I remember: The Oehlers-Tessensohn Wedding

Uniting two well-known families

Retired shipping director Edwin Tessensohn, 79, remembers his stepfather George Oehlers as “a real gentleman”. He was instrumental in welcoming non-Eurasians to the Singapore Recreation Club when he was president from 1955 to 1965.
Retired shipping director Edwin Tessensohn, 79, remembers his stepfather George Oehlers as “a real gentleman”. He was instrumental in welcoming non-Eurasians to the Singapore Recreation Club when he was president from 1955 to 1965. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Under George Oehlers, membership of the Singapore Recreation Club was opened to all Singaporeans and not just Eurasians alone.
Under George Oehlers, membership of the Singapore Recreation Club was opened to all Singaporeans and not just Eurasians alone.

Two well-known Eurasian families in Singapore were joined this week in 1965 when Sir George Oehlers married Mrs Nan Tessensohn.

The wedding - the second marriage for both - was reported in The Straits Times as Oehlers, commonly known as Geno, was the first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Singapore. He was also the first Eurasian here to be knighted. His first wife, Daphne, died in 1960, while his bride's first husband, Dr Clement Tessensohn, died in 1962.

Nan Tessensohn's son, Edwin Tessensohn, 79, told The Sunday Times the two families were not strangers before being linked by marriage. "My father and Geno were old friends from the Singapore Recreation Club," said the retired shipping director.

"Our families knew each other well, so there were no new faces at the wedding."

Oehlers already had five children and his 56-year-old bride had four.

The couple left for Kuala Lumpur shortly after, as he had been invited to form and head a new industrial arbitration tribunal. He died there three years later. His wife died in Adelaide, Australia, in 2009, months after celebrating her 100th birthday.

She was born in Scotland and met her first husband when he was at medical school there. They returned to Singapore in 1929.

Mr Tessensohn remembers his stepfather as "a real gentleman".

He said: "I was 30 when Mum married him...I have a lot of respect for him."

Oehlers was president of the Singapore Recreation Club from 1955 to 1965 and was instrumental in welcoming non-Eurasians.

The club, founded in 1883, remained exclusively for Eurasians until 1955, when others were invited to join as associate members without voting rights.

Under Oehlers, full membership was extended to all Singaporeans in 1963. Mr Tessensohn, a former club president himself, says Oehlers had "a great deal of trouble" in passing the motion, but persevered to make the club more inclusive.

Mr Tessensohn, who has one daughter and three stepchildren, is himself the great-grandson and namesake of Singapore pioneer Edwin Tessensohn, the first Eurasian legislative councillor in the Straits Settlements in 1923.

Jennani Durai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline 'Uniting two well-known families'. Print Edition | Subscribe