Monday, August 11, 2014

A Fellow called Bellamy of Tenerife

Farrow Siddall Bellamy became one of the most distinguished and yet least remembered of those pioneering Victorian visitors who left their mark on the island of Tenerife. He was born in 1865 at Belton, in the Isle of Axholm part of Lincolnshire and first came to live in the Canary Islands at the age of twenty. He was employed in Las Palmas by the Liverpool firm of Elder Dempster and Company, whose shipping line advertised regular services from Liverpool, London and Hull to West African ports, calling at Madeira, Grand Canary and Tenerife. He spent thirteen years in Grand Canary and was married to Alice Harrison before moving across to Tenerife in 1898 to manage the company’s affairs on the sister island.

Elder Dempster managed the British and African Steam Navigation Company

In fact, Mister Bellamy spent the rest of his days in Tenerife where he died in 1947. While at the helm of Elder Dempster he managed the shipping agency, the supply of coal to calling steamships and the running of one of the finest old hotels in Santa Cruz, the Hotel Pino de Oro. The hotel had been opened by his employer at Elder Dempster, Sir Alfred Lewis Jones, who had taken over the ownership of the shipping company in the 1890s.

The Pino de Oro, as advertised in Brown's Madeira, Canary Islands and Azores, 1932

Many years later, in 1932, the Pino de Oro prided itself in being the only English hotel on the island. It was set in fine gardens with a mix of English and Mediterranean styles and, being at three hundred feet above sea level, commanded excellent views over the harbour. The hotel was advertised as lit throughout by electricity and with a drainage system that had been arranged on the improved sanitary principle by an English sanitary engineer. Of great importance was the hotel’s proximity to the Anglican St. George’s Church to which Farrow Siddall Bellamy donated its beautiful pulpit.

St. George's Church in Santa Cruz

Bellamy was a very cultured gentleman, able to speak Spanish, French, Italian and German. He also learnt to play the organ. He even bought himself one originally destined for the Gaudi Cathedral in Barcelona and had it installed in his Santa Cruz mansion, Salamanca.  It was a splendid house with magnificent gardens and gave its name to a busy district in the capital of Tenerife known today as the Barrio de Salamanca. Bellamy is also believed to have taken a keen interest in history, even writing fine books about early Spain, the Greeks, the Romans and other European cultures.

As we can see, Farrow Siddall Bellamy was no ordinary English businessman abroad but, for some reason worth researching in the future, his achievements were recognised much more by his Spanish hosts and other nationalities than by his own countrymen. Spain awarded Bellamy with the Order of Isabella the Catholic, a civil order acknowledging the services of any person, be they Spanish or foreign. Sweden presented him with their Order of the Pole Star, possibly for his services as honorary consul, and the Belgians presented him with the Order of Leopold 1st.

Bellamy's Order of Isabella the Catholic medal would have been similar to this

Alice Bellamy gave him a daughter, Sylvia Cristina and three sons, all of whom were educated at Lancing College in the beautiful West Sussex countryside and volunteered for the British Army to serve in the 1914 war. The youngest, Cecil, returned to Tenerife where he died in 1983. 

To finish with a couple of anecdotes, when Alice died in December, 1946 Mr Bellamy married an English lady called Rhoda. She had at one time been a servant at their house, Salamanca and contacted Farrow Bellamy offering to help him with the writing of his books. After a short time she suggested they should be married as "people were beginning to talk". He accepted. Rhoda looked after him until he died and then returned to England. On a lighter note, Bellamy is believed to have been one of the first or indeed the first person to have owned a motorcar in Tenerife. On 14th February 1902 his legal adviser presented the Civil Governor with a document expressing, as formally as was required in such important circumstances, “Having recently acquired in Paris an automobile from the firm of Panhard and Levassor for his own particular use I hereby request your corresponding permission for Mr. Bellamy to circulate freely along the streets and roads in accordance with the laws governing automobile vehicles. He is the one who will be driving it”.  

A 1902 Panhard Levassor

The car is thought to have terrified the local population, especially when he first drove into the hills. He took the same vehicle across the whole of Spain to research for one of his books entitled The Cathedrals and Churches of Spain. Sadly however, the magnificent automobile, believed to have been the first of two cars to have carried the same number plate of TE1, caught fire in the Las Mercedes hills when Bellamy tried to pour in more gasoline with the engine running!

My sincere thanks to Amanda Johnson for making comments which have enabled me to correct one or two factual errors in this article.

(Some images have been reproduced from internet with no personal financial gain intended.)

By John Reid Young
Author of The Skipping Verger and Other Tales