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Basil Humphreys

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 20 JULY

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20 July 1971, Basil Humphreys, (pictured), benefactor of Kimberley and son of William, dies.

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Basil Humphreys Memorial

DID YOU KNOW

Basil William Clayton Humphreys DSC.

The son of William Benbow Humphreys and Maude Elizabeth Humphreys (nee Searle), Basil was born in Kimberley on 22 February 1916 and educated at Kimberley Boy’s High School. He had five siblings – Dulcie, Aubrey, Margery, Elaine and Winsome (Winkie).

Basil married Onah Monica Long of Kimberley who shared his passion for history, especially that of Kimberley and the Northern Cape. The union produced three children.

After World War II where he served with great distinction, he farmed in the Douglas area until ill-health forced him to retire.

His interest in the Kimberley Mine Museum in the 1960s, saw De Beers Consolidated Mines appoint him as their museum consultant in 1967. Until his appointment, the museum fell under the control of the Public Relations Officer for De Beers, the two involved in the museum being Fred Borgstrom and JS Sandilands. This appointment of Humphreys resulted in a rather haphazard collection of buildings and artefacts being turned into an historic town reminiscent of the early days of the diamond diggings.

Mr Harry Oppenheimer, Chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines, assisted quite ably by backing the idea of a museum, and made company funds available for extensions, renovations and expansion. He gave £10 000 for museum improvements in June 1962, and three years later would ensure the museum grew with even more financial assistance from the mining company. This generosity would continue through to his retirement in 1994.
 
The “new” facility planned by Basil Humphreys, that included modern buildings with shops, an entrance and car park, as well as a De Beers Hall showing the history of the company, was officially opened by Mr Frank Waring, Minister of Sport and Tourism, on 19 November 1969.

His vision of reflecting Kimberley‘s past ensured that the mine museum became a unique monument to his memory. Upon his sudden death on 20 July 1971, a mere four days after helping celebrate Kimberley‘s centenary – in period costume – a good friend, author and broadcaster, Marian Robertson, said:

“The Museum itself was not the idea nor the creation of Basil Humphreys…It is the first social museum in the country…Basil was a friend to all who appreciate our heritage…Kimberley can be proud to have had such a son.”

(Temporary Lt BWC Humphreys RNVR was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for courage, resolution and skill in minesweeping operations clearing a channel from the Humber to Heligoland and thence along the North German Coast to Cuxhaven, Hamburg and Bremerhaven, during May, 1945. (London Gazette, 4 September 1945).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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