The Pringles of the Valleys

by 

Mike Oettle

THE name Pringle is famous in South Africa, having been planted here through the 1820 settlement scheme, which was centred on the Albany district.

arms of Alan Pringle

And even if one of the best-known of South Africa’s Pringles returned to Britain because Governor Lord Charles Somerset made life impossible for him, others of that name remained, and have played their respective parts at various stages of South African history since.

The name Pringle comes from a placename in Roxburghshire,[1] Hopringle[2] near Stow,[3] a manor which had belonged to the head of the family since the 11th century.

The first Pringle to settle in the Cape Colony preceded the 1820 Settlers. Named John, he came from Selkirk[4] and died in Rondebosch in 1815. He had arrived at the Cape in 1794 and functioned as the Agent at the Cape for the Honourable East India Company.[5]

Another early Pringle at the Cape was a naval officer, Rear-Admiral Thomas Pringle, who from 1795 commanded the Royal Navy’s Cape station, based in Simonstown.[6] A small bay on the far side of False Bay from Simonstown was named Pringle Bay[7] after him.

The 1820 Settler Pringles came out under the nominal leadership of Robert Pringle (*1753 †1838), of the farm Easterstead, also known as Blakelaw,[8] in Teviotdale, who arrived in Algoa Bay (where Port Elizabeth was founded later in the same year) with his family aboard the Brilliant in 1820. (Easterstead was left in the hands of his eldest son William, who emigrated to South Africa in 1822.)

The family members of the Pringle party comprised Robert,[9] 60, his second wife, née Beatrix Scott, 40, Robert and Beatrix’s children William Dods Pringle, 10, Catherine Haitlie Pringle, 9, and Beatrice Scott Pringle, 4; and two adult sons (children of Robert’s first wife, Catherine Heatlie), John, 30, and Thomas, 29.[10] With Thomas were his wife Margaret, 32, and her sister Janet Brown, 35.

Also in the party were a Mrs Rennie, 40, and her children George, 23, John, 22, Peter, 20, and Elizabeth, 15; C B J Sydserff, 21; Ezra Ridgard, 29, his wife Elizabeth, 24, and their infant children Andrew, 2, and Mary Anne, 1; Eliza Syker, 30; William Elliott, 27 (who was dismissed from the party); Alex Mortimer, 23; James Eckron, 20; and James Souness, 19.

The actual leader of the party was Thomas (*1789 †1834), who is remembered as a poet and journalist, while the South African branch of the family is descended from Thomas’s brothers William (*1780 †1837), John (*1791 †1864) and William Dods (*1809 †1876).

The party sailed from Gravesend on 15 February 1820 and arrived in Simon’s Bay on 30 April. Only Robert was allowed to go ashore in Simonstown. The party was initially landed in Algoa Bay on 16 May, but its members were told they had been landed out of turn. They returned to the Brilliant and were eventually brought ashore on the 25th. They were encamped on the beach in the vicinity of what is now Griffin Street (the bottom end of Russell Road), in the heart of Port Elizabeth.

Acting Governor Sir Rufane Donkin arrived from Graham’s Town on 6 June and inquired of the Scottish immigrants whether they would prefer to settle in Albany (around Graham’s Town), or on the Baviaans[11] River, near what was to become the town of Somerset East, in the sub-district of Cradock. A party of 500 Highlanders was expected to go to the Baviaans (but did not in fact arrive), and the Pringle party chose the mountains. 

arms of the Chiefs of Clan Pringle

Pringle coat of arms:

A most intriguing aspect of the South African Pringle family lies in the similar coats arms matriculated by three members of the clan.

Scottish heraldic law provides for at least two features not permitted under English law: the obtaining of a grant of arms to a deceased ancestor, and thereafter the matriculation (a form of registration) of differenced[12] arms by various descendants of that ancestor.

In England, grants may normally only be made to living persons, and while the English heralds will occasionally grant acknowledgement to an existing coat of arms not previously granted, the fees entailed are the same. Grants of similar arms are only made to families which can prove blood relationship, usually with an earlier armigerous person.

Matriculation in Edinburgh, however, is a far less costly process than a grant.

