Farewell to former Sheffield Hallam MP Sir John Osborn at 92

Sue Marshall congratulated by Sir John Osborn at the DLA meeting room.
Sue Marshall congratulated by Sir John Osborn at the DLA meeting room.
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Sir John Osborn - the former MP for Sheffield Hallam, who held the seat when it was a Tory stronghold - has died aged 92.

Osborn, a member of one of Sheffield’s foremost steel dynasties, represented Hallam for 28 years from 1959 until his retirement in 1987, which was followed by a shift in the consituency away from the Conservative Party.

During his time as MP he kept his majority above 10,000, and took on many Government roles backing business. His depth of knowledge eventually led to him becoming the front bench’s point of contact with the steel industry.

In Sheffield he was also a Freeman of the Cutlers’ Company and a life member of the Chamber of Commerce.

John Holbrook Osborn was born in Sheffield and was educated at Rugby and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read metallurgy.

He saw action during World War Two in West Africa with the Royal Corps of Signals, then joined the family company in 1947. By 1951 he had risen to the role of technical director at Osborn’s.

The aspiring politician contested the Hallam seat in 1959 on the retirement of the then incumbent, Sir Roland Jennings.

In 1963 Duncan Sandys, the Commonwealth Secretary, made Osborn his Parliamentary Private Secretary.

He kept a keen eye on the spread of industrial strife in the early 1970s, and supported the denationalisation of the steel industry.

But he found it hard to gain top-level recognition for British businesses’ commitment to technology. He was quoted as saying politics ‘had as much chance of mixing with technology as oil with water’.

But Osborn was held in high regard by his Conservative colleagues. He was elected joint secretary of the party’s 1922 Committee for 18 years consecutively and chaired the Conservative backbench transport committee.

Osborn was knighted in 1983, and following his retirement as an MP he served with the Medical Research Council and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

A keen golfer, skier, and tennis player, he was married three times - in 1947 to Molly Marten, in 1976 to Joan MacDermot, who died in 1989, and in 1989 to Patricia Hine. Patricia survives him with two daughters from his first marriage.