Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Tree For Mister Waring

Mallorca loves its anniversaries of births and deaths. The island can celebrate these anniversaries in grand or at least grandish fashion, as with Father Junipero Serra last year (there were many who reckoned that not nearly enough was actually made of the old boy's 300th birthday) and as it will doubtless do when it comes to the 700th anniversary of the death of Ramon Llull next year (albeit this anniversary will straddle two years as there is some legitimate debate as to when he did die). Most of these anniversaries commemorate, as you might expect, Mallorcans, but the island's history is also littered with prominent non-Mallorcans whose anniversaries are acknowledged or all but ignored. And one who has fallen into this latter category is Henry Robert Waring, a British engineer who can claim to have actually had his body littered on the island; he was buried in Palma.

Waring died a hundred years ago earlier this month: 5 October to be precise. A researcher from Sa Pobla, Pere Perelló Payeras, has noted that there is little which honours Waring's memory, and yet he played a significant role in Mallorcan economic life from 1863 until his death in 1914. Waring was one of the engineers who was involved in the draining of Albufera. Typically when this project is referred to, it is John Frederick Bateman who is cited as having been the most important of the British engineers, but there were others - Waring, William Hope and William Green, who is remembered in Sa Pobla because of the road and restaurant named after him - Mister Green; there is also a Bateman street and an Enginyer Waring street in the town.

Bateman and Hope founded the New Majorca Land Company in 1863, having obtained the concession for the drainage of Albufera. But though Bateman was, if you like, the chief engineer, he wasn't always around to check on the work owing to the fact that he had other projects on the go elsewhere. The project was in fact placed in the hands of Green and Waring; they were the principal engineers on the ground.

Of Waring's background it is difficult to be certain. There was a Henry Waring who was one of three brothers who formed Waring Brothers, which was to become one of the most important railway-building companies in Britain and in parts of the globe. As this company was based in York and as Bateman was originally from Halifax, it is possible that he was the same Waring. But whatever the background, it would seem that Henry became something of an honorary Mallorcan and that he chose to live permanently on the island, unlike Bateman.

In 1876 the New Majorca Land Company, having been granted permission to establish a farming colony, founded the Gatamoix settlement, which was hidden away under the Sant Martí mountain in Alcúdia, was populated primarily by poor workers from Pollensa and was to provide labour for both drainage work and cultivation of what was reclaimed land. Bateman is normally attributed with the founding of the colony, but in fact it was Waring who was in charge and who was the one who formally founded the colony on behalf of the company.

His relationship with the company clearly took a turn for the worse. Bateman had become the sole owner and he introduced his son Lee to the company. History has not been kind to Lee. He can be described as a hopeless romantic, a narcissist and as someone who went native. He changed his name to Luis and converted to Catholicism, his father and Mister Green having been the ones who had introduced Anglican Protestantism to Mallorca. Lee was also a pretty useless businessman, though to be fair the New Majorca Land Company had been experiencing financial problems for some time before he appeared on the scene. And it was this appearance that led to Waring leaving the company around 1886 and cutting all ties with it.

What he did next was to buy the "possessió" (estate if you like) of Peguera and to move to Palma from Sa Pobla, where he had owned a house. He underwent a career change and got involved with the export of capers and carobs and he was to buy further estates - Xorrigo and Moranta on the northeastern outskirts of Palma.  

So, Waring was as intimately involved with the Albufera project and with the Gatamoix colony as Bateman; more so in some respects. He was also more intimately involved with Mallorca, and it is for these reasons that Pere Perelló Payeras believes that he deserves some greater recognition than he has had, even if he has only a simple tribute in mind, the planting of a tree in Albufera in memory of a time in Mallorca's history and Waring's contribution to it.

Photo: Waring's grave in the cemetery in Palma - from http://sapoblaradio.com

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