Gustave (Gustavo) Gillman was a polymath - a musician, an engineer, a painter, a linguist (he spoke 11 languages, one of which was Spanish), a photographer, a businessman, a Spanish guitarrist, an astronomer, an historian, a metallurgist and a husband and father. He was active in many fields but it is in photography that he has left us such a huge wealth. Photography at the turn of the 19th century was intensely difficult to execute requiring the creation of film, it's development, enlargement etc. using cumbersome cameras and equipment. Gustave did all of these himself which must have been very time consuming. His photographic interest wasn't solely in railways and mines, he made many photographic plates of buildings of architectural interest but probably the most interesting were of the ordinary people who lived off of the land. Gustave had a great respect for the 'ordinary man' and life in the countryside. Often, he painted from the photographs that he had taken.
Gustave Gillman was born in Warwick Street, Westminster to Robert Gillman and Caroline Bovet on the 15th June, 1856, the youngest of four children. The same year the Gillman family moved to Victoria Street, also in Westminster. At just two years old, Gustave started to learn the cornet. He never gave up his musical activities and ensured that his many children studied music as well. At five years old, he moved to the house of his maternal family in Fleurier, Switzerland but he returned to 14 Ashley Place, Westminster in 1861. In the Autumn of 1862 he started his studies in Miss Leach College where he stayed until 1866. During this period, he spent his Summer holidays in Fleurier where he learnt German. Also at this time he suffered from typhoid fever which required that he spend some of his term time in Knightsbridge. From 1866 he spent time in Brighton in Miss Jane Smith College 10, Lansdowne Place. In 1868 he transferred to Mr. Jos Hutton College and Old Hove House School. 1870 was a bad year for the Gillman/Bovet family. His mother died at the age of fifty and his father broke a leg in an accident from which he never recovered. Gustave at that time was 14 years old, and this same year he passed his Cambridge Entrance Examinations.
Robert Gillman, a brilliant watercolourist, writer and teacher to Gustave died in 1893.
In 1871 at the age of 17, Gustave travelled extensively from Kensington to Exeter and Southsea where lived some of his paternal family. In June his father encouraged him to travel to the south of Spain where his brother Federico was living. Arriving on the ship Britannia in Gibraltar, he travelled to Málaga and then on to Granada where he created visions of the scenery my means of watercolours and then from Darro on towards Jaen where he met up with Federico (Fritz). Christmas of 1871 found the two brothers in Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz. Gustave then spent most of 1872 in Madrid and had to have experienced the effects of the War of the Carlistas which was convulsing Spain at the time. Both brothers were fluent in English, French and German each brother conversing with their father in English and their mother in French.
Although both parents emphasized their education in linguistics and music, they found an interest in engineering as a result of their mental agility. At this time, Federico translated a German encyclopaedia into Spanish - all four volumes of text and four volumes of plates and in 1885 published 'Elementos de minería o laboreo de minas y preparación mecánica de las menas' as well as an article 'Tiempos prehistóricos' (1884). The younger brother, Gustave, started an unfinished article on the arabic domination of Lorca, Murcia. Both brothers were close both in family and in their interest in mining.
In 1873 Gustave and Federico returned to Britain when Gustave started work with the London, Chatham and Dover Railway for whom he worked until 1875 when Federico called him back to Spain. Following the same route as before, he arrived in Granada in March, 1875. Later the same year he travelled to Dólar for work for three months in the mines which were rich in iron, copper and mercury after which he returned to Granada. On 28th September 1875 he became engaged to María del Rosario Sirvent de Berganza, a beautiful girl from Málaga, daughter of an Alicantine soldier called Juan Sirvent y Picó, who had fought in the War of the Carlistas. After a long engagement (nearly five years), they finally married in Gibraltar on 15th June 1881 on Gustave's 25th birthday. The following year the couple had a son who died the same day. However, they were to go on to have ten more children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. Sadly, on the 4th June 1885 their nine month old son Percy died of cholera during an epidemic.
In the Spring of 1886 the family moved back to the province of Granada to live in Darro in a small palace. In March of 1887, a daughter, Carolina, died. At this time infant mortality in Europe was high and families had a large number of children in the hope that some would survive to adulthood.
In 1876, Gustave travelled to Linares, Jaen from Dólar where he had been working for three months, to work in mining. He spent the Summer resting in Granada where he produced oils and watercolours. In the mine called 'Socorro' he installed a beam engine to prevent flooding in the mine.
