Menorca Britannia
Menorca Britannia logo

Menorca Britannia.

  • EnglishEnglish
  • EspañolEspañol

The Union Flag firmly established on Menorca
as a Crown Colony of Great Britain.
The “Golden Age” begins Lt. Colonel Richard Kane and his legacy.
There were no paintings or likenesses produced during his lifetime.

Richard Kane
Richard Kane
The bust by John Michael Rysbrack Installed in Westminster Abbey in 1740.
Shown here with courtesy of the Dean in Chapter

Even before Menorca was ceded to Great Britain at the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 Richard Kane had arrived to take up his post as lieutenant Governor under the nominal Governor, the Duke of Argyll. However the Governorship was really Kane´s (as stated in last months article.)

Under the Royal Appointment of Queen Anne, Richard Kane was chosen because of his outstanding military career alongside her father King William III in various battles in Canada, the Low Countries and the famous Battle of the Boyne and his diplomatic skills had been well noticed.

Kane was born in the year 1662 as Richard Ó´Cahan in Duneane a village near Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland (which was one country at that time). He was a Protestant and decided to Anglicise his name to Kane in documents when he entered military service.

On arrival in Menorca Richard Kanes´s first duty on behalf of Queen Anne was to call together the people of the Island and request them to submit their recommendations for the future of Menorca and for the betterment of all the inhabitants. It was stipulated by Queen Anne that quote “Their Civil and Religious Rights should be recognised in the best and most perfect manner possible” unquote. This was the first time in history that the Menorcans were invited to submit their recommendations on their future directly to a ruling power and has never been repeated since by either the French or Spanish.

Following these talks, councils were formed in Ciutadella and Mahón comprising 4 Magistrados and 12 Councillors and 3 Magistrados and 12 Councillors in each respectively. It was through these bodies that Richard Kane was able to convey his instructions and impose his authority on the people. He proved himself a fair disciplinarian, the troops were kept well ordered and any misdemeanours were severely punished. They had to respect the people as equals and not as conquered.

He allowed all religions to be recognised but did initially have some animosity from the hierarchy of the Catholic church especially when he outlawed the Inquisition (a hundred years before was to happen in the rest of Spain). However they very soon realised how fair and just their new “governor” was and, with a few dissenters, thereafter worked with him to pursue the betterment of the lives of the people.

Richard Kane had three major concerns amongst his many. However those of greatest importance which deserve mention were... The better defence of Menorca. The improvement of the prosperity of the people and their general welfare which, in part, relied on better Transport links.

When the British arrived on Menorca a census was carried out on the 20th April 1713 which shows the population numbering 16.046 in total, with almost equal numbers in the two cities of Ciutadella and Mahón , (4580 ea.) The rest scattered through the rest of the towns and rural communities. The Population exploded when almost 7.500 Troops and Marines arrived with the first fleet. These were followed over the following year by carpenters, blacksmiths, innkeepers, brothel keepers. Import/export merchants and all the many wives and children of the troops. All those that it was usual in those days to follow an army around. This almost tripled the population and Menorca could not sustain that number of people.

The Menorcans had been largely impoverished, subsistent peasant farmers growing, in the main, pumpkins and melons, not particularly nutritious, and living on a very unhealthy diet. The indigenous cattle gave little milk and even less meat as they were badly nourished. There were some poultry but eggs were a luxury.


Horticulture was very dear to his heart and Richard Kane required the farmers to establish orchards and vegetable gardens and start growing vegetables such as cabbages, turnips, carrots, beans, peas and onions etc. The whole population was advised to grow vines, apples (pomes dén Kane), plums---in a market one day he states “I never saw prunes (plums) as large”, the variety became known as Neveso. Figs and even blackberries were also introduced in order to make the island self sufficient.

He had already shown by example with the draining, by the troops, of 6 areas of low lying marsh land to make market gardens as at Hort de Sant Joan (St John´s Gardens) at the inland end of Mahón Harbour alongside the start of the Fornells road.

He also dramatically changed agricultural practise with the introduction of new breeds of poultry, the saddle back pigs from Sardinia, and, most importantly for the future, the Frieson cattle. With the shortage of grazing and fodder for these latter he arranged the introduction of Trifolium Pratense. A type of red clover called Trébol (Trefoil in English) Found to be highly nutritious for ruminating animals.


In Richard Kane´s first surveys of Menorca he states the Island being crisscrossed by a myriad of lanes and cart tracks, so badly maintained since being built by the Moors some 10 centuries earlier that they were not even wide enough for two horses side by side let alone a horse and cart. Many of the tracks were so deeply rutted by cart wheels over centuries of use that during the rainy months they became waterlogged and traffic came to a standstill. Not only was it essential to transport the food from the farms to the main centres of population but also, importantly, to move the military from one end of the Island to the other rapidly in case of an invasion by France or the Spanish followers of Philip. He therefore ordered a road be built from one end of the Island to the other.

