Clive Beltran has had a distinguished career in politics and education in Gibraltar and now the former Education Minister and Mayor will be taking part in ‘An Audience With…’ as part of Literature Week when he will be talking about his book celebrating local customs, practices and sayings: ‘Yodo Morao and all that…’.
For those of us that don’t know what the title refers to, Clive tells me that it has become a part of local jargon for Gentian Violet, an antiseptic dye that was used to put on cuts and grazes. “In my younger days, children were always out and about in the streets and if we fell down it was Yodo Morao that was reached for to disinfect out wounds,” he explains.
Clive was prompted to write the book from a combination of nostalgia and the wish to pass on to his children and grandchildren some of the thoughts and emotions that he treasured from his childhood and adolescence. “The idea was born during my stay at Calpe House some eight years ago when I had to spend about six months there,” he says. “It was a time of quiet reflection and introspection and that Christmas we had a wonderful festive season in the English tradition at my son-in-law’s family house in Suffolk.” Clive goes on to say that it was very different to the Christmases that he remembers as a child and he began to think about the Spanish Christmas carols that they used to sing back home. “I’m 72 now,” he comments, “and I decided that as soon as I felt up to it I would write those carols down and produce a booklet that I thought my grandchildren should know about and to show them what Grandad’s Christmases were like.”
“From the Christmas carols booklet, I carried on thinking and reminiscing about life in Gibraltar in the 1950s and 60s and they just remained as ideas because for quite a long time my treatment precluded me from pursuing and developing them, but gradually I gained strength and I began to make a list of traditions, practices, sayings and objects that I remembered.” Those vague snapshots of times gone by turned into a list that kept on growing and before he knew it, Clive had over one hundred bits of information which he then developed into the book.
“Unless we write down what is known as folklore, meaning oral traditional customs, practices, songs, proverbs and riddles, they will only remain in the collective memory of people of my generation,” Clive states. “They will either die with us or, if you pass them on by word of mouth, they run the risk of being transformed and distorted by all sorts of social influences and they will eventually die out.”
“Our culture is very much a combination of many other different cultures,” Clive remarks. “For instance, dance is a very popular part of our culture in Gibraltar, but there is no one particular dance but more a combination of influences ranging from the South American Tango to Spanish and English dances.”
“We do have a patriotic song about Gibraltar which people often sing at National Day and that is Llévame Donde Nací (Take Me Back To Where I Was Born) attributed to Gibraltarian guitarist and composer Pepe Roman.”
The book includes photos looking back at social life on the Rock in the 50s and 60s and if there is one thing that comes to Clive’s mind from those days it is how everybody used to go about their business at a much more leisurely pace than nowadays. “Children played outside because their homes were too small and overcrowded,” he says. “The vast majority of houses were tenement flats and you would have families of four or five people living in a one room with a kitchen and a shared outside communal patio area.”
“Something that I strongly remember are families sitting together for lunch and dinner every day. As soon as Dad came home from work, Mum would shout out of the window and children were called up from wherever they were playing to wash their hands – that was almost a religion.”
‘Yodo Morao and all that…’ is available to purchase from John Mackintosh Hall reception and at City Hall. It has proved to be extremely popular, prompting a re-print, with all proceeds from sales of the book being donated to the Friends of Calpe House Charity. In October Clive Beltran presented the charity with a cheque for six thousand pounds.