7 January 1858: Two-time Kimberley Mayor and department store founder John Orr born.
DID YOU KNOW
John Orr was born to Dickson and Letitia Orr on Thursday 7 January 1858 in Benburb, County Tyrone, Ireland, and died, while on holiday, in Dublin, Ireland on 30 June 1932.
Educated in Ireland John Orr came to South Africa in 1883 aged 25 years and after working for Garlicks in Cape Town opened his first store in the mother city. In 1885 he moved to Kimberley and opened a drapery store in what would be a Kimberley landmark on Jones Street (now Phakamile Mabija Street) for many decades.
His brother Joseph joined him in 1891. Together they would build up the well-known chain of stores around South Africa, the major ones being in Kimberley, Durban, Johannesburg, Benoni, Lourenco Marques (Maputo) and at Springs. The empire steadily expanded. In 1951, it became a public company, by which time it was employing 2,500 people and conducting some 20,000 transactions a day.
In 1892 he married Mary Ellen Harper, the union producing five children, three sons and two daughters. The elder daughter Eileen married Lionel Cooper the Kimberley pharmacist.
He was twice Mayor of Kimberley, 1909 – 10 and again from 1916 – 1918. In 1910 he issued souvenir Kimberley cups to celebrate the Union of South Africa. In 1918 he was made a MBE. Orr was also a member of the first Management Board of the Alexander McGregor Memorial Museum, and was the founder of the Kimberley Horticultural Society.
In 1918 he was awarded an MBE.
His house on Lodge Road, Dunluce, or Lillienville as it was first known, was designed by DW Greatbatch for Gustav Bonas, a diamond buyer, in 1897. In 1902 Orr bought the house for the sum of £6 400, and gave it its present name. He lived there until his death, after which his daughter Eileen and her family moved in until 1975. In that year Dunluce was purchased by Barlow Rand. The company restored the house and donated it to the McGregor Museum, but retained its use until 1985 as accommodation for Barlow Rand managers.
Patrick Lambie, the Springbok rugby player, is a direct descendant of John Orr. Lambie’s grandmother Alizanne Labuschagne (husband was Nic Labuschagne of KZN rugby and an England rugby International) was the granddaughter of John Orr. Her father was Robert Harold Orr.
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