In the 1880s he was involved with many work projects including the diversion of Río Geníl to Granada by means of an aqueduct in the municipality of Güéjar Sierra. In the last days of Summer of 1889 he took up temporary lodgings in Lorca to work for the Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Limited (GSSR). In 1890, he studied the possibility of a line to Vélez Rubio at the request of The Department of ways and works of the GSSR. During this time he was working in said Vélez Rubio, Serón and Cantoria in each of which he lived between 1889 and 1894 investigating the best routes for the GSSR. Unfortunately, his diaries from this period have never been found so we have to use his photographic record to know where he was at any one time.
The first lines to be inaugurated were those between Jaravía and Pulpí on the 1st April 1890 after which sections were opened in incredibly short time, the line to Baza being opened on 27th December 1894. All of the line, stations, bridges, cuttings, embankments, culverts etc. were built within seven years! After this the track from Baza to Guadix was built and opened in 1907. Although the GSSR had by then sold the concession to 'The Granada Railway Company Limited', it has to be assumed that Gustave was involved in some way with the construction of this section and that the plans were created before the transfer from the GSSR.
All of this construction must have been a huge nightmare for Gustave with difficulties of access for the transport of materials as there were very few passable roads in the area at that time. Supplies would have also been a problem as most of the materials were being transported from the UK to ports on The Mediterranean. To be able to open a hundred miles of track on mountainous terrain in seven years was a truly impressive performance. In addition he still had time to take wonderful photographs of the area and its peoples, for whom he had a real affinity and respect.
In 1897, as a result of his enormous efforts and successes, the GSSR named him 'Director of Railways and the Company in Spain'. It seems that at this time his efforts were concentrated on making the company profitable and to this end he spent three months in England trying to influence investors regarding the possibilty of extracting ores from the mountains around Bacares. His work was incessant in investigating the possibility of mining the area in the Filabres Mountains. It must have been tantalizing that the GSSR passed close to an area considered to be a mother lode of metals. In addition, the railway passed close to the marble quarries of Macael and the marble factories in Olula del Río. In 1896 he produced a paper called 'Report of the Iron Ore Mines of the Bacares District' and in addition continued to develop the facilities for the transport of ore as well as esparto and passengers. To this end he started the construction of loaders such as that in Los Canos as well as the loading pier 'El Hornillo' which was an act of incredible foresight.
Although he lived in Águilas at the end of the line, not a month passed where he didn't travel the whole of the line inspecting stations, points, track etc. Many times he was accompanied by his oldest son Jack who had studied engineering, and he taught him about the real life operation of mines as well as socially.
During these decades Gustave augmented his knowledge by travelling to other parts to study the topography of ore bearing areas. On other occasions he visited El Tesorero to study the workings of the cableway.
One of his major successes was the construction of 'El Hornillo' which, opening in 1903, was a development that probably saved the fortunes of the GSSR, at least for a while. 12m in height and 172m in length, it could support the weight of three trains of 600 tonnes each and allow the discharge of their ore into ships as well as being able to store 45,000 tonnes of ore for when there was no ship available. In 1906, 284,836 tonnes of ore were loaded onto ships.
Apart from his work on railways, he was involved with family businesses and so on 5th August 1905 he was in Arcos de la Frontera studying sulphur ovens. During this time he was involved with the formation of a number of companies involved in mining in Villamartín. During his time in the area he was active in his hobby of photography, and has left us many photos of the period.
In 1908, Gustave and Federico travelled to Sicily to study the method for the production of sulphur to be able to build new sulphur ovens in Arcos de la Frontera. On construction of the ovens, they found that they were not producing the amount of sulphur that they should have. Therefore, they returned to Sicily, the largest producer of sulphur worldwide, to consult an expert in the production of same. Gustavo made the most of this time to take photographs and to paint, crossing the Messina Straits to visit Rome and the Italian towns of great interest. In the end, they contracted an expert in suphur called 'Januzzo' who managed to build a fully functioning oven in Arcos de la Frontera.
During his travels, Gustave always kept diaries of his activities which have been very informative, telling us that he spent a lot of time looking at antiquities, visiting Pompeii as well as climbing Mount Vesuvius.
Gustave was an afficionado of the Spanish guitar. To this end he had one with seven strings made for which he had a wooden case made to protect it. In addition, he had a well stocked library which, sadly, has been mostly lost.
