Andrew, William & John Blest

The Blest family lived in Sligo at the beginning of the 19th century.  The mother was Anna Maiben or Mayben, from a local linen mill family, and the father, Albert, was a pastor descended from a soldier who had married into the minor aristocracy around Sligo.  They had seven surviving children, five boys and two girls.  The eldest, Andrew, became a merchant, John and William were both doctors.

Andrew (1792-1845)

Andrew was the first to escape from his father’s absorption with religion and he made his way to Chile in 1813.  No trail has been found of how or why he made the trip but after 1810 when Chile gained independence from Spain, the Government encouraged immigrants from across the world.

His name appears in a petition dated 1825 when he and other traders in Valparaiso ask the British representative to retain a ship to protect their trade.

He married Maria de la Concepcion Prats y Urizar, b 1800 in Valparaiso, but there is no date for the marriage.  However there is a suggestion that they had a daughter Elizabeth, born 1820 in Kandy, then Ceylon, so perhaps they traded across the Pacific.

With no refrigeration facilities imported beer quickly went bad so, in 1925, he saw a market opportunity and started the first brewery in Chile and for this his name is recognised today in Valparaiso.

William (1800-1884)
After William became a doctor, via Trinity Dublin and Edinburgh, he went to London where he found there was a surplus of doctors and took Andrew’s advice that there were opportunities for prosperity in Chile.  He arrived in Valparaíso, Chile, in 1823 and 4 years later married María de la Luz Gana Darrigrandi, a woman from a wealthy family and sister-in-law of Manuel Blanco Encalada, Chile’s first president.  With the help of these connections he set up practice independently in Chile and subsequently raised concerns about the state of health care in the country.  This led to the establishment of the Chilean Medical Society, with Blest as its chairman.  This led to him having more and more control over medical matters, effectively operating as a Minister of Health, making enemies along the way.

However, as an important member of Chilean society at the time, William Blest, after being granted Chilean nationality, was in 1832 elected a member of the national congress for Rancagua, a seat he occupied until 1834, and later also elected a Senator.

John (1791 -1849)

Less is known about John Blest, also a medical doctor, via Trinity and Aberdeen.  Along with Andrew his name appears on a letter dated 1825 asking for naval protection for merchants in Valparaiso.  He practiced medicine in Moquehua, Peru, where he married Maria Faustina Zavala.


The Society for Irish Latin American studies

Sergio Moran ,