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Portrait of an English merchant forgotten : Alfred Diston 

PAGE 18 PORTRAIT

On February 8th, 1793, Alfred Diston was born in the small English seaside town of Lowestoft in the county of Suffolk,

In 1810, when he was 17 years of age, he came to the island of Tenerife, becoming one of the first British residents on the island in the early nineteenth century. His early years in Puerto de la Cruz are clearly related to the British firm of “Pasley, Little & Co”. After a brief stay on the island of Malta between 1822-1823, he returned to Puerto de la Cruz In 1823 and from his first marriage, his daughter Charlotte was born and in 1824, another daughter Isabel, followed by his son, John Diston, who was born in 1836.

When he was 46 years of age, he married for the second time, to Maria de la Soledad and Luna Orea in the Puerto church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia. They had four children : Soledad, Placida ( 1840-1906 ), Alfredo ( 1843 -1868 ) and Francisco de Paula ( 1844-1854 ) .

Alfred ‘s sister, Elizabeth Diston , come to the island in 1836 , staying with his brother until her death in Puerto de la Cruz on May 8th, 1858 .

Alfred was invited to become a member of the Royal Economic Society of the Friends of the Land and the Academy of Fine Arts in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

The Royal Economic Society unanimously appointed Alfred inspector of the famous botanical gardens in La Orotava, a position he held for more than 14 years. This prestigious position went far above simply observing that everything went according to plan; he was obliged to file a series of reports for the Society. Diston had a real passion for plants, including those used on the island and submitted reports on the acclimatisation of certain species.

The Canary banana Musa Cavendish or Cavendishi owes much to Diston as he is credited with its introduction to Tenerife and subsequently to the rest of the Canary Islands.

A great painter himself, Alfred had contacts with British artists such as JJ Williams and Elizabeth Murray, who influenced his artistic vision. The family had a special friendship with Elizabeth Murray who came to Puerto when her husband was appointed consul.

Alfred became particularly known for his works which portrayed the traditional Canary costumes in the rural and urban areas and the quality thereof are considered to be of great historical importance.

Today , it is impossible to locate the original headstone or the place of his tomb following his death in 1861; the same as with his sister Elizabeth Diston . This is probably because of the transformations the Puerto protestant cemetery had seen over the last few centuries. of the transformations the Protestant Cemetery portuense wins over the last few centuries. His remains were eventually deposited in a common grave.

Many people currently frown that there is not a special place dedicated to Alfred Diston, an Englishman who lived in Puerto de la Cruz who left a priceless legacy. The city where he died has not recognised him and he has somehow been forgotten. How long should we wait?