In these days of being able to hop on a plane, it can be difficult to understand how difficult travel could be at the beginning of the 20th century. However, this didn't seem to impede Gustave who was a regular visitor to Madrid and London. His travels would make a modern backpacker jealous:
|1861 - 63||Fleurier, Switzerland.|
|1866 - 69||Brighton.|
|1871||Exeter, Gibraltar, Malaga, Granada, Linares, Jerez de la Frontera.|
|1872||Visit to Madrid|
|1873||Return to UK via Portugal.|
|1875||Gibraltar, Malaga and Granada|
|1876||Worked in Linares and spent Summer in Granada. Lived in Linares until 1884.|
|1884||Travelled to Bilbao and Alsace|
|1893||Travelled to England and then returned to Spain to work in Guadix.|
|1897||Visit to England to stimulate interest in mining in Bacares.|
|1898||Visit to Belgium with his son Jack|
|1899||Three months in England|
|1900||Travel to Cordoba, Seville and Huelva. Paris, Switzerland.|
|1902||Cantabria, Bilbao, Burgos and Rioja. England, Scotland, Paris, Switzerland, Germany. Visit to the Swiss Alps.|
|1904||Fleurier, Calasparra, Caravaca.|
|1905||Seville, Arcos de la Frontera x 2, Toledo, San Pedro del Pinatar, Aguilas, Huercal-Overa, Alicante, Alcantarilla, Madrid, Baza, Alava, Bilbao, Guipuzcoa6.|
|1906||London, Neuchatel, Freiburg (Germany), Aguilas, Paris, Cabo de Palos (Murcia), Avila, Madrid.|
|1907||Surrey, France, Germany, Folkestone, Black Forest (germany), Feldberg, Switzerland,|
|1908||Sicily, again studying sulphur ovens.|
|1909||Alcontar, Tijola, Seron, Ciudad Real, Algeciras, Ronda, Madrid, Caniles, Burham (Kent), The Chilterns.|
|1921||London, Aguilas, Vigo, Lisbon, Funchal (Madeira), Recife (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro.|
In May of 1913, Gustavo was finalizing his contracts for his new job with the British companies which had interests in building railways in Brazil. On 31st July 1913, he arrived in Recife whereby he travelled to Petrópolis (where he would be based) via Río de Janeiro, having left his wife and family in Spain. In April of 1915 he crossed the Atlanic Ocean again to return to London. One of the activities he arranged in London was an exhibition of the paintings he had produced whilst in Brazil. Unfortunately, the exhibition couldn't take place due to the loss of the paintings in transit. In May of the same year he travelled to Manchester where his son Gustavo was studying engineering. After then, he travelled to Spain again to be with his family, finally returning to work in Brazil.
In 1922, the construction of the railway in Brazil being finished, Gustave was organizing his permanent return to Águilas when he suffered an accident of which he never fully recovered. A few days before embarking on his journey to Spain, he fell ill and on the 28th February 1922 he died at the age of 66 of pulmonary tuberculosis in his house 296, Sete de Setembro, Petrópolis. He rests in Petrópolis cemetery. His wife, María died in Águilas in 1944. Of the ten children and thirteen grandchildren, two survive - Alec and Carolina. In addition, there were 23 great grandchildren.
Apart from many honours and scientific papers, Gustave was a member of:
- The Royal Society Club, St. James's St., London
- The Society of Chemistry Industry, London
- The Institute of Civil Engineers, London
In addition he wrote a number of technical documeents:
- 1897 - Report of the iron ore mines of the Bacares District.
- 1898 - Report on the means of transport from the Cerro de Soria Mine to the railway.
- 1899 - Report on the iron ore mine of Logroño and Burgos.
- 1903 - Notes connected with the Calasparra-Lorca Railway and iron ore mines.
- 1906 - Shipping iron ore at Águilas, Spain.
- 1910 - Informe sobre las minas en el Cerro de Corbul, Sierra de Los Filabres.
Gustave (Gustavo) Gillman had an incredible, busy life. He seems to have been a restless, incredibly intelligent, kind man who had a profound effect on all around him. He had a profound interest in ordinary people and loved to photograph them. To be able to do this, he must have gained their trust through his humanity. He has left us a huge resource of photographs and paintings as well as the amazing GSSR.
All images - beware, large file
Baldwin (Babwil) locomotive
George Boag - photographs
British Cemetery, Águilas
Caloric - ship|
El Hornillo loader
El Hornillo Museum
Films made in Guadix
Granada - Guadix
Gustave Gillman's houses
Houses - Gustave Gillman
How a locomotive works|
How a locomotive works - images
Las Menas - images
Los Canos Loader
Neilson locomotive, Águilas
Puig, Ivo Bosch
Sugar factory - Benalúa
Sugar factory - Caniles
Sugar factory - Guadix
Talcum mines - Somontín
Viaduct - Gor
Viaduct Gor - first viaduct
Viaduct - Gor history