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        IRISH TOWN

        Irish Town is one of the oldest streets in Gibraltar. It runs   Irish Town and Market Lane is known as The Cloisters,
        from Main Street, just south of Casemates Square to   and two of the 16th-century columns of the cloister that
        John Mackintosh Square, parallel to the heavily fortified   was attached to the convent are still standing,
        Line Wall. Today it is a pedestrian precinct with bars,   supporting the north wall of Cork’s Wine Bar and
        restaurants and coffee shops. Scattered between them   Restaurant.
        are old established businesses such as the Gibraltar   When the British took over, many of the Spanish
        Chart Agency, suppliers of Admiralty charts, produced   residents, including the good friars, left Gibraltar. The
        for over 200 years, a Moroccan fruit and vegetable shop   convent was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and
        and a ‘proper’ ironmonger. The latter two look as if they   became a storehouse and accommodation for the
        have been there almost as long as the Admiralty have   victualing clerks. In those days’ street signs were not
        been producing charts.
                                                            used. Being primarily a military establishment the
        Despite its prominence, as one of the main streets on   officers’ quarters were numbered. Barracks, fortifications
        The Rock, there is some controversy as to how the street   and warehouses all had names. Civilian housing was
        acquired its’ name.                                 considered of no importance.
        Before the British took over Gibraltar in 1704, the street   Commerce began to develop, and civilians from other
        was called Calle de Santa Anna after a chapel situated at   countries started to arrive and establish themselves in
        the south end of the street. In 1581 the chapel was   business or as workers. A contingent of Portuguese
        expanded, and it became the Convento de la Merced.   people established themselves close to what is now
        The friars of the Mercederian Order saved many      called Crutchetts Ramp, which is off Main Street opposite
        Christians taken as prisoners by the Barbary Pirates by   Irish Town near Casemates Square. That area became
        paying the ransom the pirates demanded for their    known as Portuguese Town. Some Irish people
        release. The building was largely destroyed along with   congregated in the unnamed street adjacent to Line
        the rest of the street during the Great Siege of 1779 –   Wall. So that area became known as Irish Town. The
        1783. The building currently standing at the junction of   question is, ‘Where did those Irish people come from?’

   20                               January 2019
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