WHEN the history of the British influence on the Costa del Sol is finally written, one name will be in the forefront of how the area was brought into the 20th century.
A range of fishing villages were transformed over a number of years into the thriving modern towns and cities that they are today and whilst a number of those who were involved in changing the scene have long passed away, Shelagh Tennant renowned for her involvement with Torremolinos is still very much with us.
Having moved to Spain with her parents when aged just 10, she was something of a rebel and found herself passing through a number of boarding schools who found the young woman a little too hot to handle.
By the age of 17 she was a well-paid model working for fashion designer Elio Berhanyer, who was one of the first Spanish dressmakers in Spain to pay models a decent wage. Her brother Michael Rainey was at the heart of Swinging London fashion in the 1960s and eventually settled in Granada but Shelagh found Torremolinos a magnet and she decided to become involved in opening a pizzeria in the town which was a bit of disaster.
Irritated by a neighbouring nightclub owner, she started serving drinks in her establishment and playing some of the latest singles brought over from the UK which had not been released in Spain. Word got around that this was the place to hear the latest Beatles, Kinks and Stones that came from Britain and also Gibraltar which had a thriving record shop. As queues formed outside what had been a white elephant, Shelagh’s Bar was born and attracted all of the local hippies and artists alongside the glitterati and British conmen, all of whom wanted to be part of the Torremolinos scene.
She made a real difference to the area and although she only owned the bar for a short period of time, she can rightly be considered as one of the founders of the modern Costa del Sol.
Later, she became friends with Beatles manager, the often troubled but undoubtedly brilliant Brian Epstein and when the band travelled to Madrid, she became involved in translating all of the documentation needed to allow them to play and became friendly with John Lennon as well.
Married twice and with three daughters, Shelagh took the name Tennant when she married wealthy socialite David Tennant, son of Lord Glenconner renowned for the parties he hosted for Princess Margaret on the Caribbean Island of Mustique.
Now having settled for a quieter life away from the hurly burly, Shelagh lives in Fuengirola with her dog, but not only fondly remembers her many years of celebrity but is also remembered by those who see her as one of the pivotal people who helped to put Torremolinos on the map.
The website Torremolinos Chic, founded a decade ago by José Luis Cabrera and Lutz Petry to remember the ‘golden age’ will be celebrating Shelagh’s contribution as ‘one of the most fascinating characters of that time’ in the Galloping Major pub next Friday, June 1 at 9pm with a promise of plenty of music, laughter and memories.