Paul OGarra was born in Gibraltar on the 8th may 1962. His father, Louis, was a British schoolteacher from Manchester turned soldier by the war and served with the Royal artillery on the Rock. He returned after the war was over and started a school, St Josephs, the first postwar school. Gibraltar still having, but scantily, recovered from the turbulent years. The nightly air raids and flak barrages, the suffering that comes with any major armed conflict still vividly engrained in the recent memory of the wartime inhabitants. Trying to get back to business as usual as the troopships began to dock in the harbour. They carried the many returning refugee families who had been evacuated by the Royal navy. So many Gibraltarian people exiled by war to the Uk, and to further off, and more exotic places such as Madeira, French Morocco, Jamaica, and Northern Ireland.
Louis married Teresa Azzopardi, the beautiful young daughter, the baby of a family of Gibraltarian shipchandlers, fervent Roman Catholics, descendents of intrepid men and women who had rowed in their longboats from Malta to make a home on the Rock. Louis and Teresa had four children of whom Paul was the third eldest. The children were reared with English discipline, learning, and romantic literature on the one hand, and a large local family of uncles, aunts, cousins and a doting grandmother, who was Spanish from Cadiz, on the other.
Childhood was spent roaming across the Up South, Rosia and Europa point areas of Gibraltar engaging in childish games and adventures, reading extensively, books such as Enid Blyton¨s adventure series, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Swallows and Amazons for ever, John Buchan and the Gorbal diehards. Saturday mornings were a day for delving and searching through the shelves of the old Garrison library to discover new horizons, characters, and stories. The journey of discovery that had begun with Baba the Elephant eventually began to grow richer as the classics were devoured.
Paul was educated at Bishop Fitzgerald’s school where his father was the headmaster and insisted on treating all the boys equally. Subsequently, he attended Gibraltar Grammar school, until seeing fellow students of Jewish persuasion prepare to leave for Tel Aviv to defend Israel. The Jewish boys had their adventure spoiled by the pre-mature arrival of General Moshe Dayan at the gates of Cairo. Israel´s direst moment had been overcome, and young students from all over the world were no longer so necessary that their studies and futures could be jeopardized. The Holy land was safe and the General with a patch over his eye, the new unchallenged darling of the Western world. Paul, at the earliest time possible, set off in a steamer from Tangiers, sailing to Southampton with a friend who was shipping Moroccan leather goods to the Uk. After working a spell in London, he left the UK to discover his roots in Malta. Later it was a case of returning to Gib, only to fly away again to discover new places. He alternated callings as a tour guide of Morocco and recoverer of broken down rented cars in the desert, tour guide of south Spain and eventually running a Flamenco club on the Costa del sol, in the days when the Costa was still a new and exciting place to visit.
In later years Paul was to marry and have a family of three girls, own and run Estate agency businesses in the Uk and Spain. Eventually, he set off again to discover new places in the middle and far East and phillippines, and when Perestroika and glastnost finally arrived at the hands of Mihail Gorbacheff and the Soviet union was open, set off to discover the East. He studied Russian at St Petersburg and spent time travelling to the Republic of Udmurtia, kazan, Siberia and up an uncharted river to meet Tribes that still lived in the area. Nizhny Novgorod and the South Volga. Then to Ukraine travelling from city to city, falling more and more in love with the great Russian writers and painters as he went.
Fourteen years ago at the age of fifty, Paul contracted Renal cancer. He was operated on successfully at the Bullfighters Hospital in Pamplona in North Spain. The next two years he spent living life to its full in the company of Spanish and Russian friends who had come to find him in the hospital just three days after intensive care. They came armed with a ham and lots of wine. The resulting post surgery celebration was broken up by the timely appearance of the hospital chaplain. The operation had been a success as the tumour had been totally encapsulated within the removed kidney. Metastasis was practically impossible the surgeons happily reported. Two years later the cancer metastasised to his lungs on which he was duly operated, and half of his lungs were removed. Later for reasons undefined he suffered strokes in both eyes and lost partial sight in one eye and total in the left which he duly recovered by swimming and praying. Sixteen years have gone by since the renal cancer was first discovered, and ten years since his last operation and everything is fine, remission seems to be total.
Paul’s lifestyle has not been affected due to his illnesses because of his hard-headedness. He still swims at least one or two kilometres per day all year round, travels, practises martial arts and fervently believes that the Lord leads him by the hand. After leaving the hospital he spent some time in Tangiers, hairless, gaunt and on crutches, but enjoying the warmth and affection of many new friends there. Then off to Prague to study filmmaking, made several shorts but finally decided that he would first write and then make movies when the time came.
The Boy who sailed to Spain is Paul O´Garra´s first published work and will be followed in the new year with a collection of short stories and a second book, making the boy who sailed to Spain the first in a series.