The Pringles are a Lowland family, not originally part of the clan system, which was established in northern Britain among the Gaelic-speaking Scots[13] (descendants of Irish conquerors) of Argyll. But as subjects of the King of Scots they were absorbed into the clan system, which recruited men for war according to the house and chief they belonged to, and have been so for the better part of a millennium. Since Roxburghshire was originally British, however, there must nonetheless have been strong family ties between men of the same line of descent.

The chiefs of clan Pringle bore arms: azure, three escallops or (three gold scallop shells on a blue field).

When Eric Pringle, from the Adelaide district, and his Bedford cousins Alan and Edward, applied to the Lord Lyon for a grant of arms to Robert Pringle, they were able to demonstrate a blood relationship with the chief’s family, but through younger sons. Lord Lyon granted arms in which the scallops had increased in number to five, placed them on a black saltire, or diagonal cross, and added a border.

Pama does not give Robert’s arms, but since they form the basis of the arms matriculated by the three cousins, it can be deduced that the ancestral arms are blazoned: 

Argent, on a saltire engrailed sable five escallops or, a bordure per pale, dexter engrailed compony sable and or, sinister or. 

arms of Eric Pringle

The term engrailed means that the saltire and the dexter side of the border both have half-moon-shaped cuts made along their entire length. (The sinister side of the border was apparently straight-edged, since it remains straight in two of the coats matriculated.) The border is broken into gold and black segments on the dexter side, but is plain gold on the sinister.

The escallop or scallop shell common to all these arms (being repeated in all three crests) is a single shell of the bivalved molluscs of the family Pectinidæ. When found in nature these are also known as fan shells or comb shells, and as a symbol they are known especially as the emblem of the Shell oil company.

Although Pectinidæ have a world-wide distribution, the shells were associated in mediæval Europe especially with pilgrimage, and in particular pilgrimage to the shrine of St James the Great (or Santiago) at Compostela on the Atlantic coast of Galicia, Spain. Such shells are still commonly found on the beach at Compostela, and were traditionally sewn onto pilgrims’ clothing or hats as a badge signifying their pilgrimage.

The presence of a scallop shell in a coat of arms of mediæval origin is a sign that at least one ancestor undertook the pilgrimage to Compostela. Scallops also feature in the arms of Clan Graham and of the town of Grahamstown (founded by Colonel John Graham).

On the basis of the ancestral grant, arms were then matriculated to the three cousins. 

Alan Alexander Welsh Pringle, of Eildon, in the Baviaans River valley, Bedford district, descended from William Pringle, bore: 

Arms: Argent, on a saltire engrailed sable five escallops or, over all a label of three points azure, each charged with two pheons or, all within a bordure per pale, dexter engrailed compony sable and or, sinister or; on a dexter canton or an estoile of six rays azure.

Crest: An escallop per bend sinister or and argent, charged with an estoile of six rays azure.

Motto: Amicitia reddidit honores. 

Eric Pringle, of Glen Thorn in the Mankazana valley, Adelaide district, descended from John Pringle, bore: 

Arms: Argent, on a saltire engrailed sable five escallops or, a bordure per pale, dexter engrailed compony sable and or, sinister engrailed or.

Crest: An escallop per bend sinister or and argent.

Motto: Amicitia reddidit honores. arms of Edward Pringle

Edward Joseph Townsend Pringle, of Lyndoch in the Baviaans River valley, Bedford district, descended from William Dods Pringle, bore: 

Arms: Argent, on a saltire engrailed sable five escallops or, a bordure per pale, dexter engrailed compony sable and or, sinister gules.

Crest: A man’s heart proper, winged and charged with an escallop or.

Motto: Amicitia reddidit honores. 

an estoile

A curious omission in the blazon for Edward is any mention of the second motto, Sursum, which here appears above the crest, with the principal motto, Amicitia reddidit honores[14] appearing below the shield. This motto is shared with both Eric and Alan, who in traditional Scottish fashion bear it above the crest.a pheon

The motto Sursum, appearing with a heart, is clearly a reference to the Sursum corda, the traditional injunction in the communion service to “lift up your hearts”, to which the congregation’s response is “We lift them up to the Lord.”

