Why does Bernard Leffler use the alias Mick Osmond?

I have been intrigued with Bernard’s choice of naming himself Mick Osmond for the From Boatsheds to Battlefields autobiography.

Going through the papers given to me by my Mother a few years ago I found this in my Dad, William Frederick Patrick’s handwriting.

Margaret Johanna Osmond is Bernard’s Grandmother and Johannes Michael Adriaan and William Osmond Uncles.


I love how different family members record their findings in family ancestry.

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 32 Rÿk Van Blommestein

Mick found his new life very different from that of Struan. Instead of thousands, there were only forty acres, but he found 10 000 fruit trees and 55 000 vines with odd patches of arable fields kept him with his nose to the grindstone. He had arrived just in time for the winemaking and from dawn until dark was working with, and urging on the pickers until the very sight of great piled baskets of purple, black, red, green, and white grapes sickened him.

Image result for baskets of grapes south africa

The owners had not yet built a cellar so the grapes were sent down to his brother’s farm a mile away. Here Mick struck up a warm friendship with the eldest son a tall young man who was devoted to athletics of all descriptions but chiefly to rugby, football, weightlifting, and wrestling.

Rÿk Van Blommestein gazed pitying at Mick’s want of stature and physical development and finding that the youth was longing to possess the strength of a professional athlete Rÿk  took him to his room, stripped him, conducted a thorough examination, ran a tape over him, caused him to lift weights and strain at a physical developer. Eventually deciding that there remained a remnant of hope Rÿk issued his instructions.

Mick was to sleep naked between coarse blankets, discard undervests – at dawn run around the farm, take cold showers perform various Swedish exercises and then begin work.

Throughout the day Mick was to look upon whatever job he was on as physical exercise – note the muscles being used and concentrate his thoughts on them getting as thorough a series of exercises as work made possible. At midday a few movements of Swedish drill were to be performed and another lot in the evening. After dinner, he was to come down to Rÿk for further instruction.

Armed with a physical developer, Lieutenant Muller’s book on keeping fit and a number of copies of Health and Strength Mick returned from his first visit to Glen Rÿk filled with new ambition.

Month after month sped by – an ideal life for a youth on the threshold of life. A great well-ordered home where all the traditions of a long line of gentlefolk were strictly observed, glorious air heavy with the tang of mountain and ocean, the life-giving fragrance of the pinewoods aided the merciless discipline to which he subjected his body. Then to Mick his mind, as well as his body, received training.

At his own home life was more or less a Bohemian existence. Six boys and girls with scores of friends, parents full of Irish blood and artistic instincts all resulted in the house being a happy-go-lucky home where the strict observance of convention was impossible. Mr. Osmond was an honourary organist, conductor, and secretary of an orchestra, a dramatic society, a choral society and the assistant head of a Government Department.

Mrs. Osmond was the idol of a large circle of relatives belonging to old-world families to whom life was a leisurely round of social visits. So all day and until late in the night the house was full of visitors while boys and girls raced in and out.

“Mother, have you seen a football?” “Mother where’s my rod?” “Mother where’s my hockey stick?” “Oh, Mother don’t you know what I did with that song?”

Whilst parties, orchestral rehearsals, band practices, committee meetings – with half the time someone hurt at football or on the mountain or sick through some foolish act. No there had never been time or opportunity to dress for dinner, to be particular about fingernails, to moderate one’s tones – to be perfect little gentlemen in any way.

But now Mick was in a home where the children had their own portion of the house under a head nurse and a nursemaid. He himself breakfasted and lunched alone in the Governess’s room and lived in a little two-roomed cottage in amongst Silver trees. In the evenings shaved, bathed and dressed Mick dined with the owner and his wife – warmed and poured Burgundy, handed round cigarettes and coffee – made his hostess comfortable and read books selected for him by the owner Thackeray, Scott, Dickens and other excellent solid authors.

On Sundays, he had all his meals with the family or at the owner’s brother’s home though often he went out to his own people.

Saturday afternoons were generally spent at Newlands watching the famous Western Province teams competing for the Grand Challenge Rugby Cup.

