Background William Frederick Leffler Bernard’s Father

I took Bernard’s book to North Beach, Carrickalinga, there was a freezing cold North Easterly wind blowing up whitecaps on the sea. I thought Bernard might like to be transcribed overlooking the sea.  I mirrored how cold he was on the train to Grahamstown.


What I didn’t realise until later was that this chapter is a tribute to his parents and in particular his father.

I have found research by Uncle Mike (my Dad’s younger brother) on William Frederick Leffler, his Grandfather. The spelling of Frederick is sometimes seen with an h.


  • Son of James Henry Leffler and Ellen nee Prestwich
  • Born Cape Town 18/02/1865?
  • Educated – seems to have left school circa age 14/15. By the standards of the time possibly at the end of Standard 8 (JC)
  • Came from a big family: Brothers:
    • Henry (unmarried) lived in the Transvaal seems to have been a civil servant.
    • Claude something of a wild character, served in WW1. Committed suicide in a shoot-out with police in Southern Rhodesia date unknown.
  • Sisters:
    • Florence, Winifred, Rhoda – all spinsters.
    • Nellie who married Hennige(?) Edwards
    • Where did Phyllis and Edna fit in?
  • William Frederick accompanied his father on a trip to Australia circa 1878 when he would have been about 13. The object of the journey seems to have been to visit his maternal relatives (The Prestwiches). Some of the time was spent in Ballarat, Victoria.
  • Although James Henry had an uncle, Edmund Ironside in Tasmania, I (Mike) think he died in 1874/76. There certainly would have been cousins who between them founded the NSW and the Victoria branches of the Leffler family. For all this, there does not seem to have been any evidence of the Australian Lefflers being included in the visit. Edmund Ironside (James Henry’s uncle) left England in 1834, while James Henry’s father (Edmund’s brother) died circa 1853. It is quite possible that the English, later, South African Lefflers lost contact with their Australian relatives.
  • At age 15 (circa 1879-80) William Frederick entered the Cape Government Service, first in the Treasury, then the Colonial Office from where he was sent to Carnarvon as clerk to the Resident Magistrate. At the time he was aged 18, therefore circa 1883. He was drawing a salary of £145 a year.
  • He was promoted to Kimberley as clerk to the Masters of the High Court at an increased salary of £240.
  •  It could not have been too long after this that William Frederick returned to Cape Town where he married Alice Mary van Blommenßtein (also spelled van Blommestein) – late 1887 at a guess.
  • Having regard to the lives of his father, itinerant entertainers and two of his sons, Bernard and James, both of whom followed on a variety of occupations, William Frederick seems to have been a model of order rectitude.
  • William Frederick also had a sizeable family – Bernard, another boy who died in infancy, Leonard, Kathleen, Eileen, Lillian, and James.
  • During the course of his career served mostly in Cape Town but also had spells in Pretoria (circa 1922 when a 13-year-old Jim enrolled in the newly founded Christian Brothers’ College) and Pietermaritzburg from where he retired as Registrar of Deeds.
  • Died 1928 at age 63. Retired at 60?

Points to be cleared up

  • Service in the Town Guard during the Boer War
  • Musical accomplishments – did he play the organ at St George’s Cathedral or at St Jame’s Sea Point Cape Town?
  • Like Bernard after him, William Frederick did some freelance writing.

2 thoughts on “Background William Frederick Leffler Bernard’s Father

Comments are closed.