Entrepreneur & Town Councillor
Updated: 14 October 2009
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Frederick William Bompas was born at Fishponds (Bristol) in June 1839, the youngest of 15 children.
He arrived in South Africa in the 1860s and became a clerk in King William's Town but moved to East London where he set up his business -- FW Bompas & Company, Landing, Shipping and Forwarding Agents.
He later diversified by opening hardware stores on both the East and West Banks. He also became the agent for the Scottish Imperial Insurance Company and served for a time on the Board of Directors of the East London Surf Boat Establishment.
In 1876 he became a director for the Kaffrarian Steam Landing, Shipping and Forwarding Company . When the Gcaleka War broke out in 1877, Bompas served as a Lieutenant and Adjutant -- later Captain -- in the Kaffrarian Volunteer Artillery . In 1878 he was made a Justice of the Peace for East London.
He became involved in municipal politics in January 1875 when he was elected for Ward 1 but resigned in November 1876 because he found it too inconvenient to cross the river from Panmure to attend meetings on the West Bank.
East London at that stage still consisted of two small villages -- the original hamlet on the West Bank and the German village of Panmure on the East Bank. The link between the two was the cumbersome hand-hauled pontoon ferry.
Major progress would only begin in the late 1870s but quickly ground to a halt with the onset of what contemporaries called the "Great Depression" which would last from 1883 till 1886, when the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand would rejuvenise the economy.
He returned to the Council in August 1881 after the municipal offices had been moved to the East Bank. He was re-elected in February 1882 but resigned in October that year.
Bompas suffered heavily during the period of the "Great Depression" and his firm eventually went into liquidation in 1888, after which he left East London to start a new life in Johannesburg, where he served as secretary to the Central Langlaagte Gold Mining Company.
He died in Doornfontein of a brain haemorrhage on 16 September 1904. He was 65 years of age.
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