In the Jardim Pescador do Olhanense there are eight beautiful seats, created in 1931 with hand-painted tiles from Porto. They commemorate the 1808 civilian uprising against the Napoleonic army in Olhão and the subsequent journey made by Manuel De Oliverira Nobre and 15 Olhanese fishermen to advise the Portuguese Prince Regent, João VI, that the French had been expelled from the Algarve.
Using only the stars and rudimentary maps to guide them, the fishermen sailed in a small open fishing boat (a caique) from Olhão to Brazil via Funchal. In Funchal they were joined by a 17th sailor, Francisco Domingos Machado, who had sailed previously to Macau. Apparently it was felt that his experience would stand them in good stead should Manuel De Oliverira Nobre be indisposed.
If you look again at my header photograph you can see both the painting of the caique (called Bom Sucesso) and the replica which is now moored in front of the markets in Olhão.
Their journey took just over three months, and on arrival in Rio de Janeiro, the de facto capital of Portugal, they were personally welcomed by João VI and many of the 15,000 Portuguese who had fled Portugal for Brazil the previous year following the Napoleonic invasion.
Their extraordinary achievement understandably captured the imagination of Portugal, and in 1809, José Agostinho de Macedo, one of Portugal’s leading poets wrote
The New Argonauta
“The portentous Voyage, which the Lieutenant of the Royal Navy and Knight of the Order of Christ, Manuel de Oliveira Nobre, dared to do, crossing the Ocean at its greatest extent in a small Caíque, is one of the actions that will make an era in Naval History. The reason for this action is even more glorious for the Portuguese than the same action. In all of Rome’s history one can not mark a fact that proves more heroic Patriotism, more honor, more loyalty, and more virtue. Manuel de Oliveira Nobre is a man of unusual courage, of inflexible constancy, and of intrepidity to the whole test: only a similar spirit could undertake on such a risky Caíque trip. “
It was to be another six years before the Portuguese with the support of the English finally routed the French from the whole of Portugal, and another seven before the Portuguese crown and government returned to Portugal.
What I love about these seats is that they also record the lives of the fishermen of Olhão and the surrounding area. And on some you can see the names of the crew. The full crew were António da Cruz Charrão, António Pereira Gémeo, António dos Santos Palma, Domingos do Ó, Domingos de Sousa , Francisco Lourenço, João Domingos Lopes, Joao do Moinho, Joaquim do Ó, Joaquim Ribeiro, José da Cruz, José da Cruz Charrão, José Pires, Manuel Martins Garrocho, Manuel de Oliveira Nobre, Manuel de Oliveira, Manuel Viegas and Pedro Nimil.
If you are visiting Olhão in the next six months you will notice quite a bit of upheaval on the road which runs along the seafront and in the gardens themselves. At the time of writing the road is only one way, and doesn’t look like it will be two way again for quite some time. The council are redeveloping the sea front to make it more pedestrian friendly (see the short video below for the plans), and the changes seem positive. From what I can gather these eight seats are being retained, which is great. Less clear is whether any of the 1.5million Euros being spent on the project has been allocated to restore them. I am optimistic they will be as some of the seats are moving slightly. What would be really lovely is if the restoration work was given to Aleluia Cerâmicas, the company which produced them in 1931 and still exists today. I guess though I’ll just have to wait and see.