Benjamin Osler also known as Bennie born in Aliwal North on 23rd November 1901 and died in Cape Town on 23rd April 1962, Springbok rugby player, was the son of Benjamin and Isobel Osler. Bennie’s ancestors have been traced back to Edward Osler, a prominent merchant and ship-owner, with a hint of piracy involvement.Bennie went to various schools, including the Western Province Preparatory School, Rondebosch Boys’ High School, and Kingswood College, Grahamstown. From 1921 he read law at the University of Cape Town, qualifying in 1925. During this period he represented the University on the rugby field, but from 1926 to 1930 played for Hamiltons and from 1931 to 1933 for Villagers. He acted as captain of all three clubs and on various occasions captained Western Province, which he represented from 1922 to 1933.
He gained his Springbok colours in 1924, when he played against Ronald Cove-Smith’s British team in all four test matches. Four years later (1928) he also played in all four tests against Maurice Brownlee’s New Zealand touring side, and in 1931-32 captained the Springbok team (which went to the British Isles) in all the tests of that series. He rounded off his rugby career in 1933 by playing in all five tests against the visiting Australians, acting as captain in the second test. He had scored forty-six points in the seventeen consecutive tests in which he played Osler is generally regarded as the best fly-half South Africa has produced so far (1979), a man who could dictate play. The decade during which he was a Springbok is even called the ‘Osler Era’ by sports writers, owing to his influence on the game. While he played for South Africa the country won all the test series, his province carried off the Currie Cup throughout, and each club for which he played won the Grand Challenge Cup. He had no equal as a tactical kicker and it was in particular his almost perfectly-placed corner kicks to wings which gained many tries for the Springboks. He could launch long outside kicks from any corner and as a drop-kicker he often clinched matches. Nobody was more feared by opponents than Osler.
He was also an attacking fly-half who could send his full-backs off with incredible speed when circumstances permitted or, if not, could himself shoot through an opening like lightning. Autocratic on the field, he would tolerate no passes from scrumhalfs that were above waist height; if the centres next to him blundered even once, he usually mistrusted them afterwards and would rather kick the ball – a course of action which can be regarded as one of his few weaknesses. As a captain he attached great value to tactical planning before a match, and he believed in strict team discipline.
During the Second World War (1939-45) Bennie went with the South African forces to East Africa where he contracted both malaria and amoebic dysentery which probably contributed to his relatively early death.
Unlike other great players Osler had little interest in coaching or the administration of the sport when he retired. After working as a salesman for a long time, he eventually went farming on a small scale, at first near East London and later near Bellville.
He married Gladys Hobson and had two children. Photographs of him appear inter alia in The Bennie Osler story and Springbok saga (both infra).
Osler’s Cornish Connections
Benjamin. Falmouth born circa 1776 son of Edward and Mary (Paddy) Osler of Falmouth and husband of Jane (Sawle) Osler born 1775. father of Susannah, Stephen Sawle, Mary Anne, Amelia, Elizabeth, Sarah, Joseph, Jane, Benjamin, Phillippa and Julia. Leader of W.J. Cornish 1820 Settlers. Returned to Cornwall with wife and some members of his family 4.1822.
Stephen Sawle born in Falmouth 27th September 1804, died 21st October 1867 in Simonstown. Son of Benjamin and Jane (Sawle) Osler and husband of Catherine Osler (born Dakins, formerly Wright) of Llaway Glen, Montgomeryshire, Wales. 1802-1881. father to Benjamin, James Goodriche, Catherine and Jane; and also Christina, dtr of Orange Kleyne (Klein). Founder of the Osler family in SA.
Susannah Osler born in Falmouth circa 1800. daughter of Benjamin and Jane (Sawle) Osler married 1st John Coleman (1792-1829) of Cock’s party at Reedfountain, Eastern Cape on 17th June 1820, 2nd time to Mr Fineran from Quebec.
The small Cornish party, under the leadership of Benjamin Osler of Falmouth, Cornwall, sailed in the ‘Weymouth’, which left Portsmouth in January 1820. Having arrived in Albany so that he might supervise the first arrivals, Sir Rufane Donkin considered that a more central and accessible site should be chosen for the administration of the settlement. Ignoring the fact of Graham’s Town’s better defensible position and that it was already established as a military base, the site he chose on 9 May 1820, was just west of Thorn Ridge. This was to be the centre of the civilian administration and also the seat of magistracy. Sir Rufane declared it was to supercede Graham’s Town as the capital town of Albany, and it was to be named Bathurst in honour of Earl Bathurst, Secretary for the Colonies. In his enthusiasm Donkin allotted plots to the Earl and also his own sons and nephews, while 500 acres of Glebe were allotted for a clergyman and chaplain of the Church of England, the vacant post to be filled in due course by a suitable man. The post of administrator, however, was filled by the transfer to Albany from the Western Cape of Capt Charles Trappes.
