Jem Turner

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Jem Turner (b. **/**/1871, Portsea, Hampshire – d. Johannesburg, 10/01/1933) was a boxer, boxing instructor and promotor, and a once-off actor.


Benjamin James Turner was the son of another Benjamin Turner and Ann Long of Portsmouth. He evidently came from a seafaring family because according to the 1871 Census his mother was a seaman’s wife and in 1881 his grandfather, Henry Long, was a naval pensioner. In fact, his father, Ben Turner, was a surviving crew member of the HMS Birkenhead, which struck a hidden rock off Danger Point in the Cape Colony in 1852. Jem Turner started his boxing career in his hometown of Portsmouth and when he came to South Africa during the South African War he was the light-weight champion of Hampshire. During the war he is said to have been one of De Beer’s Sharpshooters, based in Kimberley. (This is also where, in 1902, he fell foul of the law when he was convicted of assaulting a police constable, an offence which he repeated in Johannesburg in 1922.)

He subsequently became a popular boxing instructor and promoter, launching a number of boxing clubs at various venues in Johannesburg. He also taught boxing at St. John’s College. During World War I he was part of the German East Africa Expeditionary Force and organised and took part in boxing tournaments for Company D. Like his fellow boxers Jack Lalor and Dick Hayes, he was cast in Joseph Albrecht’s film The Stolen Favourite (1919) in the role of Kid McGroy, who may have been a jockey rather than a boxer. It was a once-off experience and afterwards he returned to his boxing activities.


Portsmouth Evening News, 27 February 1902

Rand Daily Mail, 25 July 1922

Portsmouth Evening News, 7 February 1933

Neil Parsons - Black and white bioscope: making movies in Africa 1899 to 1925 (2018)

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