Image result for newlands rugby ground cape town 1900s

Saturday evenings at a theatre or music hall. It was a quiet uneventful life – with plenty of healthy work and wholesome amusement amongst boys and girls of breeding and refinement.

Mick soon began to long for something sterner and more filled with excitement. The wild mountain walls and crags ever looming above, the blue, white flecked oceans before, breathed message after message to the boy and Mick started enquiring as to the possibility of getting into other rougher conditions.

Six months had passed when the lad was offered a post on a large sheep run near the borders of the Kalahari Desert – Mick jumped at the offer and feeling at last that the gates of Romance were opening arranged to leave the beautiful Valley of Contentment.

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Van Blommestein History


Artist’s impression in 1735 of Castle Blommesteijn

The earliest mention of ‘Blommesteijn’ is in 1313 concerning one Zweder (Sweder or Sueder) who was a knight in service to the Lord of Culemborg, and a son of the van Gorinchem family. Zweder resided in a castle (demolished in the 15th century) at a place called Blommesteijn, on the north bank of the river Lek opposite Culemborg, just south the current town of Schalkwijk. Descended from the ancient Counts of Holland, over the next 500 years this became a prestigious family well connected among the nobility of France, Belgium and Netherlands, including connections to the royal Orange-Nassau family of Netherlands. The current head of House of Blommestein is Baron van Blommestein, who currently resides in Europe.My thanks to Julien de Boutray, Genealogy and Nobility Researcher, for much of the above information

The South African stamvader (progenitor) came from the Delft branch of the family who were leading members of that city and influential in shipping, especially the Dutch East India Company (VOC). After his family settled in Stellenbosch he is reputed to have had an armorial board mounted in the church which showed the 31 noble families of Holland connected to his family through marriage. According to a genealogist in Delft, who researched this for my uncle, “there is no more well-connected family in South Africa”. (See my attempt to reconstruct that wapenbord from archive records –

There is unsubstantiated evidence that he intended to join his older brother, Willem, in the Dutch East Indies. Their American ship, which sailed from Amsterdam, was taken at sea by the Royal Navy and impounded in London docks. How Petrus and his family lived in England is unclear, but in 1811 he is recommended to the Secretary of State for Colonies, the Earl of Liverpool, for emigration to the Cape of Good Hope by Messrs Simpson & Co. This may have been partly the result of a friendship struck up on board the ship between Petrus and American politician and socialite Aaron Burr, who would have been well connected in London high society and may have helped Petrus with introductions to the right people,

They arrived at the Cape in late 1811 and by 1813 Petrus was appointed secretary to Landdrost (Magistrate) van Andringa in Stellenbosch. He appears to have been a somewhat flamboyant character (as suggested by his signature), an energetic but difficult man who was often in contention with others, including the Church Council of the Stellenbosch church over a seat for his wife. He lost everything through bankruptcy in 1841, including an extensive wine farm Weltevreden. But this didn’t seem to deter him at all – he simply opened a stables and B&B at 80 Dorp Street, today a home & décor shop (next door to the well known ‘Oom Samie se Winkel’).

     Petrus was married three times and fathered 18 surviving children
                 •Christina le Sueur (1803 - 1820)
                 •Johanna van der Graaf (1820 - 1843)
                 •Aletta Maria Louw (1846 -1853)


Family tomb in centre with black plate

Petrus died in Feb 1853 at the age of 69 and is buried in the family tomb. There is a row of about 8 family tombs located along the front wall of the Dutch Reformed Church in Stellenbosch (see the burial register of the church) belonging to the leading families of Stellenbosch. One of these (in the centre of the picture, with the large black plaque), contains the remains of about 14 of these earliest van Blommesteins.
By the time of his death in 1853 the family was spread all over the Western Cape area – Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Caledon, Paarl, Hermanus, But important changes to the family began to happen from 1836 with the events of the Great Trek, when many Cape families were split over allegiance to the British authorities, as well as the discovery of diamonds and gold in the interior. Many younger members of the van Blommestein family moved northwards and soon found themselves on opposite sides of the conflicts about to beset Southern Africa.