28 October 1908, Harry Oppenheimer (pictured) born at 7 Lodge Road, Belgravia.
The Birth of Harry Oppenheimer
Harry Frederick Oppenheimer was born in the family home “Friedberg” at 7 Lodge Road, Belgravia Kimberley on 28 October 1908. His father, later Sir Ernest, was a Town Councillor for Kimberley, and on that eventful day in his family life attended routine council meetings. The birth notice in the Diamond Fields Advertiser simply states that Harry was born that day, the “son of Ernest and May Oppenheimer”. The birth entry is recorded in the Griqualand West Jewish Congregation register, with his name recorded as Harry Friedrich, the naming ceremony being on 5 November 1908, the service being conducted by the Reverend Harris Isaacs. (The Oppenheimer family later converted to Christianity).
That same day, the Kimberley Sanatorium changed its name to the Hotel Belgrave (now the McGregor Museum); there was a cricket match on the Eclectic ground between a Ladies XI and the American Stores XI (and won by the latter by four runs); and the suffragettes chained themselves to the railings in the public gallery of the House of Commons in London. Councillor William Sagar was Mayor of Kimberley, and the railway line connecting Bloemfontein and Kimberley had just been opened in April that same year. It was into a world that was changing that young Harry was born. He would live through two World Wars, the Spanish Flu epidemic, apartheid, Harold MacMillan’s “winds of change”, witness the birth of a new democratic South Africa, and as leader (and later mentor) of the gold and diamond industries of South Africa, survive. He would have the ear of great men and women throughout the 20th century. He was 24 years old when Sol Plaatje died, and 10 years old when Nelson Mandela was born. With his death on Saturday 19 August 2000 in a Johannesburg clinic went the link between the past and the world of today.