‘BRITISH we are, British we stay’, was the mantra that branded Gibraltarians as, definitively, British subjects when 99% of them voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in 1967.
The 50th anniversary of Gibraltar National Day on Sunday was an extension of that self-determination that has come to shape the lives of those on the Rock.
Despite mounting pressures, including Brexit and the contested Spanish-Gibraltar border they remain a small but mighty force in the region.
Under a sea of red and white the Prime Minister Theresa May gave a video message to the mass of spectators in Grand Casemates Square, saying: “As the UK negotiates to leave the European Union, Gibraltar will be fully involved.
“As we face the opportunities and challenges to come, the UK will continue to stand firmly beside you.
“We will resolutely safeguard Gibraltar, its people and its economy and Gibraltar will remain British for as long as it chooses to do so,” she said to a growing chorus of applause.
Next up came a speech from the leader of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo who told thousands of celebrating locals: “The referendum generation wrote for themselves the modern history of the Gibraltarian. With 12,138 carbon marks on a ballot paper.”
Walking out to one of his favourite tunes, the Final Countdown, by Europe, he was the subject of thunderous applause.
He was quick to stir the crowd in this most auspicious year, saying: “You defied a dictator. You defeated fascism. You pierced the heart of the fascist claim to our home. You gave birth to a nation.”
The red carpet was rolled out to a plethora of British political figures, with each one comforted by their own punchy sound track as they took to the stage.
Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was the special guest and symbol of the global nature that Gibraltar has come to embody.
Following the chorale of the Gibraltarian Anthem, he said: “I’m delighted to travel to Gibraltar on my first official visit.
“I was fortunate to spend some of my childhood in Gibraltar and am pleased to see how Gibraltar has flourished and grown into the successful and prosperous place it is today.
“It is a place that holds deeply fond memories for me.”
Later, Richard Buttigieg, Chairman of the Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group told the Olive Press: “I feel very optimistic about our future.
“We are still waiting, we have overcome much harder obstacles than Brexit and I am confident with the entrepreneurial spirit in Gibraltar and with the desire and passion that the next generation have we will overcome the Brexit threat.
“Our worry is whether there will be a freezing of arrivals on our frontier, whether the border with our neighbour will remain open and that is really what is crucial for us.
“We need to ensure from a Gibraltarian perspective that having a fluid frontier with Spain. That is probably our biggest threat looking ahead when it comes to Brexit.”
According to the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce, the Rock is the second biggest employer for the entire region of Andalucia after the local government.
With 8,000 Spaniards crossing the border every day for work the frontier affects both Spanish and British alike. To close it, or make it much less fluid, would seriously affect the whole region.
Later at a private party for VIPs and press, Ian Paisley Jr, DUP said: “It is just a wonderful festival and of course this is like a reenactment of what happened in ’67.
“People marching to express their democratic rights and of being British. This is a very happy occasion.”
MP Andrew Rosindell, Chairman of the British Overseas Territories Group in Parliament said: “The people here are British, they are going to stay British and if we allowed any other outcome it would be a denial of human rights, liberty and democracy and I don’t think that will ever happen.
“By leaving the EU the people of Gibraltar have got back control of their territory. I don’t think there is any chance of the frontier closing, I know it was said in the referendum but it’s not going to happen.
“Our future is global, we have to be global trading, seafaring like we have been throughout our entire history. We are really rekindling that British spirit of being more global.
“People are looking at opportunities and it’s not going to be the disaster they thought it was.”
A few of these people included students Stephanie Mariasco, 25 and Stacey Gabay, 25 who have grown up in Gibraltar and used the opportunities available as a springboard for their own lives.
Mariasco said: “We always do Gibraltar Day, it is a very important tradition in Gibraltar. We are here to celebrate the fact that we are Gibraltarian and the reasons that fifty years ago we chose to remain Gibraltan.”
The festivities went long into the night and the joyous scenes included a 90-year-old eccentric to a love-hearted pram wrapped in a bag full of confetti dropped from a helicopter.