Bisset Berry


1839 – 1922


Who was Bisset Berry?

Sir William Bisset Berry was a South African politician and the fourth Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Cape Colony.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Bisset Berry came to the Cape Colony as a ship's surgeon and settled in Queenstown, Eastern Cape. He later became Queenstown's mayor and was elected as its representative in the Cape Parliament in 1894.

Although he hated publicity, he was an engaging public speaker and a skilled debater so when there was a vacancy for the position of Speaker of Parliament, he was elected unopposed, even though he had only 4 years of parliamentary experience and his command of the Afrikaans language was not great. Reclusive and humble to a fault, he lamented his inexperience and lack of qualifications, but actually fared well and showed himself to be decisive and firm when necessary. His term in office came at a time of great instability and he presided over the votes of no confidence in Sprigg's government and the application of martial law in the Cape Colony. In 1902 he distinguished himself with his strong opposition to the attempt by the British Colonial Office to suspend the Cape constitution.

He sought re-election in 1908, but was not returned to office. The young James Molteno was elected to replace him as Speaker.

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Jul 26, 1839
Jun 8, 1922

on July 23, 2013


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