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UPDATED: 25/07/2022

25 July 1901, Original Synagogue on Dutoitspan Road sold on public auction.
25 July 1965, William Benbow Humphreys, (pictured) art collector extraordinaire dies.
25 July 2002, Great CBC athlete and Springbok rugby player Pat Lyster dies.

(Pictured is William Humphreys).

Death of William Humphreys, great benefactor to Kimberley

William Benbow Humphreys, City Councillor in Kimberley, Member of the Cape Provincial Council, and Member of Parliament (for Beaconsfield and afterwards for Kimberley), was the founder of the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley. He became, in 1961, the second recipient of the Freedom of the City of Kimberley. Humphreys was born in Oudtshoorn on 5 April 1889 and died in Kimberley on 25 July 1965.


William Benbow Humphreys

While born in Oudtshoorn, Humphreys’ lifelong association with Kimberley originated when, aged just 6 months, he went with his family to that town. He was educated at Kimberley Boys’ High School, matriculating there in 1908.
Humphreys afterwards graduated from the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, Stellenbosch, and subsequently pursued farming interests in the Campbell district west of Kimberley. Humphreys also worked with his father, S.B. Humphreys, who was a general dealer and produce merchant in Giddy Street, Kimberley.

In 1910 he had married Maude Elizabeth Searle, born in 1890 at Blanco near George, but who, like Humphreys himself, had gone to Kimberley at a young age. She bore him six children: Dulcie, Aubrey, Basil, Margery, Elaine and Winsome.

Humphreys’ political career commenced with his election to the Kimberley City Council in 1917, and was advanced a decade later in his becoming a Member of the Cape Provincial Council. In that same year, 1927, he retired from the family business to further his political interests. Two years later he was elected to the Union Parliament as the representative for Beaconsfield, one of the Kimberley constituencies, following the retirement of Sir David Harris.

In 1933 he was returned to the Beaconsfield seat unopposed, as the coalition candidate of the South African Party. His proficiency in both English and Afrikaans was a distinct advantage in a constituency that had significant urban and rural components, English-speakers predominating in the former area and Afrikaans-speakers in the latter.

Upon Sir Ernest Oppenheimer’s retirement from Parliament as Kimberley‘s representative in 1938, Humphreys took over that seat. In 1948 he retired from politics, never having lost an election in the 19 years he was actively involved in it.

It was also in 1933 that Humphreys had been instrumental in having Government embark on the building of the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme, one of the world’s largest irrigation schemes, extending over an area of 369.50 square kilometres. The four million Pound project brought relief to severe unemployment during the Great Depression, and has turned the area into one of South Africa’s major agricultural regions. At a meeting at the Kimberley City Hall on 2 November 1933 Colonel Deneys Reitz, Minister of Lands and Irrigation, paid tribute to Humphreys for his efforts towards the realisation of the scheme.


William Humphreys Art Gallery

Beyond Parliament, Humphreys pursued other interests. He sat on the Kimberley School Board, for instance, from 1921 to 1930. At a personal level he continued with farming, raising purebred Persian sheep, devoting more time to this following his retirement from politics.

Above all, however, his interest in art took up his time, resulting in a burgeoning collection, augmented during frequent trips to Europe when he bought paintings, sculpture, old furniture and objets d’art. His home, Benbow Lodge at 46 Carrington Road Kimberley, including a purpose-built gallery, was filled with these treasures, of which a sizeable proportion were of the Dutch and Flemish schools of the 17th century.

In 1948 Humphreys donated a part of his vast collection to the people of Kimberley and the Northern Cape “in consideration of his long association with the public life of the Northern Cape and his desire to further the interests of the said region.” This collection, known as the Humphreys’ Bequest, comprising a selection of European and British paintings, furniture and contemporary copies of classical sculptures, was initially housed at the Northern Cape Technical College. The terms of the donation stipulated that a suitable gallery should be built as a more permanent home for the collection, with Humphreys additionally giving a large grant towards the building costs.

On 5 June 1952 Humphreys laid the foundation stone of the Gallery which today bears his name. Six months later the Gallery was officially opened by Mr Harry Oppenheimer. Humphreys served as curator, secretary, caretaker and virtually everything else during the early years of the Gallery’s history.

His contribution was recognised and acknowledged on 5 April 1960, Humphreys’ 71st birthday, at a special function held in the Art Gallery when Kimberley Mayor, Mr Lionel Jawno, said “there is no better name for this wonderful showplace.”

The following year Humphreys had conferred upon him the Freedom of the City in acknowledgement of all he had done for Kimberley and the Northern Cape, in many spheres, ranging from politics to the arts. The ceremony took place in the Council Chamber on 14 September 1961. Mr Graham Eden said that were it not for Humphreys’ efforts, “the aspirations of this vast area of the northern Cape would never have seen the light of day in Parliament.”

Following his death on 25 July 1965, a civic funeral took place at the Newton Dutch Reformed Church. The Humphreys family had had a close connection to it, William Humphreys’ mother having given the four-face clock and bells in the tower. Humphreys had himself given a set of collection plates. The service was conducted by the Revd W Fullard.

Leader of the Indian community, Mr G.W. Naidoo recalled that Mr Humphreys “was one who was quick to appreciate other people’s hardships (and worked for the interests of the Coloured and Indian people of the city). He loved the poor and served his people with an understanding heart.”

UPDATED: 25/07/2019

25 July 1965, William Benbow Humphreys, art collector extraordinaire dies.
25 July 2002, Great CBC athlete and Springbok rugby player Pat Lyster (pictured) dies.

Also pictured is Lyster winning the SA Junior Championships 100 yards at the De Beers Stadium in 1929.


Patrick Joseph “Pat” Lyster, a speedy Springbok wing from the 1930s, died in Somerset West at 89 years of age on 25 July 2002, leaving behind his wife Jean and six children. He was born on 31 May 1913.


Pat Lyster winning SA Junior 100 yard Championship

Educated at CBC Kimberley from 1927 to 1931 he set many athletic records that were only broken in the 1990s. He was the SA Junior Champion over 100 yards in 1928 and 1929, in 1929 setting a new SA record for the distance in 10 seconds flat. This record was set at the De Beers Stadium.

At school he captained the 1st XV in 1930 and 1931. Living in Durban after his schooling he played Currie Cup rugby for Natal before being selected on the right wing for two Tests against Australia at home in 1933. He played a further Test against New Zealand on the 1937 tour. In 11 matches for the Boks he ran in 13 tries, and was the fastest of all the Springbok backs on the 1937 tour.

Interesting is that in the three tests he played he was never on the winning side. Pat considered the informal rugby “test” between the “All Blacks” and the “Springboks” in the desert during World War II as the game he had most enjoyed.

His nephews, Dugald Macdonald (South Africa) and Donald Macdonald (Scotland) also played international rugby.

During World War II (1939-1945) he served with the Natal Mounted Rifles as a volunteer and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at the second battle of El Alamein on 23/24 October 1942. The medal was Gazetted on 31 December the same year, awarded to temporary 2nd Lieutenant Lyster. By the end of the war he was a Major in the NMR.

“In the face of heavy machinegun fire the South Africans stormed the strongpoint and after 15 minutes of desperate close quarter fighting they overcame the enemy resistance. The Natal Company suffered heavily – Lt. Dennis Platt was killed and Capt. V. Paul and Lts Lyster and “Bunny” Evans were among the wounded.” (Lyster’s wound was in the chest).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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