Illa del Rei or as it has subsequently been called, Hospital Island is home to one of the oldest Royal Naval hospital in the world. It has been saved from
dereliction by a group of volunteers who are not just British,
in fact half are Menorcans led by a former Chief of staff of the Spanish Army, General Luis Alexandre.
2011 sees the 300th anniversary of this hospital and celebration are planned to commemorate the event. It is hoped that members of both the Spanish and British Royal Families will accept invitations that have been issued to celebrate this occasion on the island.
The hospital on the Island of Menorca is itself an island in the harbour at Mahon,
the capital of Menorca and the largest natural port in the Mediterranean.
In the early Eighteenth century longer sea voyages and poor diets were exposing British
sailors to serious illness and disease. Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s five month Mediterranean
voyage in 1703 produced a death toll of more than 1,500.
After the capture of Minorca in 1708 Admiral John Jennings requested the building of a Naval Hospital.
Plans were submitted and the Admiral waited. Eventually he decided to order the construction of the
hospital without waiting for Admiralty approval. Funded largely by the Officers and managed by
the Naval detachment the Hospital Island was completed in 1711 for a third of original estimated cost.
Incidentally the officers had to petition Queen Anne for reimbursement.
The hospital was abandoned in 1964 and its buildings, neglected for almost half a century, were in
a pitiful state. General Luis Alexandre found roofs had collapsed, the grounds were overgrown and
the once famous herb garden had all but disappeared.
It is ironic that once again individuals can rise above bureaucracy which the General and his enterprising Sunday volunteers have done and in the process haved rescued the Royal Naval hospital
virtually from their own resources, as the Naval Officers did nearly 300 years ago. The General did manage
to obtain an inflatable boat which the authorities had confiscated from smugglers and enlisted the help
of a military helicopter to lift building materials to the island.
Four years later the hospital is back virtually to its original glory with traditional tiles adorning the new roofs
and the creamy limestone so characteristic of the island shining bright once more.
The herb garden is planted with plants growing a wide variety of medical herbs. A new foundation,
“Amics de l’Illa del Hospital” (Friends of the Hospital Island) is now involved in the restoration of
the whole compound and the future looks bright for this symbol of Menorcas cosmopolitan past.
Floodlit at night, it provides a focal point from Mahon’s elegant esplanade for views across the harbour .
The island also contains the ruins of a Paleocristic Basilica on the western side of the island.
Boat trips to Hospital Island only run on Sundays.
The boat leaves the Isla`s dedicated : Cala Fontanillas Jetty,just to the east side of the town of Es Castell, between 8.30am and last journey is at 9.00am.
The visit lasts two hours or so and includes a guided tour followed by light refreshment.
There is time for a general chat and possibly an opportunityto talk with volunteers who will be hard at work during this time.
The boat reurns to Es Castell about 11.00am.
ISLA DEL REY TRICENTARY 2011
As many of you already know 2011 is the Tricentenary of the building of the hospital on the Island in Mahon Harbour.
I will keep you all informed and today I recieved the following email from Ian Warren.
Following my report on progress at the hospital, I referred to the visit by the Red Arrows sometime during the last two weeks in May.
I should clarify this. Whereas the Red Arrows have indicated their willingness to display in Minorca, they are not in a position to confirm it.
Our request has to go formally to the Ministry of Defence RAF Events Committee which will meet at the end of January.
They will inform us of the outcome in early February.
However, we have reason to be hopeful this will happen.
Ian J Warren
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