Kimberley, South Africa


Toube, Trevor Philip


Trevor Philip Toube 

Year of birth


Date left Kimberley

September 1962 [but away at university from 1957]

Scholastic achievements, degrees qualifications and where they are from

BSc [Hons] (Rhodes) - 1960; MSc (Natal) - 1961; PhD (Cambridge) -1965

Where moved to



Mostly retired academic

Marital status


Partners occupation

[She was a teacher]

Read our family story below.

See the descendent Chart for Jacob (Bigson) Blumenthal here

See my sister’s wedding pictures from 1956 on family weddings


My parents and grandparents

By Dr Trevor Toube


My paternal grandfather, Philip Toube [(Feiwel – but he also seems to have been called Shraga Feiwel) originally Taube], was born in about 1862 and came to South Africa in 1887 or 1888 from Talsen or Tukums in Latvia. He returned to Latvia a few years later and there married my grandmother in Sussmacken (now Valdermarpils). Her name was Sophie [Sifra bat Moshe David] Immerman (my sister, Daphne, [Gillis: see her entry] says she was always called Sarah).

Philip returned with her to South Africa in 1891 or 1892, sailing from Vlissingen in Holland with the Hamburg Sailing Line. They settled in the small town of Douglas in the Northern Cape a short distance from Kimberley near the confluence of the Vaal and Orange Rivers. I believe that he worked as a peddler in the period 1896 – 1901, but also ran a hotel between 1897 and 1899, and owned a general dealers shop with an adjacent butcher shop.

Philip died at the early age of 43, in 1904. He is buried in the ‘old’ Kimberley cemetery [Pioneer Cemetery, Stead Street]; a photograph of his grave no. 105 is in the ‘Cemeteries’ gallery. Sophie died in Kimberley in November 1942 aged about 80. She is buried in the ‘new’ cemetery [West End Cemetery, Green Street]. [Daphne says she was buried in Stead Street, but her stone is visible as grave no. 56 in the West End ‘Cemeteries’ gallery.]

My father, Abraham (always known as Abe) Toube, was born in Kimberley in 1896, but spent his youth in Douglas, where his parents had established themselves. He was one of a number of siblings. The oldest one that I know about was Maurice, who was born in Latvia, but there may have been an even older brother who died at sea on the boat coming over to South Africa with my grandparents. Maurice died in Johannesburg in 1946, aged 54; his widow, Aunt Leah lived into the 21st century, dying aged 103 in 2006.  The next son was Joseph, born in1893. Anne [the only sister], was born in 1897. Then came Charlie, born 1898, Jack, born1900, and Louis [or Louie], born 1903.

My father left school at about 16 in 1913. He told me that the day before he was due to sit his first state examination, his older brother, Joseph, dived into the river [they all swam like fishes!] and drowned. The next day, my father took over the family business. I know my father came in to Kimberley from Douglas for his Barmitzvah. A few years later he moved to Kimberley. He shared digs with Norman Weinberg, who was our family doctor for many years. He worked as a car salesman. He once said that he sold one of the first cars with an automatic gearbox in South Africa – and ended up owning it, as the farmer who had purchased it found he didn’t like a car without a gearshift and sold it back to him cheaply.

My father married Violet Blumenthal in 1929, perfectly timed to suffer real financial hardship in the Great Depression. My sister Daphne was born in 1932. I was born on 1st September, 1939 – clearly the cause of World War 2. Towards the end of WW1, my father had been sent out into the desert in a small commando group [armed with ancient Lee-Enfield rifles] to ‘capture German Southwest Africa’ (now Namibia). Fortunately the war ended before they had got very far. When WW2 started, my father was already 43 and thus not liable for military service, but he volunteered to serve. He ended up in the 2AD quartermaster’s section at the RAF training base just outside Kimberley. After the war he joined my mother in her parent’s jewellery shops.

He, like my mother, excelled at sport. He had played rugby in his youth. He was a qualified athletics track judge. Later he took up golf, followed by lawn bowls, at which he was very skilled. Abe died in 1980. His stone can be seen as grave no. 161 in the ‘Cemeteries’ gallery.

His sister, Anne married quite young, to a Mr Friedberg, and they had a son, another Philip. He was the oldest of my cousins. Mr Friedberg died young, of a heart attack in Cape Town. Their son Philip also died young of a heart attack. Auntie Anne then married Mr Odes, who owned an off-licence in Kimberley. He also died suddenly a few years later. I am almost sure Anne married again, but I can’t remember to whom.

Dad’s younger brother Louis lived in Kimberley. He ran a pub for many years. He had 2 sons. Mervin and Hilton. Louis was a sprinter in his youth. He became almost completely bald at the aged of 19.

Back row, standing from left: Robert (Bob), Lily, Rose

Front row, seated from left: Freda, Max, Hilda, Bertha, Jack, Violet


My maternal grandfather, Max Blumenthal, came to South Africa in the 1890s. He was born in Jacobstad, Kurland, Latvia in 1877. He was one of several brothers who were sent successively from home by my great-grandmother, Hannah [or Hennie] to make their fortune away from the problems of Eastern Europe. He was probably the 3rd son to leave. Two older sons ended up in Liverpool. [One, Hyman, had a granddaughter, the actress Claire Bloom. The other, David, also remained in Liverpool.] We think some of the family ended up in the USA. There was also a brother, Louis, and a sister, Rebecca, who both died in South Africa, as did my great-grandmother, Hannah.

