Yesterday I traveled up the Baviaans River Valley to visit and take photographs of the home of Thomas Pringle, the famous 1820 Settler to the region.
His grave is situated in the Pringle Family Church at Eildon
This Photograph inside the church showing the headstone
The headstone is inscribed
Almost impossible to read via the photograph of the stone, there is a brass plaque above the grave
The Church situated on the Pringle Farm Eildon is a beautiful monument to Thomas Pringle
The area is renowned for its beauty, this photograph taken in the Baviaans Valley about ten kilometers South of the family farm
Some background to Thomas Pringle
The Pringles sailed for 75 days, then traveled 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 family’s 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.
Most of the poetry and prose Pringle published while living in South Africa deals with local matters. It contains images of the land and its native people and is imbued with its author’s passion for promoting independence and spreading Christianity. Published in 1824, Pringle’s Some Account of the Present State of the English Settlers in Albany, South Africa describes the landscape, the housing, and the experiences Scots settlers encountered in South Africa. Unlike the Pringle family, many settlers did not find life to be that which they had been promised. Their crops failed and inclement weather destroyed most of what they had. Pringle concluded that, despite all, Scots immigrants should remain in South Africa, and he began efforts to appeal to Britain for humanitarian aid.
Ultimately, the harsh conditions in South Africa took their toll, and the idealistic Pringle and his wife were forced to leave his father and returned to London in 1826, financially ruined. A recently published article about slavery in South Africa had attracted the attention of the British Anti-Slavery Society, which now offered Pringle a job as secretary. The job suited Pringle perfectly: his craving for independence extended to blacks as well as Scots, and he had firsthand knowledge of the conditions of Native Africans. He worked with noted abolitionists William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Zachary Macaulay, and Sir Foxwell Buxton, his anti-slavery writings earning him recognition around the world.
Pringle earned a modest living through the Society that he supplemented by working as editor of an annual literary publication. He continued to write poetry based on his South African experiences and in 1828 published Ephemerides; or, Occasional Poems, written in Scotland and South Africa. The South African poems in particular proved very popular, placing him in the ranks of Britain’s favorite poets shared by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Keats.
As the first poet from South Africa to write in English, Pringle had a captive audience that consumed everything he wrote, including his 1834 work Narrative of a Residence in South Africa. A travel adventure about the land, animals, and the native people of South Africa, Narrative of a Residence in South Africa is considered his greatest work. It stands out because it was written from the perspective of a man who, although a native Scot, considered South Africa to be his homeland. Traveling to places where few non-Africans visited, Pringle shared his observations with his readers, along with his love for the land and its people.