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Descendant of George Coles gets shock on P.E.I. visit


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Douglas Coles Bowman, the great-grandson of Father of Confederation George Coles, stands in front of the George Coles Building in Charlottetown. Bowman, who lives in California, was surprised to learn Wednesday that his great-grandfather was a major figure in Island history. Guardian photo by Teresa Wright

When Douglas Coles Bowman walked off the Maasdam cruise ship Wednesday morning he had no idea he would get the royal treatment during his short visit to the Island.
That's because he had no idea the impact his great-grandfather had on Prince Edward Island.
His great-grandfather was none other than George Coles, the man who brought responsible government to the Island, served as the first premier of P.E.I. and was one of the Fathers of Confederation.
Bowman, who lives in California, knew very little about his great-grandfather before taking this cruise. So when his tour bus drove by the Hon. George Coles Building in Charlottetown Wednesday, Bowman's eyes practically popped out of his head.
Immediately after his bus returned from Cavendish, Bowman and his wife went back to check out the building.
"We thought we'd come in and see what we could find out,'' he said.
All Bowman knew about his great-grandfather was that he'd been a politician on the Island and that he once started a brewery.
So when some of the provincial opposition employees, whose offices are located inside the Coles Building, happened upon Bowman and discovered who he was, they swept him up and excitedly began telling him everything they could think of about his great-grandfather and Coles' influence on P.E.I. history and politics.
They even told him about the duel Coles once fought with then-Opposition leader Edward Palmer.
"I'm just stunned,'' Bowman said, sitting wide-eyed inside the Coles Building.
"My mom used to say, 'On Prince Edward Island, George Coles is an important man. And he's your great- grandfather'. Well, I didn't know quite what that meant. Wow, I had no idea.''
"We were just going to take a picture of the building,'' his wife Judy added, laughing.
The couple was treated like celebrities as they made their way into Province House. Charles MacKay, clerk of the legislative assembly, gave Bowman a personal tour of the historic legislature. All the while, Bowman's eyes sparkled as other tourists began snapping photos of him.
MacKay, whose responsibilities include the safekeeping of legislative records, said he was happy to have met Bowman since often descendants of the Fathers of Confederation simply take the tour with the student tour guides and leave quietly.
"This doesn't happen that often,'' MacKay said. "I think sometimes people just don't understand the impact that their forefathers had - particularly George Coles.''
And that impact has had lasting effects. Just recently Premier Robert Ghiz named a new post-secondary bursary after the historic premier.
But there was simply too much to try to tell Bowman as he finished his tour and had to make his way back to his ship. He promised he would return for a good, long visit.
"We had no idea the history attached to us, and suddenly everyone is treating us like we're something special,'' Bowman said looking happily at his wife.
She nodded, squeezing his hand.
"We'll be back for sure.''

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