George Edward Noel Oehlers

Singapore Infopedia


George Edward Noel Oehlers (Sir) (b. 1 April 1908, Singapore–d. 27 October 1968, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), better known as Geno Oehlers, was the first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Singapore.1 Oehlers was in several significant civic posts such as Municipal Commissioner and Chairman of the Public Utilities Board.2 A lawyer by training and profession, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1953.3 In 1958, he became the first Eurasian in Singapore to be knighted.4

Early Life
Oehlers was born to the family of George Rae Oehlers and Frances Maude Clarke.5 He received his early education at St Andrew's School and Raffles Institution, where he was the head prefect from 1927 to 1928.6 In 1928, he left for England to read law and was called to the English Bar at Gray's Inn in 1931.7

Legal Career
Oehlers returned to Singapore and was called to the Singapore Bar on 2 March 1932.8 He started his legal career as an assistant with the law firm Claude Da Silver, and rose to become partner.9 During the Japanese Occupation, he went into solo law practice until the Kempeitai imprisoned him in February 1944.10 After the war, Oehlers resumed his legal practice as partner of Da Silva, Oehlers & Choa.11 When da Silver retired from the partnership a year later, Oehlers was made senior partner and the firm was renamed Oehlers & Choa.12

Civic Contributions
In 1936, Oehlers was made Municipal Commissioner, and he served in that capacity until the Second World War in 1941.13 He was reappointed in 1946.14 When the City Council was established, Oehlers sat as a nominated member until 1954, when he stepped down from the role in view of his impending appointment as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in 1955.15 Oehlers served two terms as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly from 1955 to 1963.16 From 1963 to 1964, he became the Speaker for the Sabah Legislative Assembly and also helped to set up the Sabah Legislative Assembly.17 In 1963, Oehlers was appointed as Chairman of the Public Utilities Board.18 In 1965, Tunku Abdul Rahman invited Oehlers to form and head the Industrial Arbitration Tribunal in Kuala Lumpur.19 The tribunal was subsequently known as the Industrial Court.20

In the course of his civic career, Oehlers also contributed to the work of various committees such as the Raffles Museum and Library Committee, the Silver Jubilee Fund Committee, the TB Treatment Allowances Advisory Committee and the Queen's Scholarship Board.21 For his outstanding contributions, Oehlers was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1953 and was knighted on 15 July 1958.22

Other Contributions
From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Oehlers was president of the Eurasian Association,23 a position he gave up because of his heavy responsibilities as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.24 A talented sportsman, Oehlers was particularly adept at long jump, cricket, football, volleyball and hockey.25 During his younger days, he headed both the Singapore and South Malayan hockey teams, and was president of the Singapore Hockey Association from 1946 to 1965, and vice president of the Malaysian Hockey Association from 1965 to 1968.26 Oehlers was also one of the founding members of the Singapore Olympic and Sports Council.27 He served as president of the Singapore Recreation Club from 1954 to 1965, and was instrumental in opening the club to non-Eurasians.28

Oehlers passed away in Kuala Lumpur on 27 October 1968.29

Oehlers married Daphne Eleanor Pye on 20 April 1940.30 They had five children: Jillian, Lynette, Harry, John, and Catherine.31 Daphne Eleanor Pye passed away on 15 April 1960, and Oehlers remarried on 8 July 1965 to Annie (Nan) Tessensohn née Flynn.32