By 9 June the Cornish party of Benjamin Osler was enroute to their location from Algoa Bay. Osler’s party, it had been decided, was to be located some 12 miles southwest of the new town of Bathurst, and halfway to the Kowie River mouth. This was in the curve of the Mansfield River, a left bank tributary to Kowie River, today known as Grove Hill. Osler named the location Pendennis in memory of the similarity the area bore to his Cornish hometown of Falmouth and its Pendennis Castle.
Pitching their tents for protection from the cold winter nights and the intermittent drizzle, the party immediately set to clearing the land so that ploughing and sowing of their first crop could be done. Soon after arrival, they were to be joined by a young man, John Coleman, 28 years of age and a gardener from Cock’s party who had sailed with them in the Weymouth. Coleman was not altogether an unexpected arrival, for he had made his intentions clear earlier and on the 17 June, he was married by the Rev William Shaw to Benjamin Osler’s eldest daughter, Susannah. Theirs were the first marriage in the whole settlement.
The proximity to Bathurst of Osler’s location at Pendennis meant that these settlers were closely concerned with the early development of that town. Lots were already being offered for sale and the Colonial Secretary had ordered erection of a prison. The building of the Bathurst Residency got under way by October. All this activity afforded employment to bricklayers, carpenters, slaters, sawyers and stone-masons, who were able to direct their energies into a rewarding field while they waited patiently for the crops to ripen. Hopes for the future were bright, but by the end of November it became apparent that ‘rust’ had affected practically all the wheat sown since their arrival and the crops were useless. With little resources to withstand such a disaster, the administration decided that the issue of rations was therefore to be continued, but they became an additional charge against the deposit money. When that had been exhausted, it was a liability for future repayment. By Christmas Day that year, the circumstances of many were desperate and prospects for the future grim.
Undaunted by these hardships and their considerably reduced circumstances, the settlers sought what work they could find. The Bathurst Residency, long delayed in its completion by the number of unfortunate disputes that had arisen, was still an avenue for employment. William Mallett, a mason with Osler’s party joined with Thomas Marham of Bethany, James’ party’s location, and together they contracted on 5 November 1821, for slating and plastering work on the Residency to the value of £16. 10. 0d.
Lots had continued to be sold at Bathurst and houses built on them, but again, as a year earlier, ‘rust’ began to appear in the wheat and by the end of the year it was apparent to all that the wheat crop had once again failed. This was now a major calamity. Though rations were continued, they were reduced to half portions. Despite what the settlers had previously received, and even for those in dire need who had no money or hope of ever redeeming what they already owed, a parsiminous administration ruled they were only to get half a pound of rice per adult per week. Meagre indeed, but to ameliorate their difficulties, the stringent pass laws restricting settlers to their locations were relaxed and many now went in search of work, not only in Albany, but further afield if they could afford to get themselves there.
Lord Charles Somerset had by now returned to the Cape from his bride hunting furlough in England, and once again took up the reins of office as Governor.
He was furious to find the number of rather illogical decisions taken by Sir Rufane were actually detrimental to the scheme as he had originally envisaged it. He thus immediately set about reversing them. Bathurst was demoted from its pre-eminent position, which consequently caused another sharp depression when the Magistracy was summarily removed to Graham’s Town and the many settlers who had invested their small capital in establishing business premises in order that they might better serve the community, now faced ruin and impoverishment as it was quite evident the town of Bathurst would stagnate. It did and many then returned their attention to trading. Fairs were permitted at Fort Willshire and to these came the native tribesmen from beyond the Colony’s borders. James Weeks was one of the Cornish settlers who took to offering the more conventional manufactures. He and others traded tobacco and cloth in exchange for hides and skins, ivory, cut wood and simple items of use that could either be sold again in Graham’s Town or taken down to Algoa Bay and bartered there for the farming implements in such short supply. But the air of depression continued, it was no good having the basis for an exchange of goods if the majority the inhabitants, both settler and tribesmen, were so impoverished that goods and hard cash were virtually an unknown commodity amongst them. Osler left his location in April 1822 to return with his wife and five younger children to Cornwall. What remained of Osler’s party slowly broke up. Headed by John Dale, it began to disintegrate further. Osler’s daughter, Susannah and her husband decided to make their home at Simonstown where they were to be joined by her brother, Stephen Sawle Osler, who had elected not to return to Cornwall. By the beginning of 1824 William Mallett had moved away to Uitenhage and matrimony was to call Joseph Richards to a date in Graham’s Town where on 23 September that year, he was married to Sarah Attwell, the seventeen year old daughter of Richard Attwell of Crause’s party. Grace Weeks had died and the end of the year saw Charles Pearse returning to England to rejoin his wife with and family who had been unable to embark with him.