Max Blumenthal married Bertha Sacks in Kimberley in 1900. Bertha’s family were in Bloemfontein, but Max was not allowed to leave Kimberley because of the Siege; Bertha was given special permission to come into the town besieged by the Boers for the wedding, with just one relative, her mother. They were also allowed to ‘leave’ Kimberley and go to nearby pleasure resort on the river, Alexandersfontein for their honeymoon.

I don’t know why Bertha was in Bloemfontein at the time, but the reason Max was in Kimberley was to do with transport. After living in Dublin for a while [so that he was said to speak English with a Russian-Irish accent], he had intended to make his way from Cape Town, where his ship had docked, to the goldfields in Johannesburg. However in those days the railway ran only as far as Kimberley and one then had to travel the last 400 miles by ox-wagon. Max therefore decided to remain in Kimberley. This was only about 20 years after diamonds had been discovered there, so it was still very much a vibrant frontier mining town. Max opened a pub [The Greyhound] and the family lived at 123 Jones Street.

My grandmother, Bertha [nee Sacks] was born in Shavel, Lithuania. She must have come to South Africa with her parents, as her father settled and later died in Bloemfontein and her mother in Kimberley. Two of Bertha’s brothers also lived in Kimberley, Alec [Alexander] Sacks and Julius Sacks. I believe Alec was married twice, but I remember him as a rather short elderly man living on his own. Julius was married to my great-aunt Girlie [Zepherine]. I believe there were many other siblings [of whom I know almost nothing] including Solomon [‘Shlaima’], Jack, Sam, and Philip.

Max and Bertha Blumenthal had a large family. The oldest was Rose; who sadly died of peritonitis following the rupture of her appendix at the age of 21. Next came Lily, who was a gifted singer. My mother, Violet, came next, followed by Jack [always referred to as ‘brother Jack’, to distinguish him from Lily’s husband, Jack Klewansky – and any other Jacks who happened to be about]. Freda was next. The youngest boy was Bob [Robert], and the baby was Hilda.

There are various versions of the story of how the family ended up with two jewellery shops. Max started up Blumenthal & Co, jewellers in Dutoitspan Road, just past the DB Bazaar (that was on the corner of Jones Street and has now been moved lock stock and barrel to the Mine museum) and next to a dress shop. He started this business possibly as something respectable for Rose to do until she got married. However, Rose died at the crucial moment, so my grandmother took on the business.

Later, Grandpa Max opened a second shop, Central Jewellers, on an auspicious corner site diagonally opposite the DB Bazaars and Blumenthal & Co, at the intersection of ‘Pan Road and Jones Street.  By the time I was old enough to notice these things, my parents were running just Central Jewellers and using Blumenthal & Co as a stock room. At the back there was a workshop were there remained the the tools that must have been used by a goldsmith in my grandfather's day - and a huge cast-iron royal crest saying 'by royal appointment' to Prince George of Wales [who visited Kimberley in March 1934 - I possess an invitation and admission card for the ball in honour of Prince George, held in the City Hall].

Grandpa Max Blumenthal died in 1944 when I was 4, and I have only one shadowy memory of him. [Instead of kissing one, he used to place his cheek next to yours and make a sort of clicking sound.] He is buried in Stead Street cemetery [photo of grave no 153 in the ‘Cemeteries’ gallery.]

Grandma Bertha died when I was 7 in 1947 [photo of grave no. 156 in the same gallery].  Although she used to come to our house for dinner on Friday nights, I was probably in bed by that stage. I really remember almost nothing about her.

I believe Max must have been a founder member of Kimberley shul, as his name is on the plaque in the entrance hall, and I know they were both committed Zionists, as I have seen a number of certificates for trees they had planted in Israel.

My mother Violet was the only one of her Blumenthal siblings to remain in Kimberley. She matriculated from Kimberley Girls’ High School. She had wanted to qualify as a pharmacist [which in those days involved an apprenticeship rather than a university course]. A place for her with one of the local pharmacies had been agreed for when she left school, but shortly before she was due to take it up [at least in her version of the events] someone persuaded her father that it was ‘no career for a Jewish girl’. So she worked in the jewellery shops with her parents.

Violet and my father Abe Toube were married in Kimberley 1929. When her parents Max and Bertha Blumenthal died my mother and father took over Blumenthal & Co and the Central Jewellers and were perhaps the foremost jewellers and wedding gift suppliers in Kimberley to the community and beyond. My parents also bought the family house in Milner Street after my mother’s parents died. [Fortuitously, my paternal grandmother Sarah Toube also lived in Milner Street.]

Like my father, my mother was also accomplished at sport. I believe she had been an excellent swimmer, although by the time I was born she seems to have given up swimming entirely. She also played hockey at a very high level, playing in the Griqualand West provincial team for a number of years. She also became a qualified referee, and continued to referee hockey matches well into her 50s. She pretty much ran Griqua hockey. She was also active in the Girl Guides Association, and on occasion took the girls away camping [and when I was very young I went along with her.]

She moved to Cape Town in the 1980s after my father’s death. She died there in 1998 and is buried in Cape Town.

Trevor P Toube

London, August 2014

To read Trevor's sister Daphne Gillis' version of the family story, go to the 'Gillis Family'