1 FEBRUARY 1963, Page 14


SIR,- There died suddenly at Punta de la Mona. Almunecar. Spain, in the early morning of December 18, 1962. Geoffrey Gladwyn Christian, descendant of the Fletcher Christian through his brother Edward, associated with Mutiny on the Bounty. (He had gone to Almunecar to recuperate . after a chest operation which left him with one effective lung.) His burial had to be arranged quickly owing to climatic conditions and in accordance with the laws of Spain. There is a small Protestant church with cemetery in Malaga—some forty-four miles distant— and it was the obvious place for his burial; but the difficulty of conveying his body proved almost insuperable, and in the event, very costly (£175). To convey him to Gibraltar (some 135 miles) would have cost about £800, and entailed embalming. The alternative was to have him interred in the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Almunecar, where a corner is reserved for non-Catholics, murderers and suicides. This was the problem that faced me. and I would have found it almost impossible to cope but for the help of certain British residents and of a friendly German couple. These last were able to secure the services of a Spanish friend, who by methods customary among Spaniards, was able to obtain the necessary documents to permit the body to be moved from Punta de la Mona. in the Province of Granada, to Malaga, in the Province of Malaga, as Spanish law forbids such removal without special permission. Thus, without adequate funds and special devices, a Protestant is deprived of decent burial and his body must be placed among criminals.

Now most visitors to Spain do not come equipped with large reserves of money, and, being strangers, have no access to the Spanish arcanum. I think it is well that these things be made clear to all who intend to visit or settle in Spain. Many ailing and/or elderly people are attracted to come here for recuperation or to settle, and as time gocs on, their numbers will increase. Such incidents as that described are bound to recur, and people should be warned about this, especially in the face of the massive propaganda by travel agents, land de- velopers and the like to boost tourism and to secure land sales at ever-increasing values.

In connection with my husband's death and burial, I would like to record the negative parts

played by the British Vice-Consuls at Malaga and Granada, though I must make it clear from the outset that this is not an indictment against any particular individual, but an indictment of a system which permits the appointment by the Foreign Office of individuals to act on its behalf for Her Majesty's subjects staying or resident abroad without the authority to ,act in an emergency such as mine.

On the morning of the 18th. a British friend and my German acquaintance spent the hours between 4.30 a.m. and 9 a.m. vainly endeavouring to con- tact the Malaga Vice-Consul. both from Almunecar and from La Herradura fa village next to Punta de la Mona). With the help of the Guardia Civil the house of the Vice-Consul was reached by telephone, but in spite of continued ringing no reply could be obtained, and it was only at about 9.15 a.m. that he was reached at his business address. He was told of the sudden death of a B-itish sub- ject and was asked for help and advice in obtain- ing permission for the removal of the body into Malaga in his province. His reply was that the death had not occurred in his province and that the Vice-Consul at Granada should be approached. He knew nothing of the conditions to be fulfilled nor to whom application should he made for the removal of the body, and the only advice he could give was to get in touch with the Granada Vice- Consul, and to try to locate an undertaker in Motril. an hour's drive beyond Almunecar on the road to Granada Later that morning another British resident and Myself tried four times through the bank manager in Almunecar to contact the Granada Vice-Consul. but we got no reply to the telephone. Eventually help came in the manner I have described. The Vice- Consul in Malaga was then rung up on the morning of the 19th and asked to inform the Protestant minister, asking him to take the service. He was told that I was on my way in. When the body arrived, neither had the grave been dug nor the site selected, and I had to wait after the churching for some considerable time before the graveside ceremony could be conducted

of is bound to ask what on earth is the point ot having Vice-Consuls to help British subjects In distress in foreign lands in these circumstances? Can the FO rest content when this is the measure of help given? It appears that such Vice-Consuls are appointed from among suitable businessmen in the area to be served, such appointments being unpaid. It would also seem that these Vice-Consuls have little direction, and no funds from which they may draw to give assistance to distressed British subjects. Nothing T have written here is meant to reflect in the slightest degree on 'career' consuls who at least know their job, and have proven their worth in many lands. It is a protest against a sYstem which places doubtless worthy but untrained and unrewarded men in the responsible position of Vice-Consul who are unable to assist in such circumstances as the above, when people are suddenly confronted with a tragic problem as was. It is also in the hope that the UK and other counties will make representations over the dis- advarol-...s foreigners suffer, and especially that this state of affairs over decent Christian burial Should be redressed, that I have written this letter.