Warm good wishes to the very many readers of the Costa Cálida Chronicle. I am Adrian Bridge and together with my wife Dawn (and our chocolate labrador, Ralph) we have been resident in Puerto de Mazarrón for the past 7 months. Both Dawn and I are authors and historians. We have written 4 books in the UK, on various aspects of architectural, social and military history and in addition we write articles for UK magazines such as Cheshire Life.
I have been a senior lecturer in history at various FE and HE institutions across the UK and my wife Dawn is a specialist in genealogy and women’s history – indeed, one of Dawn’s best achievements was finding out that my great–great grandfather was actually a Spaniard, from Galicia!
We have both been involved in writing and researching various aspects of Spanish history, for a good while, so were delighted to be offered the opportunity of writing a regular column for the Costa Cálida Chronicle on many of the close links that have been established between Murcia and Britain over the past years. Britain has always been interested in Murcia and we hope you find the many varied snippets of history we recount (mostly from original sources) to be both entertaining and informative.
People in the British Isles have long been interested in the Spanish fascination with lotteries. In October 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, Reuters promoted a Murcian lottery story which was published by a great many newspapers across Britain.
It was a classic ‘rags to riches’ story of a humble Murcian shoe-shiner who sold lottery tickets, on a commission basis, in order to make ends meet. Exactly where the shoe-shiner was selling his tickets in Murcia is unclear, though it must have been in one of the region’s more built-up areas. On the day of the lottery draw itself, when the shoe-shiner must have expected to sell many last-minute tickets, he was involved in a street brawl, which led to his arrest and subsequent incarceration in police cells. The shoe-shiner was released after a few hours and tried to return his unsold tickets to the local lottery agent. However, the agent refused to accept the return of the unsold tickets because the draw had already taken place. Reluctantly, the penniless shoe-shiner had to agree to pay for these tickets, although he could only do so on an instalment basis.
The unnamed shoe-shiner then wended his way home, in a state of some misery. On the way, he checked the lottery’s winning numbers, which were published on a local public noticeboard and found that he’d won the second prize with one of the tickets he’d been so reluctantly forced to purchase. He’d scooped a jackpot equivalent to £2,300, according to the Northern Daily Mail of October 27th 1933 (which in modern terms equates to over £165,000). This was certainly a Spanish Murcian ‘good luck’ story which went down very well indeed in the parts of Britain hit hardest by the economic consequences of the Great Depression.
Murcia in a Jam
Hartley’s have been a prominent British brand name, making jams, marmalades and other preserves, for almost 150 years. The company opened large jam-making factories in Liverpool in 1874 and 1890 and another factory was also opened in London in 1890. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Hartley’s was the largest preserves manufacturer in the UK. One of Hartley’s key products was its apricot jam and the company turned to the agriculturists of Murcia in order to supply the vast quantities of apricots it needed for its British jam factories.
During the early 1920’s, Hartley’s launched an intensive publicity campaign lauding its apricot jam, which involved a considerable number of newspapers, from Aberdeen in the north, to Portsmouth on the south coast. The sunny region of Murcia was right at the heart of this advertising blitz. ‘From Murcia in Spain come the most tempting apricots in the world’ declared the Portsmouth Evening News of February 6th 1925. Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Evening Post of October 24th 1923 had already explained that ‘Only Murcian apricots can give the rich golden favour which you get in Hartley’s apricot jam.’
This extensive publicity campaign, launched nearly a hundred years ago, clearly benefited the economy of Murcia. It also boosted sales for Hartley’s, which moved its jam production facilities to Histon in Cambridgeshire in 1962 and continues to produce jams, jellies and preserves – which are available in Spain and throughout the world – to this day.