#ThinkingAllowed: ‘It was the will of the people’

#ThinkingAllowed: ‘It was the will of the people’

On Sunday we mark a very special anniversary. It will be 50 years since the people of Gibraltar – we as a community – voted in the 1967 Referendum.

It will mean that National Day takes on an even greater significance and I hope that it will be one of the biggest attended rallies and events.

Our love for our homeland is unique and on Sunday we will be commemorating more than just an important anniversary – it’s the message that no matter our differences, no matter our political colours, no matter our views on bank holidays, cleanliness, the acts for MTV Gibraltar Calling etc… we all stand Red and White.

More importantly, we all stand united when it comes to Gibraltar and its future.

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We are entitled to freely and democratically decide our own future – the 10th September 1967 was a vital step in doing so. It was when the people of Gibraltar spoke out loud and clear and voted by 99% to ensure Gibraltar remained British. It was the will of the people.

In 2002 when Gibraltar staged a second sovereignty referendum I worked on a documentary about the 1967 event with my GBC colleague Christine Vasquez. It was an eye opener. We spent months working on it but it made us rich in information about one of the most important events in our recent history. I watched and re-watched the footage and heard recordings countless times. The presenter excitedly shouting “people are hugging each other in the street” or one of the ministers making reference to “what a wonderful turkey we’ve eaten tonight” a literal translation from the Spanish ‘nos hemos comido un pavo esta noche’.

Perhaps the people back then didn’t quite understand fully the significance of the vote and what it would go on to mean 50 years later.

It cemented our identity and recorded black upon white the wishes of the people of Gibraltar. It gave us a voice and allowed us to have a say.

There have been numerous events already to mark the anniversary, including exhibitions with footage from the day. I would encourage everyone, particularly young people, to take an interest in learning more about the Referendum. There are numerous videos on YouTube and so much online. Just take 10 minutes to learn more about how a generation voted to create and shape their future, your present, and your children’s future.

I have said this before – if you have living grandparents ask them about it before it’s too late. There’s a generation that has first-hand stories of the 1967 Referendum, do not miss out on an opportunity to hear from people who lived through this momentous chapter in our history. They can give you the anecdotes, the colour and stories that no history books will ever be able to replace.

One of the wonderful events we have seen recently is the repainting of the Devil’s Gap steps by young people. Just like people did 50 years ago it has brought these young people together in one common cause. It has helped re-create the huge sense of civic pride and community which existed back then.

On Sunday let’s not lose sight of this and let’s go out and celebrate. Together with the Evacuation it’s the event that helped shape the identity of the Gibraltarians. As a reporter at the time said it showed the world that Gibraltar was British, is British and will remain British.

It also gave us some of the most important quotes still very much in use today: “British We Are, British We Stay.”

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James Neish
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