The packed hall of the Presidencia del Gobierno in Santa Cruz was a fitting reflection of the Irish integration into Tenerife life. The 200 seats were soon snapped up and it was standing room only as several generations of inter related Canarian and Irish families gathered for the launch of Los Cologan de Irlanda y Tenerife. This epic work is not just a family story spanning 8 generations of the Cologans but also a journey through the economic and political growth of Tenerife.

For Carlos Cologan Soriano it has been a labour of love tracing his family tree back to Waterford in 1684 when Bernardo Cologan followed the lead of many fellow citizens in seeking new horizons and business opportunities. The Canary Islands were well positioned for the shipping trade routes and Bernardo soon made headway as a trader in Puerto de la Cruz, a new dynasty was about to unfold.

Bernardo also added a new surname Valois that was to feature down the family line and he grew so fond of Puerto de la Cruz that he donated a baroque alter piece of a sacred heart to the church Iglesia de la Peña de Francia, still a popular tourist attraction just behind the seafront. Many Irish settlers chose Puerto de la Cruz and nearby La Orotava where Juan Cologan Blanco was born, he soon built on the family’s commercial success and Tenerife cochineal and wine became profitable exports to much of the western world including the UK.
All the business documentation and family records have been tirelessly trawled to pull together this 625 page book. It’s a heavyweight in every sense of the word, the reception table was groaning under the weight of half a dozen volumes as visitors flicked through the pages and even at 90 euros many of the audience were clutching a couple by the time the top table took their places on the stage. Those early traders would no doubt have approved as credit cards were swiped through at a steady rate.

The distinguished guests were another indication of the importance of this family in the story of Tenerife. Hugo O’Donnell led the table from the left, Duke of Tetuan and a direct descendant of General Leopoldo O’Donnell, a famous son of Santa Cruz and a military and political legend in Spain. Justin Harman, the Irish Ambassador in Spain was followed by Milagos Luis Brito the Councillor for Education for the Canary Islands Gobierno (government), Ricardo Melchior President of Tenerife an honorary Doctor of Science at University College Cork, and finally the author himself Carlos Cologan Soriano.
The speakers all paid tribute to the family and touched on some of their greatest moments, rubbing shoulders with politicians, monarchy and even partly inspiring a cameo role in the Charlton Heston film 55 Days at Peking. Memories flickered on the faces of the large audience and there will be many more reflective moments as they work through the in depth and extensively researched volume. But after a two hour presentation in a dry hall, much of the reminising and strolling down memory lane was deferred to a less formal toast to the books success after the main event.

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