The small party of Cornish settlers, comprising only eleven men and their families at the outset, was already diminished in number by nearly half, and the few that did remain on Pendennis were to become so insignificant numerically that from then on their story melds with that of the settlement itself, conversely reflecting their great adaptability and absorption into the new country.
Dictionary of South Africa Biography Vol 5.
Cornish Immigrants to South Africa by Graham Dickason.
History of South African Rugby Football (1875 – 1932) by Ivor Difford
Further reading and resources:
Osler Library – http://www.mcgill.ca/osler-library/
Acknowledgements: Michael Bath
Port Elizabeth in the Cape is the second largest city and port in the Cape Province. Although Bartholomew Dias stepped ashore as early as March 1488 (presumably not far from where the present city is situated) and farms had been established in 1776, it was not until 1799 that the first military station, Fort Frederick, named after the Duke of York, was established on a spot overlooking the harbour.
The fort was designed for a garrison of 3 80 men and eight twelve-pounders for the purpose of defending the harbour against attack from any side, from the sea as well as from the land. This fort, believed to be the oldest building of British construction in Africa south of the equator, has been proclaimed a historical monument. Strictly speaking, however, Port Elizabeth’s foundation dates from the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820. (In 1819 a visitor listed 35 residents.) Sir Rufane Donkin, Acting Governor of the Cape, arrived in person to welcome the settlers, and ordered the establishment of a township, which he named Port Elizabeth, in memory of his young wife, who had died of fever in India in Aug. 1818.
Among the British Settlers there were many who were keenly interested in commerce and alive to the potentialities of Port Elizabeth as a port and commercial centre for the vast hinterland. Their pioneering commercial attempts, although on an unassuming scale, paved the way in due course towards making Port Elizabeth one of the most important industrial and commercial cities in South Africa.
The population increased rapidly. In 1846 the figure was under 4000; a century later it had risen to 150 000; in 1951 there were 199 159. The town acquired municipal status in January 1861, and it was proclaimed a city in 1913.
The suitability of the Eastern Province for the Merino sheep and the Angora goat rapidly brought Port Elizabeth to the forefront as the most important market and export harbour for wool and mohair in South Africa. Activities were, however, by no means confined to the export of these and other raw products; factories soon sprang up to handle the raw materials and produce the finished article. The geographical situation of the city, combined with fairly cheap power, light and water, have all contributed toward speeding up industrialisation. There are numerous industries. The enormous assembly plants of the Ford and General Motors companies have made Port Elizabeth the Detroit of South Africa where thousands earn a livelihood. Motor industries are, however, not confined to assembly plants. In order to conform to the Government’s policy of progressively increasing the local content of South African cars, many components have to be manufactured in the country, and a significant proportion of the factories involved are situated in Port Elizabeth. One of the biggest of these is the General Motors engine factory, built over many hectare of land near Aloes station. Other factories manufacture tires, batteries, safety glass, lamps and cables, etc. There are large factories for the manufacturing of shoes and other leather, machinery, sweets and biscuits, condensed milk, mineral waters, textiles, soap, furniture, chemicals; in addition there are foundries, sawmills, flour mills, tanneries, and other production plants.
For a considerable number of years Port Elizabeth had to manage without wharfage for ships. Vessels had to ride at anchor in the open sea, while passengers and freight had to be transported with tugs and lighters, which entailed considerable inconvenience, delay and even risk. Strong winds and unruly seas often aggravated matters, and many vessels were driven on the rocks. The first jetty was constructed in 1840, but destroyed in a storm three years later. The first breakwater was commenced in 1856, but had to be abandoned owing to the silting-up of the harbour. Now Port Elizabeth has a magnificent artificial dock-basin, completed in 1938 at a cost of £3m. The length of the breakwater is 1478 metres; the basin covers r,s sq km and makes available more than z000 metres of the finest wharfage facilities, including ample provision for the precooling of fruit. The largest merchant vessels can be comfortably berthed, while there are separate quays for oil and ore tankers.
