OSBORN, John (1922-2015).



Sheffield Hallam
8 October 1959 - 11 June 1987


John Holbrook Osborn was born on 14 December 1922 in Sheffield. He was educated at Rugby School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and served in the war in West Africa. He married three times: Molly Suzanne in 1952; Joan Mary MacDermot in 1976; and Patricia Hine in 1989.

Osborn worked in the family business. Chairman of Hillsborough Divisional Young Conservative and Liberal Association from 1949 to 1953, he became Conservative MP for Sheffield Hallam in 1959 and held the seat until 1987. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies from 1963 to 1964. From 1975 to 1979 he was a Member of the European Parliament. During his time as an MP he was a member of several Select Committees, including Science and Technology and Education, Science and Arts. He was knighted in 1983, and retired from Parliament in 1987.

John Osborn died on 2 December, 2015.

Click here to listen to the full interview with John Osborn in the British Library.

Transcript of clip

My decision to retire from Parliament? Oh, my Constituency Association had enough of me. Roland Jenkings, before me, didn’t get the support of the Association and I didn’t get the support of the Association. I could have fought my Association and stood with their candidate as an independent and I might have gone back to Parliament on that basis. But I got advised to give up politics while the going is good. It’s no good being a Member of Parliament if your constituency is against you. Some people tried that, but usually burned their fingers and I was able to revert to old interests and old recreations. I played much more golf, much more tennis. And I retired properly.

Summary of interview

Track 1 [42:34][Session One: 5 December 2012] Sir John Holbrook Osborn (JHO) born Sheffield 14 December 1922. Describes father [Samuel Eric Osborn]’s work as Director of Samuel Osborn & Co ltd. Mentions working as a Director of the company before and after time in Parliament. Describes being born in Sheffield and growing up in the Peak District [Fulwood, Sheffield]. Mentions attending a preparatory school in Fulwood [Miss Naylor’s School at Ashdell, Sheffield] and a boys’ school in Sheffield [Birkdale School aka Griffiths’] before being sent to board at Rugby School. Mentions having little choice over choice over schooling. Mentions continued connection to Birkdale. [05:42] Describes activities of Rugby’s Local Defence Volunteers [LDV – ‘Home Guard’] at the outbreak of the Second World War. Mentions being active in LDV. Describes impact of the War on the city of Sheffield. Mentions being in Sheffield during an air raid. Describes ordering an attack on an enemy aircraft. Mentions running a special foundry engaged in war work. [10:22] Describes volunteering to the Royal Corps of Signals. Mentions being spurred to join up due to a rejection of pacifism. Describes travelling through West Africa. Mentions feeling part of Britain’s colonial forces. [13:37] Mentions joining the Young Conservatives as soon as he left Rugby. Mentions not feeling as though the War had impacted upon his political outlook. [15:41] Describes time at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Mentions serving in Armoured Division of Cambridge University Officer Training Corps and being spurred to serve in military due to a rejection of pacifism. [18:03] Describes undertaking a management trainee course at the National Foundry College in Wednesbury. Mentions serving an apprenticeship with a Birmingham firm. Describes pioneering a new technique of precision casting. [22:33] Mentions being focused on industrial career but learning to speak politically as a Young Conservative. Describes political landscape in Sheffield. Mentions that the context provided a good basis for later travails. [26:43] Mentions never setting out to become a Member of Parliament. Describes being asked to stand as a candidate in H