Visit by the Tertulia de Amigos del 25 de Julio to London
On Sunday 12th May 2019 ten members of the Tertulia de Amigos del 25 de Julio of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and four wives arrived in London to stay at the Strand Palace Hotel, where they were joined by ‘their man in England,’ to learn more about the great British hero, Horatio Nelson.
The Tertulia was formed over twenty years ago to commemorate the 200th anniversary in 1997 of the unsuccessful attack by Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson, as he then was, on Santa Cruz de Tenerife. A visit to London had often been discussed by the Tertulia and at long last it had become a reality, with the enthusiastic cooperation of the Nelson Society in London and the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.
Monday morning saw the start of a carefully-arranged programme of visits over the next four days. A minibus with a Spanish driver took the group to the National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, where they were met by Chairman of the Nelson Society, Chris Brett, and Vice Chairman, Paul Ganjou. After a coffee break there was a tour of the ‘Nelson, Navy, Nation’ gallery, guided by Professor of Maritime History, Quintin Colville, who gave a sad insight as to exactly how Nelson died at Trafalgar. There was time to take in one or two other galleries before lunch, after which the Tertulia visited the ‘Painted Hall’ where Nelson’s body had been laid in state after his death. There was also time to look around one of the fastest sailing ships in the world, the famous ‘Cutty Sark,’ before returning to the hotel.
Tuesday was given over to a specially-arranged sightseeing tour of the city, with a Spanish guide on the bus. Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square was, of course, on the list. Otherwise the day was free for individual exploration, for example to the National Gallery, Covent Garden, and some internationally famous shops.
In the evening there was a reception and dinner at the Naval Club in Mayfair, hosted by the Nelson Society for the Tertulia, which led to the forging of a link between the two associations. After drinks with Chairman Chris Brett, Vice Chairman Paul Ganjou, Nelson and naval historian and Honorary Editor of ‘The Nelson Dispatch’ (the Society’s magazine), Martyn Downer, and Secretary, Membership Secretary and Executive Editor of ‘The Nelson Dispatch,’ Sue Morris, there was an illustrated talk by Nelson Society historian Lt. Col. Ray Aldis on ‘The Battle of Santa Cruz.’ The battle was Nelson’s failed attack on Tenerife in 1797, when his arm was shattered at the elbow and had to be amputated. The opportunity was then taken by Tertuliano Alastair Robertson to show Nelson Society members some photographs of exhibits in the permanent Nelson Exhibition at the Military Museum in Santa Cruz.
After the dinner a eulogy to Don Antonio Gutierrez, Captain General of the Canary Islands and Nelson’s Nemesis, was given by Alastair Robertson, translated into Spanish by Tertuliano Emilio Abad, followed by a toast to Gutierrez and Nelson proposed by Tertuliano John Lucas. By coincidence it was 220 years to the day, 14th May, since the death of Gutierrez in 1799.
Finally, the presentation of a ceramic plaque with the insignia of the Tertulia was made by Senora Ana Maria Diaz Perez, President of the Tertulia, to Nelson Society Chairman Chris Brett, who, by way of sealing the newly-forged relationship between the societies, announced that the post of President of the Tertulia was to be made a permanent honorary member of the Nelson Society. Tertulianos John Lucas and Alastair Robertson were nominated honorary members for one year. Senora Diaz Perez invited the Nelson Society to make a reciprocal visit in 2022 for the 225th anniversary of The Battle of Santa Cruz.
On Wednesday the Tertulia visited the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Historic Shipyard at Portsmouth. Here they were welcomed by Matthew Sheldon, Executive Director of Heritage, and Andrew Baines, Deputy Director of Heritage and Head of Historic Ships. A description of H.M.S. Victory in the days of Nelson was given with an explanation of the work that had been undertaken, and is still being carried on, in the restoration of that great ship. The directors took the Tertulia for a behind-the-scenes look at documents that are not on display to the public, including a diary of July 1797 kept by one of the ship’s captains. After lunch, members were able to look around the interior of the ‘Victory,’ while in the museum, among other exhibits, there was a short introductory film and a series of hard-hitting audio-visual dioramas that gave the group a feeling of the drama of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The World Heritage City of Bath was the destination on Thursday for a visit to the one-time home of Nelson. Here the Tertulia was met by Nelson Society Chairman, Chris Brett, who introduced Brian Hall, Secretary for the south-west branch of the Society, and Louis Hodgkin, a Nelson authority and author of the book ‘Nelson and Bath.’ The group was guided along the Nelson Trail, with its surprising number of Nelson associations in that city. Lunch had been arranged at the Bath and County Club which gave an opportunity for round-the-table discussions. Later in the afternoon there was time for individual visits to the Abbey and the Roman Baths.
On Friday there was a free morning for members of the Tertulia and wives for last-minute visits and shopping before returning to Tenerife in the afternoon.
The visit by the Tertulia de Amigos to London was only made possible by the hard work of Tertuliano John Lucas of the Sitio Litre in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, and his contacts in London who arranged the flight, the hotel accommodation and transport, Emilio Abad of the Tertulia in Santa Cruz, Paul Ganjou of the Nelson Society in London, and Matthew Sheldon of the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth. John Lucas had the difficult task of interpreting all of the talks from English into Spanish, and much of the conversations in both directions.
Everything went like clockwork; the location of the hotel on The Strand in central London was perfect for the purposes of the visit, and the Strand Palace Hotel itself is to be highly recommended; the transport went without a hitch, apart from unavoidable delays in city traffic; the hosts at each venue were extremely knowledgeable (of course), and friendly relations between the groups have been established with prospects for joint projects in the future, especially in 2022 for the 225th anniversary of La Gesta and the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Nelson Society.