There are many buildings and places of interest. The foundation-stone of the Town Hall was laid on 18 Oct. 1858 by the Governor, Sir George Grey, and the building was completed in 1862. At first a reading-room and library, and rooms for the Athenaeum Club, were included. Its architect was R. Archibald, secretary of the building committee, and it is a typical example of the Roman revival in Victorian architecture. The Memorial Campanile, with a carillon of 23 bells, was commenced in 1921 in remembrance of the 1820 Settlers on the spot where they first landed, and was opened on 6 Nov. 1923 by H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught. The Port Elizabeth Museum contains a valuable collection of historical and ethnological specimens, inter alia Bushman implements and cave paintings, Bantu beadwork and weapons, and the famous Boskop skull. No. 7 Castle Hill, now a museum, was formerly the residence of the Rev. Francis McCleland, an Irish settler of 1820 (see Castle Hill Museum). The Snake Park, begun in 1906 by F. W. FitzSimons, has become world renowned; here some 1000 snakes of many kinds, poisonous and non-poisonous, are exhibited under conditions as natural as possible, and regularly `milked’ for venom required for the production of snake-bite serum. A tropical house, for nocturnal animals, tropical birds, plants and fish, was opened in 1972. Other public buildings include the City Hall, in Renaissance style, the public library (since 1848, with a later building opened on 29 July 1902 and now with six branch libraries), containing about 100 000 volumes, including a fine collection of South African books, the Feather-Market, for the sale of ostrich feathers, and the Wool Exchange.
Among the parks St. George’s Park ranks first. It is especially renowned for its rich assortment of orchids and magnificent swimming-bath, constructed in 193 7 at a cost of £31 000. Also situated in St. George’s Park is the city’s open-air theatre, Mannville. Other parks worth seeing are Prince Alfred Park, celebrated for its lake, and Victoria Park, famous for dahlias. Port Elizabeth has excellent cultural and educational facilities. Grey Boys’ High School is among the oldest of the educational institutions. There is a technical college and a dual medium university established in 1965 to take the place of the earlier branch of Rhodes University.
All the principal Churches are represented. The city has well-equipped institutions for the sick, inter alia the St. Joseph’s Nursing Home, the Stella Londt Convalescent Home for consumptives, and the Elizabeth Donkin Isolation Hospital for infectious diseases. The first hospital was established in Rodney Street in 18 56 and moved to a new building on Richmond Hill in 18 59. The Provincial Hospital in Buckingham Road was opened in 1915 and has been greatly extended. The non-White Livingstone Hospital was opened in Oct. 1955.
Port Elizabeth has well-known holiday and pleasure resorts. The most popular recreation resort is Humewood, where large sums have been spent toward making the promenade, baths, bathing beach, picnic spots, lawns, boulevards and electrically lit bungalows as attractive as possible. Similar amenities have been brought about at King’s Beach and to a lesser degree at Summerstrand, while Happy Valley and Brookes Vale, with beautiful lawns, illuminated walks, lily ponds, rustic walls and bridges, have proved to be very popular with visitors. There are caravan and camping facilities at Humewood. At all these pleasure resorts, in the various parks, and at other places, ample facilities have been provided for all forms of sports. There are five golf-courses, while races are held on two racecourses, at Fairview, and at Arlington, near Walmer. The performing dolphins at the Oceanarium have become one of the city’s major tourist attractions.
BATHURST, C.P. Town. Situated on the left bank of the Kowie River in the magisterial district and division of Bathurst, on the branch railway from Grahamstown (34 m.) to Port Alfred (9 m.). 33° 3 1′ S., 26° 49′ E.; altitude 772 ft.; rainfall 22 in. Population (1960): White 197; Coloured 18; Bantu 966. The village was founded in 1810 and named by the Acting Governor, Sir Rufane Donkin, after the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Bathurst. It was chosen by Donkin as the administrative centre of the new district of Albany, but it lost this status to Grahamstown. Two old churches built by the 1820 Settlers, the Methodist in 1832 and the Anglican in 1837, are still standing, and are marked with memorial plaques by the Historical Monuments Commission. The hotel, The Pig and Whistle, originally called The Bathurst Arms, was built in 1821. There is a centenary memorial monument to the 1820 Settlers. Bathurst has a municipality. The site of Col. Jacob Cuyler’s camp at the time when he supervised the allotments to the 1820 Settlers has been declared a historical monument.
District. Area 568 sq. m. Pineapples are mainly grown, as well as other subtropical fruits, and cattle-farming is carried on. The vegetation is dense and the district has beautiful mountain scenery. The Great Fish, Bushmans, Kariega, Kowie, Riet and Kleinmond Rivers flow through the district.