The only visit by our group to Gibraltar was in 1987, when it was followed by a tour of southern Spain. The party stayed at the Rock Hotel, and on their first day had a tour of Gibraltar’s sights, including Europa Point with its brilliantly coloured spring flora and the only Trinity House lighthouse outside Britain.
We also saw the famous Barbary apes, Gibraltar’s Moorish castle, St Michael’s cave and the numerous tunnels, some of military value, within the Rock itself. We were entertained by Mr D J Toomey (known to all and sundry simply as Toomey), former senior surgeon at St Bernard’s Hospital which was visited on Monday 27 April.
Here a presentation on the history of the hospital was interrupted by the late arrival of the Honourable Maurice Featherstone who swept in with his entourage to give a rundown on Gibraltar’s medical services, following which the meeting continued almost oblivious. Peter Craig – later to become Secretary of the TSS – won the X-Ray quiz.
11000 outpatients and casualties, many of them holidaymakers, were seen at St Bernard’s each year. The standard and breadth of surgery in this 45-bedded hospital was admired, as was the happy atmosphere amongst facilities redolent of those encountered 20-30 years previously in the NHS.
Next was visited the Royal Naval Hospital where the scientific meeting of papers from the TSS was chaired by our own senior member Sir Cameron Moffat, Surgeon General of the Defence Medical Services. The next morning we were briefed on the activities of the Royal Naval Hospital in a series of papers chaired by the medical officer-in-charge, Surgeon Captain Thomas Oliver.
The party left on a coach on the Wednesday for Cordoba, one of their warmest memories being of the Changing of the Guard outside the Governor’s House (the Convent) , where the salute had been taken by Lt General Sir Cameron Moffat and our Club President Robert Cox, resplendent in bowler hats.
Soon after this time, IRA activists were shot on the Rock by undercover British agents, and we were horrified to hear subsequently that our erstwhile host the Governor Sir Peter Terry suffered serious injury when he was shot by the IRA through the window of his English home in retaliation; luckily he survived.
A happier event was the publication of the 1987 Report, which included amongst a number of photographs – several in colour – a black-and-white group picture of us all outside St Bernard’s Hospital. It was in the autumn of 1987, incidentally, that the Travelling Surgical Society came into being, its membership having voted to change to this name in recognition of the serious scientific intent of what was formerly known as the Travelling Surgical Club.