Credited as being the grandfather of tourism on the Costa del Sol, George Langworthy's amazing story has been etched into the history of Torremolinos. Although several authors have focused on the former dragoon who set up home in a secluded corner of Torremolinos, a new English-language biography published in June reveals the complete, fascinating life of this celebrated pioneer.
Written by Mike Shapton, The Englishman of the Peseta, is a biographical account of a wealthy young man who set sail from Victorian Manchester to Gibraltar on 21 November 1903 in order to start a new life in Spain. Today, his story is known to many people along the Costa del Sol, although primarily for being a generous Englishman who gave away his fortune, and eventually his home, to the locals.
Mike's book goes much deeper and recounts the remarkable story of an Englishman whose life took him through the highs of the British Empire to his final resting place in the English Cemetery in Malaga.
Mike, who was born in Liverpool, first discovered Spain in 1969, when he went to live in Cordoba. He moved back to the UK in 1972 and it would be almost 40 years before he would return. In 2010, he arrived in Torremolinos for a holiday with his wife. It was during his holiday that Mike read an article in a local newspaper about Langworthy, and the story inspired him to look deeper into his life and his connection to Torremolinos.
"I had never heard of him, but I thought gosh, this guy is clearly regarded down here. I was curious and I think the attraction was the fact he had a kind of double claim to fame: the generosity, which led to him giving away his entire fortune, and the conversion of his home into the first hotel on the Costa del Sol," Mike explains to SUR in English.
It would be four years before Mike found the time to begin work on the project. After retiring in 2014, he began his research in the UK, obtaining information about Langworthy's early years at a boarding school in Rutland and about his time as a dragoon during the Boar War. He also visited the National Army Museum and the British Library, and this is when he realised that Langworthy's story had to be told.
"I think George had an appetite for excitement. He came from a very successful background and seemed to be living the life of Riley on the Costa del Sol," he says.
Mike next made contact with Remi Fernández Campoy, the niece of a member of staff that worked for him. Although she never knew Langworthy, Remi provided invaluable information and privileged access to her collection of photographs.
This is Mike's first book, although he claims that he has no plans to continue with a literary career: "It took about three years to actually write the book and it was hugely enjoyable, although I don't think I will attempt anything else like this again."