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

1. Who's Who in Malaya, 1939, comp. Fishers Ltd. in conjunction with Messrs Printers Ltd. (Singapore: Fishers Ltd., 1939), 107. (Call no. RCLOS 920.9595 WHO-[RFL]; “Sir George Dies,” Straits Times, 28 October 1968, 1; “The First Speaker,” Singapore Free Press, 29 July 1954, 1; “Oehlers Will Be the First Speaker for S'pore,” Straits Times, 29 July 1954, 1. (From NewspaperSG); Myrna Braga-Blake, ed., Singapore Eurasians: Memories and Hopes (Singapore: Times Editions, 1992), 88. (Call no. RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
2. Who's who in Malaya, 1939, 107; Jackie Sam, “3 New Ministers,” Straits Times, 18 October 1963, 1; “Singapore's New Team,” Straits Times, 18 October 1963, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Police Heroes in the List,” Straits Times, 1 June 1953, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “Queen Knights Speaker,” Singapore Standard, 12 June 1958, 1; “Knighted—Singapore's Mr. Speaker,” Straits Times, 12 June 1958, 1; “Highly Honoured Men,” Singapore Standard, 19 June 1958, 3. (From NewspaperSG); William Goode, “The Occasion of the Presentation of Letters Patent of Knighthood to Sir George Oehlers,” speech, Government House, 13 September 1958, transcript, Department of Information Services. (From National Archives of Singapore, document no. wg19580913001)
5. Peter Hill, “The Oehlers Celebrate 50 Years of Bliss,” Straits Times, 30 March 1952, 5. (From NewspaperSG); John Victor Morais, The Who's who in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur: Solai Press, 1967), 228. (Call no. RCLOS 920.0595 WWM).
6. Who's who in Malaya, 1939, 107; Llyod Morgan, “Mr. Speaker Honoured,” Straits Times, 12 June 1968, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Who's who in Malaya, 1939, 107; Morgan, “Mr. Speaker Honoured.”
8. “Bar Admission,” Straits Times, 2 March 1932, 12. (From NewspaperSG); Morais, Who's who in Malaysia, 228.
9. Thian Yee Sze, Chong Chin Chin and Sharon Lim, eds., In Session: Supreme Court Singapore: The Building, Her Heritage and Her People (Singapore: Supreme Court, 2002), 65. (Call no. RSING 347.5957035 IN)
10. Sumiko Tan, The Singapore Parliament: The House We Built (Singapore: Published for the Parliament of the Republic of Singapore by Times Editions, 2000), 129. (Call no. RSING q328.5957 TAN)
11. Thian, Chong and Lim, Building, Her Heritage and Her People, 65.
12. Thian, Chong and Lim, Building, Her Heritage and Her People, 65.
13. “New Commissioner,” Malaya Tribune, 20 June 1936, 17. (From NewspaperSG); Myrna Braga-Blake, ed., Singapore Eurasians: Memories and Hopes (Singapore: Times Editions, 1992), 88. (Call no. RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
14. “7 New Commissioners,” Malaya Tribune, 29 August 1946, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Councillors Conscience Guide You,” Straits Times, 6 December 1951, 5. (From NewspaperSG); Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 87–88.
16. Singapore. Government Gazette, 1 April 1955, G. N. 829, 439. (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 SGG); Singapore. Legislative Assembly, Election of Speaker, vol. 12 of Debates: Official report, 1 June 1960, cols. 863–64; Tan, House We Built, 129.
17. “Sir George Doubles as Speaker of S'pore, Sabah Legislatures,” Straits Times, 16 September 1963, 7; “Clerk-of-Council in Sabah Appointed Speaker,” Straits Times, 29 September 1964, 9. (From NewspaperSG); Tan, House We Built, 129.
18. Sam, “3 New Ministers”; “Singapore's New Team.”
19. “Arbitration Tribunal to Start Work on Thursday,” Straits Times, 13 July 1965, 12. (From NewspaperSG); Tan, House We Built, 129.
20. Tan, House We Built, 129.
21. Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 88.
22. “Police Heroes in the List,” Straits Times, 1 June 1953, 1 (From NewspaperSG); “Queen Knights Speaker”; “Knighted—Singapore's Mr. Speaker”; (1958, June 12). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Goode, “Occasion of the Presentation.”
23. Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 89.
24. Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 89.
25. Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 88.
26. Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 88.
27. “Sports Council Meets Tomorrow,” (1947, July 3).Singapore Free Press, 3 July 1947, 7; “Bryson Elected SOSC President,” Singapore Free Press, 5 July 1947, 7 (From NewspaperSG); Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 88.
28. Morais, Who's who in Malaysia, 228; Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 98–99.
29. “Sir George Dies.”
30. “Lawyer Weds,” Straits Times, 22 April 1940, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
31. “Death of Lady Daphne,” Straits Times, 17 April 1960, 5; Judith Yong, “Sir George Weds,” Straits Times, 9 July 1965, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
32. Tan Thuan Kok, “Wreaths Sent by the Highest in the Land...,” Singapore Free Press, 16 April 1960, 1 (From NewspaperSG); “Death of Lady Daphne”; Yong, “Sir George Weds”; Braga-Blake, Singapore Eurasians, 88.

The information in this article is valid as at October 2021 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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