More on William Benbow Humphreys
William Benbow Humphreys - The second and very deserving freeman to be given the Freedom of the City (Kimberley) was Mr WB Humphreys, who received the honour in 1961.
William Benbow Humphreys was born in Oudtshoorn on 5 April 1889, and came to Kimberley with his family at the age of 6 months. He was educated at Kimberley Boys' High School from which he matriculated in 1908. Thereafter he studied at Elsenburg College of Agriculture later incorporated into the University of Stellenbosch. In 1910 he married Maude Elizabeth Searle who had been born in 1890 at Blanco near George, but like her husband came to Kimberley at a young age. They were to have six children: Dulcie, Aubrey, Basil, Margery, Elaine and Winsome. Mr Humphreys initially worked for his father S. B. Humphreys who was a general dealer and produce merchant. The business premises were in Giddy Street. In 1917 William had been elected onto the city council but in 1927 became a member of the Cape Provincial Council. In that same year he retired from the business to concentrate on his political career. Two years later he was elected to the Union Parliament as the representative for Beaconsfield following the retirement of Sir David Harris from that position. From 1921 to 1930 he sat on the Kimberley School Board. In 1933 William was returned unopposed to the Beaconsfield seat as the coalition candidate of the South African Party. Mr P.E. Scholtz of Modder River who proposed the resolution recommending Mr Humphreys' candidature did so because the latter was the ideal person for the position. He was fully bilingual and thus could address the constituents in their own languages. This was essential as Beaconsfield was both an urban and a rural constituency.
English-speakers predominating in the former area and Afrikaans-speakers in the latter. Furthermore he was an independent businessman, not a novice in parliamentary affairs and had a large experience in all matters connected with the house, and was one hundred percent a coalitionist. Mr Humphreys certainly proved worthy of the confidence shown in him. In that same year he was instrumental in getting the Government to agree to build the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme. The four million pound project was to bring relief to the severe unemployment caused by the Great Depression, and in the long term resulted in a great improvement to the economy of the northern Cape. At a special meeting in the City Hall on 2 November 1933 the Minister of Lands and Irrigation, Colonel Deneys Reitz, paid tribute to Mr Humphreys' efforts towards the realisation of the scheme, at that time the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
In 1938 when Sir Ernest Oppenheimer retired from Parliament as Kimberley's representative Mr Humphreys took over in that capacity. On 29 October of that year he and Mrs Humphreys gave a cocktail party for General Smuts, not only a political ally (as leader of the United Party) but a personal friend, at their 'lovely Carrington Road home'. The guests were entertained in the outer court which was cool and fresh following rain in the afternoon. Mrs Humphreys was as usual a charming hostess with time to spare for everyone. She was ably assisted by her daughter Miss Dulcie Humphreys and Miss Onah Long, the fiancée of her younger son Basil. General Smuts, then the deputy prime minister, had opened the Gore-Browne Native Training School earlier that day.
William's interest in art was already much in evidence at this time and his collection already fairly large. He travelled overseas frequently and bought paintings, sculpture, old furniture and object d'art of all kinds. He described picture hunting as a 'tip-top but hectic' holiday. His home Benbow Lodge at 46 Carrington Road was filled with these treasures and indeed had its own small gallery in the grounds built to accommodate more of the ever-increasing collection. In 1948 he retired from politics having in all the 19 years he was actively involved in it never lost an election. The year before Mr Humphreys had in a statement to the Diamond Fields Advertiser on 1 August, replied to allegations of unfulfilled Government promises made by G.S. Eden, at a Council meeting on 28 July. He said the old adage about 'grass growing on Kimberley streets' had become imprinted on the minds of its citizens and helped create a fear complex more than an inferiority one. This attitude of mind bad as it was had in past years done some good in Government quarters but harm in other ways. Furthermore the view held by some, since the 1920s when the local mines office was moved from the Diamond City to Bloemfontein, that the latter city was the Government's 'blue-eyed boy and Kimberley its stepchild' was not correct. It was 'high time Kimberley threw off its morbidity'. One just had to look round the city and district to see signs of progress and development.