The road on which construction commenced in 1714 was designed to very exacting specifications. An amazing feat of engineering as it was completed by 1720 (just 6 years) using British troops augmented by labourers from the various towns and villages. Kane took his engineers into the countryside and drew up plans for the route of the new “English Royal Road”. His specifications are worthy of studying for their detail and the fact that 3 centuries later it is still in use (the length from Mahón to Mercadal) shows how well it was originally built.

Winding across the Island taking advantage of some of the existing tracks and linking the towns and major farms the road is in fact half as long again as the direct distance from St Philips Fort at the entrance to Mahón harbour to the city of Ciutadella. For many years it has been called Cami den Kane ( Kanes´s Road)

Menorca map
DRAWN BY EARL SPENCER (an ancestor of Princess Diana)
(Copies of this can readily be seen throughout Menorca)

Once constructed the road afforded improved transport links and opened up the whole island to trade. This greatly helped to increase the prosperity of the people and the towns and rural communities became less insular. On its 250 anniversary in 1986 that stretch of the road from Mahón to Mercadal was restored to its present condition and asphalted A marble monument to Richard Kane was designed in 1919 and erected in 1922 next to St John´s Gardens on what was part of the original Cami D´en Kane. However this monument to Richard Kane was moved from its original situation on the opposite side of the road to its present position at the side of the Fornells road when the Island Council started the first stage of widening and reconstruction of this road in 1991 in order to make it suitable for tourist traffic.

A translation of the Latin inscription on the monument reads---
This public highway running from one end of the Island to the other was first paved and finished in 1720 by the initiative of Richard Kane, Lieutenant Governor, a name deservedly cherished by his countrymen and by all Minorcans, and especially and forever to be remembered beside these gardens, an outstanding man and by Royal appointment Governor of Minorca. After the ravages of time, in the years 1800 and 1801, it was entrusted to the British troops of this garrison for restoration and total repair, out of love for the inhabitants and for posterity, by the Honourable Henry Edward Fox, Governor of this Island and military commander. This work was inspected and planned chiefly by William Scholy, a lieutenant of the Eighth Infantry Regiment.

Kane's monument

On it´s re-positioning in 1991 the daily newspaper Diario de Menorca wrote the following article—

KANE; The monument in the memory of Richard Kane Kane, the legendary British Governor of the eighteenth century, is standing upright once more. It now stands on the right hand side of the Mahon to Fornells road., in the direction of that seafaring town. Today´s road building engineers, in good measure heirs to the English engineers who first built Kanes road (el Cami d´en Kane), thought it a good opportunity to move it from its former site while they were widening the road. In its new position, the spirit of Kane will be able to contemplate at leisure the widening of his old road and admire the phenomenal changes that Menorca has undergone in the last 2 centuries. The red coated “Johnies” no longer travel by this road. Now it is the tourists with sunburnt skin and bewildered faces as they drive in search of the beaches,


Always aware of an attack by Britains arch enemy France the beefing up of the defences had to run parallel to all the foregoing. Some work had already started on the enlargement of the 16th century St. Philips Fort before the arrival of Kane but now he had plans drawn up to hugely increase the size and to make it into what was eventually to become, one of, perhaps the largest British fortress in the world.. Work began on the building of St Annes Fort (named after Queen Anne) at the opposite side of the harbour entrance (what is left is now the oldest part of the fortress of Isabel II at La Mola) and also on the ancillary fort of Filipet, the small fort at the end of the Lazareto peninsular, from where chains could be dragged from one side of the harbour to the other to impede enemy ships from entering.

St Philips fort Menorca

The enlarged St Philips Fortress with the original 16th century castle shown in the centre and also the small fort of Fiipet on the opposite side of the harbour entrance

With whole fleets arriving at any time the Royal Navy was now calling for larger facilities. Richard Kane had always thought that the arsenal originally built in 1669 positioned under the cliffs of Mahón was a danger to the residents of the town containing powder and other explosive material. It was also much too small for purpose.

He arranged to purchase land from the owners, the family Delas-Vigo, of the large estate of Sant Antoni on the opposite side of the harbour, and in 1715 instructed Admiral Baker to oversee the building of the much larger naval base which exists today. The original buildings are still there but hidden by the buildings built by the Spanish during the 1930´s on the shoreline. On our last visit there it was nice to see that the incumbent Naval Commander is, once again, having the original British buildings painted British Red (Rojo Britanica),

Naval base Menorca
Notice Saffron Island on the right now called Pinto Island where the Headquarters of the
Mediterranean Fleet was eventually built.

Bryce Lyons Asociación Menorca Britannia

Although most of the content of this article has been researched personally I would like to acknowledge the biography, “The Life of Richard Kane” (ISBN 84-606-3275-X), written by a good friend of us all in Menorca, Bruce Laurie (deceased). Should anyone want the full detailed story of Richard Kane then this must be it. Chapter 4 titled “Life Continues to Improve under the Union Flag“, in the September edition of Roqueta, will continue with more of Richard Kane´s achievements up until his death and also the British period up to and including the French invasion of 1756.

Lo sentimos no tenemos la traducción todavía