The estoile in the arms of Alan Pringle is a traditional English form of heraldic star – it appears here in its usual form with six wavy arms. It is not unknown in Scottish heraldry, although the five-pointed mullet (with straight arms) is the more usual variety of star found in Scottish arms.

Also found in Alan Pringle’s arms are six pheons (of which only five are visible, the sixth being hidden by the canton). The pheon is a form of broad-arrow (or arrowhead) in which the inner edges of the flukes are scalloped.

Matriculation remains valid for the person matriculating the arms and for his eldest (surviving) son; younger sons and further descendants are obliged to matriculate their own arms, even though the eldest son of the eldest son would probably in due course matriculate arms identical to his grandfather’s.[15]

However, since the family has been resident in South Africa for the past 180 years and more, it is also entitled to register arms with the Bureau of Heraldry (even if some of its members might now be living in other countries).

So the descendants of Alan, Eric and Edward – and, indeed, other descendants of Robert Pringle – could either matriculate arms in Edinburgh or register them in Pretoria.

To see the arms of the three cousins as illustrated in Pringles of the Valleys, click here, here and here. 

Thomas Pringle:

Thomas, born at Blakelaw, was lamed for life when only a few months old through an unreported hip dislocation (had his nanny reported it, it could have been treated straight away, and so might have been cured). He spent three years at the grammar school in Kelso, and a further three years at Edinburgh University. He then became a clerk at the Register Office in Edinburgh. He also supplemented his income with writing. But in 1819 financial difficulties led his family to agree to emigrate to the Cape.

With his father, his stepmother, his younger brother John and their three small siblings, Thomas was conveyed by oxwagon from Algoa Bay to the military post Roodewal, on the Great Fish River, where they arrived on 21 June 1820. Two days later they left in fresh wagons, arriving at the poort leading into the Baviaans River valley on the 25th.

The field-cornet who accompanied them pointed out the valley ahead and said: “En nou, mijnheer, daar leg uwe veld.” (And now, sir, there lies your country.)

One of the party responded by saying: “Sae that’s the lot o’ our inheritance, then? Aweel, now that we’ve really got till’t, I maun say the place looks no sae mickle amiss, and may suit our purpose no that ill, provided thae haughs turn out to be gude deep land for the pleugh, and we can but contrive to find a decent road out o’ this queer hieland glen into the lowlands – like any other Christian country.”

The countryside did indeed resemble a Highland glen. The Baviaans, which flows south-westward out of the mountains to a point some 15 km north-east of the present-day railway junction of Cookhouse where it joins the Great Fish River, rises in the Winterberg range. The Pringles named its narrow valley Teviotdale, after the river in their home district. However, the name Glen Lynden was also used for the valley.

The peak closest to the river, now called Pringle’s Kop, stands 1 857 m high, and another nearby at 1 925 m above sea level, but barely 20 km further east is a peak no less than 2 369 m high. The river runs down the western side of the Baviaans River Mountains, a spur of the Winterberg, the southernmost peak of which, Langkop, 1 555 m, lies only 9 km from the town of Bedford, some 600 m above sea level. The valley floor, as high up as Upper Clifton, is below 1 200 m in height, while a bare 3 km to the north is Pringle’s Kop.

Robert settled at Clifton, a fair way up the Baviaans valley (Teviotdale), and other members of the family later obtained further grants in the same valley.

In October 1821 Thomas settled at Eildon, also on the Baviaans, which had been granted in the name of his elder brother William. In July the following year William arrived and took Eildon over, and by April 1825 had erected the first substantial buildings on the property.

William’s arrival was followed by Thomas’s departure for Cape Town. He became sub-librarian of the new South African Public Library, and in 1824 he published Some account of the present state of the English settlers in Albany. To supplement his meagre income at the library, Thomas decided to open a school and start a magazine, and to help him in these ventures he called on an old Edinburgh friend, John Fairbairn.

Dr Abraham Faure promised his co-operation in a Dutch/English literary journal, but the venture was opposed by the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset.

Fairbairn arrived in October 1823 and in December the Classical and Commercial Academy opened its doors.

