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Thomas Pringle

Birthplace: Blaiklaw, Roxburghshire, Scotland UK
Death: December 05, 1834 (45)
London, England UK
Place of Burial: London, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Pringle. SV/PROG and Catherine Pringle
Husband of Margaret Pringle
Brother of William Pringle; Mary Williams (Pringle); Isabella Reddell; John Pringle; Alexander Pringle and 1 other
Half brother of William Dods Pringle, Snr.; Catherine Haitlie Rennie, SM and Beatrice Scott Pringle

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About Thomas Pringle

1820 British Settler

Thomas Pringle 31, together with his parents and 4 siblings, and his wife Margaret Brown 40, were members of Pringle's Party of 24 Settlers on the Settler Ship Brilliant.

Party originated from Scotland.

Departure Gravesend, London 15 February 1820. Arrival Simon's Bay - 30 April 1820. Final Port - Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth 15 May 1820

Area Allocated to the Party : Baviaans River, Cradock

Children :

  • John Pringle 28, brother
  • William Dods Pringle 11, Half brother
  • Catherine Haitlie Pringle 9, half sister
  • Beatrice Scott Pringle 3, half sister


Thomas Pringle was born January 5, 1789, in Blakelaw, Roxburghshire, and educated at Kelso and afterwards, in 1805, at Edinburgh University. He became clerk, Commissioner of the Public Records of Scotland, and co-editor, Edinburgh Monthly Magazine and Constable's Magazine, in 1817. He married Margaret Brown on July 19 in that year and published his first book of poems, The Autumnal Excursion, in 1819. When he was 30 years old, they led a party including his brother, father, and stepmother, and her sister, to South Africa. They departed on February 18, 1820, and arrived on June 29 at Eildon Kloof, close to present Glen Lynden district. After the settlement had laid down good roots, he went to Cape Town in September 1822 to become Government Librarian. By 1824 he had become co-editor of the South African Commercial Advertiser and had opened a school. Two years later he left South Africa for London, where he did literary work and served as Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society until his death on December 5, 1834. He is buried in Bunhill Fields, London. In those final years Pringle saw a half dozen of his poems published in George Thompson's Travels and Adventures (1827). One reader was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote Pringle that he believed his poem, "Afar in the Desert," was one of the "two or three most perfect lyric Poems" in English. Pringle brought out a second book of poems, Ephemerides, in 1828, and at last a major book, African Sketches (1834), which brought together his (often revised) poems and a narrative of his residence in South Africa.

African Poems of Thomas Pringle, ed. Ernest Pereira and Michael Chapman (Durban: University of Natal Press, 1989). PR 5190 P3A57 1989 Robarts Library

Doyle, John Robert. Thomas Pringle (New York: Twayne, 1972). PR 5190 P3Z6 Robarts Library

Marchand, Marion. Index to the Poems of Thomas Pringle 1789-1834 (School of Librarianship, University of Witwatersrand, 1960).

Meiring, Jane. Thomas Pringle: His Life and Times. Cape Town: A. A. Balkema, 1968. DT 844 .2 P7M3 Robarts Library

Pringle, Thomas. African Sketches (London: Edward Moxon, 1834). 010097.e.63 British Library

--. The Autumnal Excursion, or, Sketches in Teviotdale; with Other Poems (Edinburgh: Constable, 1819).

--. Ephemerides, or, Occasional poems, written in Scotland and South Africa (London: Smith, Elder, 1828). Victoria University Rare Books no. 105

--. Glen-Lynden: A Tale of Teviotdale (London: Smith, Elder, 1828).

-- and Robert Story. The Institute: A Heroic Poem in Four Cantos (Edinburgh: W. McWilliam, 1811).

Thomas Pringle: His Life, Times, and Poems, ed. William Hay (Cape Town: J. C. Juta, 1912). 11611.l.16 British Library

Biographical information

Given name: Thomas

Family name: Pringle

Birth date: 1789

Death date: 1834

Thomas Pringle Facts

Scottish writer Thomas Pringle (1789-1834) is considered the father of South African poetry. He lived in South Africa for six years, during which time he established a family settlement in the Eastern Cape. Unable to make a living as a writer in South Africa, he moved to London where he worked for the abolition of slavery. Pringle is recognized in South Africa as the first successful poet to publish in English. His poems and narratives describe South Africa's landscape, native people, and social conditions.

Pringle was the third of seven children of Robert and Catherine Haitlie Pringle. He was born January 5, 1789, in Kelso, Linton, Roxburghshire, Scotland. Tragically, his mother died in 1795, when Thomas was six years old, leaving his father to remarry.

When Pringle was three months old, his nanny accidentally dropped him, dislocating his hip. The nanny was afraid to admit her mistake, with the result that Pringle not given medical care until it was too late to correct the damage. Consequently, he walked using crutches throughout his entire life.

Settled in South Africa

The Pringles sailed for 75 days, then travelled inland for another month before arriving at their new home in Glen Lynden, located in the upper valley of South Africa's Baavians River. The location proved to be a good choice, as colonists who settled closer to the coast experienced difficult weather conditions that proved disastrous for farming.

It took two years for Pringle, his father, and the rest of the family to establish the family homestead, which eventually comprised 20,000 acres of land. As he had done prior to the families traveling to South Africa, Pringle served as the family spokesperson and conferred with government and military officials. His influence helped the family succeed in South Africa whereas many other immigrants did not. After his family was settled Pringle himself moved to Cape Town, where he worked in the newly created South African Public Library and pursued his writing career.

To supplement his small income from the library, the enterprising Pringle opened a school with a friend from Scotland, John Fairbairn. In 1823 he also started a newspaper, the South African Journal, and a magazine, the South African Commercial Advertiser, in which he and his staff published editorials advocating reforms of the British colonial system. After both publications were censored by the government Pringle resigned. After his reformist views also led to the failure of his academy, he resigned from the library and in 1824 returned to his family's settlement. For the rest of his time in South Africa Pringle continued to fight for freedom of the press and improvement in the position of the native people.

Reference from Wikipedia: His remains were interred in Bunhill Fields, where he was commemorated with a memorial stone bearing an elegant inscription by William Kennedy. In 1970, however, his remains were brought to South Africa, to the church near the farm his family owned in the Baviaans Valley, and re-interred there.[1][4] (EildonFarm)

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Thomas Pringle's Timeline

January 5, 1789
Blaiklaw, Roxburghshire, Scotland UK
December 5, 1834
Age 45
London, England UK
London, England (United Kingdom)