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The Ghost of Port Mahón

Few people know of the existence of the ghost of the British Admiral and hero of Trafalgar, Lord Collingwood. When Nelson was shot and killed early on in the heat of the Battle of Trafalgar his second in command Admiral Lord Collingwood took complete charge of the British fleet eventually inflicting the decisive defeat of the combined French and Spanish fleet.

Following the battle of Trafalgar and after a lifetime of service to the British crown, Collingwood, instead of retiring honourably as he had requested, and indeed had expected, to spend the rest of his life with his wife and two daughters in Morpeth, Northumberland the Admiralty ordered him to Mahón to take charge of the British Mediterranean Fleet. Here he served between the years of 1805 and his untimely death in 1810.

Lord Collingwood loved Menorca and occupied, as his shore base, a house directly opposite Golden Farm, but on the southern shore of the harbour above Fondúco.

This beautiful home is now the boutique hotel with the name of the Hostal Almirante.

Pere Melis in a small article in the Menorca Diario newspaper on July 13 referred in passing to Es Castell and the mystery known as The Ghost of the Hotel Almirante. As most people would never have heard of this and although an intriguing story, research shows that it seems that most of the elderly people of Es Castell consider the appearance a regular and quite normal event. It is apparent that strange things happen within the hotel especially when it is closed during the winter months.

It is said, that with no one there, lights can sometimes be seen in some windows, especially on rainy nights or when the Tramuntana wind blows. People passing by on the road have even heard voices coming out of Collingwood House. This is why the local people of Es Castell talk of the ghost of Port Mahón.

On many occasions I have had the pleasure in accompanying Sr. Francisco Montanari the proprietor of the hotel on his guided tours for his resident guests. After his detailed explanations of the many paintings and the numerous antique heirlooms to be seen as we take the stairs to the upper floor we enter the main salon and view the many artefacts here. Sr. Francisco says, like me, he is not a believer in ghosts but with an open mind he introduces the subject when pointing out the antique piano against the wall close to the bedroom that Admiral Collingwood is thought to have used during his frequent visits to Port Mahón.

He gives, perhaps, logical explanations (or stories?) of a couple of different events which have traditionally been attributed to the ghost and the curious history of the piano.

“On a typical winter’s night with the Tramuntana wind blowing and pouring rain buffeting the old and badly fitting windows. Sr. Montanari was chatting with the only three guests of the hotel downstairs, three very typical elderly British ladies. One of the three, before going to her bedroom, got up and with her glass of wine in her hand went to the picture of Lord Collingwood that dominates the room and offered a “goodnight” toast to him. Then Sr. Francisco and the ladies clearly heard three notes coming from the piano on the upper floor. Surprised, they all went up to see who could have played the piano. They searched all the rooms but there was no one on the entire top floor. Was it the ghost of Lord Collingwood replying to the “goodnight” toast? Could it have been a mouse? Could it have been the wind? –-- But it had been three notes ---very distinct and very clear that had emanated from the piano.”

When Lord Collingwood, seriously ill and dying was being taken back to England his ship, the Ville de Paris, encountered a tremendous storm just a few miles of the coast of Menorca and it was at this time that he expired. Naval Tradition has it that, should a sailor die at sea, his soul returns to the port from which he had last sailed. That is why many elderly people of Es Castell still believe that, on certain cold nights of the Tramuntana, the spirit of the Admiral still walks through the empty rooms of his home in the Port.

True or not? The jury is out on this one. However it wonderful to think that on occasions the spirit of the great man lives on and returns occasionally to the place he loved so much, and, second only to his family home at Morpeth and the valley of the River Wansbeck in Northumberland.

With grateful thanks to Sr. Francisco Pons Montanari and Family for the many pleasant hours in their company and their vision of keeping history alive......

Bryce Lyons
For the Asociación Menorca Britannia

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