Kimberley, South Africa


Laz Barnett Family

Laz and Freda Barnett (née Jawno)

Laz Barnett was born in North Wales in 1899. He was the youngest of eleven children. He served with distinction in the first world war and was a survivor of the battle of the Somme. (The picture on the left was taken in 1916). He had a wide reputation as a great horseman and as someone who knew how to keep horses well – some said he was a natural vet. He had also worked in a coal mine.

Seven of his sisters emigrated to South Africa and he followed them seeking possible work in or around a mine in Johannesburg.

Laz Barnett came to Kimberley for his sister Becky’s wedding to Kimberley Bookie Ben Zolty. Ben had been married before and had several children who became Becky’s stepchildren: Herman Zolty and his wife Mary, Hetty and Jack Zolty. Ben also had a daughter Renee, who married Harry Raichman (a second cousin of the Jawnos). Becky Zolty (née Barnett) ran a dress shop in Pan Road called ‘Pauline’s’. It closed when she died in 1947.

In Kimberley Laz met up with the Jawno family – two brothers Sam and Lionel, and five sisters Clara, Freda, Ray, Flo and Sarah, who had arrived in Kimberley in 1912 from Shavel in Lithuania. Their mother Rose Jawno was a powerful and cultured woman who was given instruction in Torah and Talmud and who wrote Yiddish poetry.

Laz met Freda Jawno at Ben Zolty’s house. They were married in the Kimberley shul in 1921. They had three daughters. The beautiful and talented Mavis Barnett was born in 1923. She was a prefect and in the hockey team. She went to Cape Town University and acted in plays. Sadly, she contracted rheumatic fever and died in 1946. This was devastating for the family. Next was blond and blue-eyed Ruth Barnett b 1930 (and still going strong in London in 2020). She worked in Barclays bank in Kimberley, and after Jilting another wealthy suitor that her mother did not approve of, married engineer Solly Sheer whom she met on holiday in Muizenberg. (see Sheer Ruth née Barnet for her own story). Laz and Freda’s youngest daughter Jessica Barnett was born in 1935. She married Solly Chait and lived in Durban and Johannesburg before making Aliyah to Israel and living at Beit Shemesh. They had two frum sons and 1 secular daughter. Jessica died of cancer in Israel in 2001.

Rose Jawno’s oldest son Sam Jawno employed Laz in his fish business that was to become South African Fisheries. Other siblings Sarah Jawno married a Mr Klatzky and lived in Johannesburg for a while.  When they came back to Kimberley, they lived with their mother at 48 Milner Street. They also opened a dress shop called Smartwear in Jones Street in 1948, buying clothes with specific clients in mind. They ran it until about 1968.

Youngest brother Lionel Jawno opened Advance Furniture and Removals business. Lionel was later to become Mayor of Kimberley. (See Lionel and Lily Jawno’s story contributed by their son Milton Jawno here: Jawno, Lionel (Sam Jawno’s son Norman Jawno, went back to Kimberley after University and opened a rival furniture shop Carlton Furnishers)

The Barnetts lived at no 10 Carrington Road. Next door at no 12 ware Abe and Lily Pollen who worked at L Isaacson & Co, Wholesalers in Bean Street with the Haberfelds, Gus and Cyril.  At no 8 was Harry Beck, Secretary of De Beers and at no 6 Mr Finn.

When Sam Jawno’s wife took him off to Johannesburg for a more exciting life – Sam sold the Kimberley fishery business to his brother-in-law Laz Barnett.

Laz Barnet did not spend his whole time in the business. He was a real character in Kimberley, operating publicly as a wrestler, strong man, hypnotist and was well known as a writer of interesting lifestyle pieces in the local newspaper, the Diamond Fields Advertiser

Jabotinsky’s visit to Kimberley

In 1938 Laz Barnett, and his brother-in-law Lionel Jawno with Dan Jacobson’s father Hyman, received in Kimberley the great Jewish leader and modern-day prophet Zeev Jabotinsky. Milton Jawno says this was probably the most momentous occasion in the history of Kimberley Jewry. Jabotinsky was met at the airport by the small group of ‘New’ Zionists. He had lunch at the Jacobson’s house and gave an oration at the City Hall in the evening. He was due to leave the next day for Cape Town but asked to have a few days reflection and rest in Barkley West at the local hotel which was owned by the Millin family, a Jewish family whose daughter was the world-famous writer, Sarah Gertrude Millin. You can read the full story of Jabotinsky’s visit under articles Jabotinsky’s Visit 

Left to right in this historic picture of the reception group meeting Jabotinsky taken at Kimberley airport in 1938 are:

Mr Kollen Sussman, Mr Hyman Jacobson (Dan’s father and who had arranged the visit to Kimberley) Mrs Flo Jawno? (unidentified man – maybe the mayor or rabbi or a journalist), Mrs Jacobson, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Laz Barnet, Freda Barnett

In front are Dan Jacobson, and the three Barnett girls, Ruth, Mavis and baby Jessica.

For the occasion Laz wrote a Poem: The Champion of Right

The Champion of Right

Jabotinsky the Champion of Right

Stands alone in the Battle of Might

He does not care for the millionaire

Who forces the Jew into the Palestine snare

He unites the Souls of the Jewish Masses

And makes no distinction twixt the classes

The day will come when he must succeed

Winning respect of all races and creed.

This is the way Palestine must be won

Without a shot from a single gun.

Now help your man to fight with Money

And regain your land of Milk and Honey.

Then he asks the person he is writing to if he (or she) likes it

And as PS asks for the name and address of his friend in Wales as he would like to write to her

And a PPS says I’ll send your snaps later – I haven’t set them out decently yet.