We expose the mystery of the missing local newspapers

Joe Garcia

We have established that editions of many Gibraltar newspapers at the Gibraltar archives have gone missing, and it is not known if they were misplaced, damaged, loaned, stolen or whether they were not sourced in the first place. The fact is that this is a serious matter as popular Gibraltar history was recorded in the papers that have disappeared. 

We started looking into this matter in the summer when we asked: “Can the Government confirm that the archival copies of the ‘Gibraltar Post’ have disappeared from the Gibraltar National Archives, apparently stolen. Can we also be informed if the archives include copies of two other leading Gibraltarian newspapers, the ‘El Calpense’ and ‘El Anunciador’, if so, what is held there, and if there are no archival copies, can we be given the reasons why?”

The next day, we were told that the following newspapers were held by the Archives:

Gibraltar Post - 1958 to 1987 (collection not complete); El Calpense - 1922 to 1972 (collection not complete) and ‘El Anunciador - 1887 to 1935. Again, the collection was not complete.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg. El Calpense was published from 1868 and used to describe itself as the oldest Gibraltarian newspaper. We found out that loose copies of this newspaper were held in a number of boxes, from shelf number 1 to number 15, but collections were incomplete.

We persisted with our enquiry: What has happened to the Gibraltar Post copies for 1967? The El Calpense was published from 1868 to 1982, does the Archives know what happened to the years not listed? The Panorama list supplied ended in 2009, what has happened to the years since then? Indeed the ‘El Anunciador’ was published from 1885 to 1940.

Does the Gibraltar National Archvies know what has happened to all the missing issues - is it a case of negligence over the years? How can a National Archive not care about local newspapers?

We were supplied with more information. It showed that collections from El Anunciador over many years were 25% complete only. Likewise, El Calpense’s editions were also incomplete, some of the editions held started in one date and ended in another. The Panorama ended were it should not. There was no answer to the missing 1967 copies of the Gibraltar Post.

A month later we were still at it, trying to find out what had been going on for a number of years. Subsequently, we were told that the Archives staff had discovered a bound volume regarding El Anunciador containing Jan-June 1928. “They plan to spend this coming Saturday looking for more newspapers,” was the news on 19 September.

We knew that the present Archivist was taking a great interest in this matter.He has been the incumbent in the post only since February 2014.

It was now November. We were informed: “There has been a historical issue at the Gibraltar National Archives with the collection, storage and preservation of editions of many local newspapers for decades. This is a problem that predates even the establishment of the Archives itself as a department of the Government of Gibraltar in 1969.”

The information continued: “The Archives takes this issue very seriously which is why every attempt has been made to safeguard editions of all local newspapers. However, while this has been rectified going forward, it is not possible to correct the problem going back unless private collections are purchased or donated. This means regrettably that there are missing editions of many local newspapers.”

Reports of these missing editions have been noted and filed by a number of different archivists over the years.

Suddenly, it emerged that the Panorama collection was complete and up to date!

I asked about copies of the Gibraltar Chronicle and Vox and the answer was that these collections were not complete.

The Chronicle collection starts in 1811, missing the first decade. It so happens that the 2006 collection has also gone missing, but it is said that “a GSD Minister insisted on taking this year back to No.6 for research and never returned this.”

More questions elicited the answer that the archives also hold issues of papers that are linked to political parties such as The New People, Calpe News and Gibraltar Libre.

And there was a paper in Spanish called Luz which emerged in the wake of the repatriation of Gibraltarians from the wartime evacuation. Its first edition was in 1946 and it folded three years later. It called itself “Periodico del pueblo para el pueblo - Organo de la AACR.”

As we carried on with our questions, it so happens that a complete collection of Luz was kindly handed to the archives last month.


As regards longevity in the newspaper stakes, El Calpense used to call itself the oldest Gibraltarian newspaper to distinguish itself from the military Chronicle.

When Dominique Searle left the Chronicle a few years ago, he firmly debunked the myth that the said paper was the second oldest in the world (!), which we had long been saying ourselves that such a claim was based on fancy, but not only did Searle confirm our contention, but he also said that the Chronicle was “not the first Gibraltarian newspaper, in the sense that, in difficult circumstances, others gave Gibraltar a ‘local’ press such as El Calpense, El Anunciador etc”.

He added that the Chronicle “was used by the British establishment to influence local opinion - or equally steer people away from real events.”

He said it was “a real anachronism” for the military to own what was then the only daily paper.

Censorship was the order of the day, with the military and indeed early Governors having control of the paper, which was more of a military pamphlet than a proper newspaper, until they unshackled themselves of their military control in 1976 - that was A year after PANORAMA was first published, making PANORAMA the oldest Gibraltarian newspaper.

We are published from the same premises were other Gibraltarian newspapers have been published since the 1800s.

Whereas older newspapers were in Spanish or bilingual, there emerged the Gibraltar Telegraph in 1950 which made the point that there was a need for a completely independent newspaper in English, obviously a reference to the military Chronicle.

Joseph Patron, owner of the Telegraph, said: “The sole object is to have a completely independent newspaper conducted in the interests of the whole town.”

When he went on to be the first Speaker of the Gibraltar Legislature, Patron, who was to be knighted, felt he had to leave the newspaper he had founded.

Subsequently, the Gibraltar Post was born to carry on defending the Gibraltarian concept. This was the first newspaper I wrote for, later becoming Editor and then Proprietor, printed and published from 95 Irish Town, the premises which PANORAMA occupies.