There are a few Coleraine’s in the world, however a Portrush family couldn’t contain their delight when they discovered St Joseph-de-Coleraine in eastern Canada whilst planning a three week trip to the area.
“I instantly looked up what information I could find on Google and just knew we had to go,” explained Janis Thompson Bolan.
Joined by husband Dr Peter Bolan, Director of International Travel and Tourism Management at Ulster University, Coleraine Campus, the couple were also surprised to find out that St Joseph-de-Coleraine settlers in the 1790s came from Coleraine in Northern Ireland and named it after their hometown.
Janis, a former self-employed as a historical researcher, explained: “When I plan a holiday it also becomes a research project beforehand. When planning a three week touring holiday of eastern Canada in July, I worked out a route to take in all the main areas we wanted to visit – Niagara Falls, the Eastern Townships, Quebec City, Montreal, the Algonquin Park and the lovely town of Huntsville and, finally, Toronto.
“While looking at the route between Orford in the Eastern Townships and Quebec city, I noticed a small town in the middle of southern Quebec province – St Joseph-de-Coleraine. My curiosity aroused, I looked up what information I could find on Google. The information was written in French, as that is the main language of the area, and it said that St Joseph-de-Coleraine was a local municipality, with roughly 1900 inhabitants. The first settlers in the area arrived in the 1790s, in 1864 it was officially recognised as a town and then in 1891 it became a local municipality and responsible for a wider area. But the most interesting fact for me was that those settlers in the 1790s came from Coleraine in Northern Ireland and named it after their hometown.
“My interest in all things historical, but especially those with a local link, made me determined that we visit the area. I contacted the office of the ‘Maire’ – the Mayor - saying that I would like to call and leave a booklet produced for the 400th anniversary of our Coleraine in 2013. The Mayor, Monsieur Gilles Gosselin, was happy to meet us.”
From then on, the Bolans’ visit grew with them gathering Coleraine souvenirs to give to St Joseph-de-Coleraine and even acquiring items from Coleraine’s legacy council.
“We bought a glass from the Lacada Brewery in Portrush, another from the Bushmills Distillery, a few small bottles of whiskey and a large poster of Dunluce Castle and the Causeway Coastline,” Janis continued.
“I approached our own Mayor, Ald Maura Hickey, who, from her private collection, gave me a china mug with the crest of Coleraine imprinted on it and a chrome letter opener engraved with ‘Coleraine Borough Council’. It was all very exciting.”
On the day, Monday, July 18, Janis and Peter arrived at the municipal offices and from that moment onwards were treated like dignities.
“Not only was the mayor there, but also several councillors and the Prefet, Monsieur Paul Vachon, who, as well as being Mayor of the small heritage town of Kinnear’s Mills, a 45 minute drive away, is also Prefet of the Regional Municipality and responsible for 19 local municipalities. Some spoke English, some did not but with my little bit of French, we had a wonderful time.
“A special page had been created for us in the official visitors’ book which everyone signed. We were given gifts for ourselves, and for Mayor Hickey there was a copy of the black and embossed gold book produced for the 100th anniversary of the creation of the municipality in 1991.
“Many photos were taken – one notable one was at a monument in the town, erected in 1964 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its official recognition as a town and it is dedicated, in French and in English, to the people of Coleraine in Northern Ireland.
“Words can not describe the amazing experience and hospitality we received. Our trip is not on the tourist route but Peter and I will treasure our day to St Joseph-de-Coleraine as one of the most memorable of our holiday.”