but to achieve balance.

          I’ll be sending Partner over, so he’ll be the one needing the peanuts 😀


          • It’s the same with me but I think you’ll make a great teacher. I am always up for learning new things especially when it has to do with nature or computer software and I love pc games as well. Mostly strategy. :D As far as people go, I find a few of them interesting, like the exhib of the mall and how it got started. Now there’s a story behind it. I don’t care much about the negative side of things but I think just like each and every one of us, there must have been. No one is that perfect and it’s like you say – there has to be balance. The Yin and the Yang. :D

            hahahahaha! I think I must go and warn Partner. LOL!


          • I’m happy to share knowledge, people do it with me all the time. Is that teaching? Don’t know.

            Oddly he got a letter today. From the library. Telling him the books are overdue 😀 Don’t know why, but they always write to him!


          • I see it as teaching and believe in some way we all are teachers to each other – that is for the ones that are prepared to learn. Just like life lessons in a way. :D

            hahahahah! That’s funny! Around here it works the same. Makes me wonder if they scared of something? LOL!


  6. It certainly doesn’t look as though it will ever ever achieve UNESCO World Heritage status! I have just got back from Harrogate, there are some rubbish 1960s buildings there. Post war planners certainly have a lot to answer for.


    • No. I would agree with that. Although I would consider giving it to the Upper Rock as virtually anything seems to get it these days.

      Funnily I don’t remember 60s buildings in Harrogate. Just all the old Victorian spa architecture. And the Stray of course.


  7. i hope the switch of topic also means that you are mending nicely. this post came up in my reader, i am so surprised – and now i am off to check out pippa’s report! looking forward to it.


  8. Location. Location. Location is the wise choice to buy. I love your neighborhood.
    The building is rather out of place, but what history. Those Scots. You said a lot with this “He was your typical old-style philanthropist, born in Victorian times and continuing with the traditional values of well-off merchants of the times.” Patio and fountain – I think he’d like those.
    Old pictures and newspapers are such a treasure.
    I’d write more – and much more creatively, but rushing over to Pippa’s blog…


    • I’ve been good on house choices and location so far, touch wood. It’s instinctive, I suspect, as I had no idea what I was buying in Spain or Gib as they are very different to the UK.

      My neighbourhood is good. Actually posher than it looks from the outside. Old money area.

      JMH sticks out like a sore thumb. But it is ok inside.

      I think philanthropy is interesting. I like the idea of people giving to society. You don’t need money to be generous towards people. Time, courtesy, respect with people you know and those you don’t are also ways to contribute to society, eg I was waiting for more than an hour today at outpatients. Is there any value in complaining? What else would I be doing? Busy staff, receptionist off, nurses nursing and covering clerical work, so I fell through the loop. No need to be rude to people.

      No patio or fountain there though. Just a corridor. But I had a good book, so passed a peaceful hour.

      Comments don’t call for creativity, just always appreciated.


  9. I was expecting the explosion to be a busted gas line or something, not from a naval ship mishap. How awful 13 died. And yes, the lilies are lovely.

    We are moving into a much smaller flat that has a better location. It will be interesting to be in such a tiny space. I’m curious how our boys will adjust.


    • It’s quite a famous explosion here in Gib for some reason.

      I thought someone sd you were moving to Paris. Is that where your smaller flat is?!

      When we moved to Gibflat, Pippa settled in beautifully. Snows is the same. They commandeer their own space and fit in as though they’ve always lived there. Can’t say for cats, suppose it depends if you let them outside. I’ll try and remember to do AWL next week. Maybe Wed as our Land Rover needs to go into the garage so I have that date in my head. If you want a different date, do tell me though.


      • Nope. I spent the weekend in Paris, but we aren’t moving there. We’ll be near Hyde Park. Hey, why is the City of London called the City of London? I know it’s the financial district but never understood why that’s the official name. Just curious if you know.

        Next Wednesday is perfect. I hope the Land Rover’s trip to the garage isn’t costly. Haven’t had a car in years and I don’t miss all the money to keep one running. And I was never a good city driver, which would be a disaster in London. As soon as I moved to Boston I sold my car and haven’t regretted it.


        • Ah I’ve always loved Paris. Feel quite at home there. Except having lived in Spain so long, I suddenly discovered my French came out as Spanish when I opened my mouth, and the food and waiters at Austerlitz were equally vile. Suddenly Madrid felt like home. Oldest part of London? Try city of London corporation at a guess to check it out.

          I have a rellie who lived near Hyde Park. Lancaster Gate I think. Very nice. Small, elegant and expensive.

          It’s to fit a tow bar. Partner is too busy walking dogs and babysitting me to do it himself. I drive rarely. I use public transport for choice, cars are for transporting dogs and work tools and materials.


      • The explosion of HMS Bedenham in Gib Harbour ( Early 50s) sent a 1/4 ton steel plate a half a mile away landing and penetrating right through the roof of Engineer House museum situated at the top of Engineer lane which runs roughly parallel to Gib’s Main Street. The museum is (or was in the 1960s). housed in a side building tucked away to the left of the main Engineer House….. It houses ( or did in the 1960s) a splendid model of the Rock, to which is attached a brass plate with my name as ‘Rock Modeller’ inscribed there-upon. The ex- HMS Bedenham steel plate stands propped up and neatly labelled as to its’ provenance…..I have often wondered if the museum and its contents still survive today?


        • Today’s museum is in Bomb House Lane (I think that’s the name of the street). Anyway it’s around the corner from one of the synagogues, the Bristol, and Line Wall (Commonwealth Parade)

          It’s above some Moorish baths. I went there when I was a member of the Heritage Trust as it included free admission. I remember the very good model, but sadly not your name. We can’t take piccies in there sadly. Well done you for such detailed work.


  10. I like the history and the contents – even play pics. I hate the hall building. But then most buildings of that era and since range from the substandard to the ridiculous.


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