Unexpectedly, permission was received from London for the establishment of a magazine, and on 5 March 1824 the South African Journal appeared, edited by Pringle and Fairbairn. Containing poetry (including Pringle’s Afar in the desert) and a variety of prose, it was “well received outside official circles”.[16]

In January that year a printer named George Greig had published the first independent newspaper at the Cape, the South African Commercial Advertiser, and Greig invited Pringle and Fairbairn to edit it for him. However, in May publication was suspended and Greig’s press confiscated.

The second issue of the paper came out on 6 May. The Fiscal sent for Pringle and warned him that “publication must stop if articles obnoxious to the Government recurred such as ‘The present state and prospects of the English emigrants in South Africa’.”[17]

Refusing to submit to censorship, the editors suspended the Journal. “A stormy interview with the Governor followed. Pringle resigned his librarianship and, the Academy dwindling under the Government’s displeasure and an attempt to start a literary society also being suppressed, he retired to Glen Lynden. The Journal was not revived and he appealed to the British Government for financial redress.”

Thomas finally left the colony in April 1826, having spent most of his time on the eastern frontier.

Arriving in Britain he became secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society and continued writing. Works published include Ephemerides (1828), Glen Lynden (1828) and African sketches (1834), which included his Narrative of a residence in South Africa and the poems he had written at the Cape. Some of this work was republished in later years. He also edited the annual Friendship’s Offering.

A decline in his health in 1834 led to a decision to return to the Cape, but having arranged to sail in December, he died in London before his departure date. He left no descendants.

SESA reports: “In 1970, on the anniversary of his death, his remains, conveyed from England in a lead coffin, were reinterred by his descendants (sic) in a small church on a family farm, Eildon, near Bedford, CP. The original gravestone accompanied the coffin.”[18]

Robinson concludes: “While Pringle was not a major poet, his position in South African literature is important as . . . he identified himself with the life of the Cape in a way which no other poet did in his time, and was able to use Cape words quite naturally. Otherwise his verse shows the influence of his greater contemporaries – Wordsworth, Byron and Scott. Social and political injustice, the indigenous peoples, the British Settlers, and nature as a background to man were his subjects. His prose is fresh and very readable. A revival of interest in his work is evidenced by a reprint in 1966 of the Narrative of a residence in South Africa . . . while Poems illustrative of South Africa by Pringle and his African sketches . . . appeared in 1970.

“In addition, the English Academy of Southern Africa has instituted an annual Thomas Pringle award for creative writing . . . and Rhodes University has instituted the Thomas Pringle collection of manuscripts from South African English literature.” 

Mankazana:

Eric Pringle wrote several books about his family. The most comprehensive, Pringles of the Valleys, was written in collaboration with his cousins Mark Pringle[19] and Dr John A Pringle.[20] The second I have referred to, titled Mankazana, takes its name from the river and valley where the descendants of John Pringle have farmed since 1824.

Unfortunately, while Pringles of the Valleys has considerable detail about the Scottish forebears of the 1820 Settler Pringles, and on the Settler party itself, it is short on detail concerning the Eildon Pringles, the senior South African branch of the family. It is a fine genealogical resource, having portraits of several members of this branch, as well as birth, marriage and death details over some generations, but it has nothing further to tell about Eildon.

There is a little more about the Glen Thorn Pringles, perhaps because of the information available to the authors. See below for an extract concerning William Dods Pringle, of Lyndoch.

Eric writes: “Robert farmed a portion of the grant called Clifton, and later additional ground was applied for and granted.”

He quotes a “memorial” to Lord Charles Somerset in which it is explained that the family suffered two successive crop failures on the Baviaans River, and that John was obliged to accept the position of second assistant on the “Government establishment at Somerset”.[21]

The memorial requests, and the Governor subsequently granted, a piece of land on the Mankazana River named Thorn Kloof,[22] which John received on 11 May 1824 and then dubbed Glen Thorn.

The Mankazana is a mirror image of the Baviaans; it runs along the eastern side of the Baviaans River Mountain, turns south-eastwards, and then joins the Koonap near the town of Adelaide. The Koonap follows a twisted course south-eastwards until it joins the Fish south of Koonap Heights.

Eric translates the name Mankazana loosely as “secret loves”, and believes that the area was occupied by a Xhosa homestead even after the amaXhosa had been expelled from the area. Young men in search of brides would apparently refer obliquely to the fact that they were going to visit the daughters of the man who lived there (without the sanction of British law) by saying they were going to see the “secret loves”.

When the Government “Landmeter” (surveyor) arrived at the Mankazana in 1829, it was discovered that John’s wattle-and-daub house had been built not on Glen Thorn but on part of the farm Linton, registered in the name of his nephew Alexander Pringle. In 1831 John bought this portion of Linton, measuring 96 morgen and lying north-east of the Mankazana and Spring Vale rivers, and gave it to the Scottish Church of South Africa[23] as a glebe.

Eric writes: “Shortly after [John had settled] on his property, two Xhosa women, one with a small child on her back, wives of Chief Sandile arrived, and John allowed them to stay. It was because of these women that the raiding Kaffir[24] bands did not raid Glen Thorn for most of the early years of John on Glen Thorn. My servant Eliote[25] is a great-grandson of this woman, in fact, he has named one of his sons Sandile.”

He records a further interesting detail thus: “A few years after John had established himself, a Government official visited Glen Thorn to inspect a heliograph site on the top of a mountain on Glen Thorn. This mountain was known as a ‘Tsoie’, but when my Grandfather had taken the official to the top, it became known as ‘Governors Kop’ in recognition of the kindness shown the Settlers by Sir Harry Smith the acting governor. The local Xhosa still refer to it as ‘Tsoie’.

When the Pringles arrived in the valley, Bushmen[26] were still to be found living in the upper reaches of all the mountain valleys, and have left evidence of their presence in rock paintings. Nomadic Khoikhoi were often seen passing through the area with their livestock.

The wildlife of the area included blesbok, springbok, hartebeest, eland, buffalo, lion, leopard, hyena, Cape wild dog, elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus and several kinds of indigenous medium-to-small wild cats.

Thomas Pringle wrote of spending a night in a wooded dell which he called Elephants Glen, since these large animals (Loxodonta africana) could be heard calling all night long. He also wrote: “In no other part of South Africa have I ever seen so many of the larger sorts of antelope; and the elephant, the rhinoceros, and the buffalo were also to be found.”

The artist Thomas Baines called at Glen Thorn in January 1849 and was commissioned by John to paint two pictures of his homestead, although Baines records that the building was later burned to the ground by raiders sent out by the Xhosa chief Maqoma in 1852.

John was succeeded at Glen Thorn by his son Robert Pears Pringle (*1829 †1921), and Robert by his son John Elliot Boog Pringle (*1867 †1931), who was the father of Eric.

Eric was born in 1907 and died in the 1990s.

As a boy he attended several schools. At one stage he was sent to Port Elizabeth to stay with the parents of his stepmother, Beatrice Pudney, and attended Grey Junior School in the Grey Institute building. He later attended a local farm school, and then Templeton High School in Bedford, but completed his high school career at Victoria Boys’ High, Grahamstown (later called Graeme College), where he played first team rugby and cricket, and captained the cricket side.

Eric’s succession at Glen Thorn at the height of the Great Depression was by no means secure, since J E B Pringle had left considerable debts. Glen Thorn itself was entailed to Eric together with its debt, but the rest of the estate was auctioned. Eric managed to buy the adjacent farm Christoffelskloof (which was under a bond) at the sale, as well as what was left of the Glen Thorn merino flock. Since the livestock was inadequate for profitable farming, he took half shares in merino ewes belonging to two of his neighbours, and half shares also in some 300 head of angora goats.

By dint of careful farming, he was able to pay interest on the bonds within three months of taking over, and gradually built the farm up to profitability.

However, while still deeply indebted, he decided to marry, having met Gladys Kent[27] while farming in the Prieska district. He had to confess to Gladys’s father, when he asked whether Eric could support a wife, that “actually I was in no state to contemplate marriage!”. Mr Kent very grudgingly gave consent to the marriage, reluctant to lose his daughter, who had been his right hand on the Kent farm (at that stage, Gladys had no brothers at home).

They were married at Commemoration Methodist Church, Grahamstown, in 1932. Eric had no motorcar at the time, and his uncle told him that if he paid his bill at a garage in East London, he could have the old car he had left there.

The couple had four sons: John Merick, Denzil Graham Mark, Eric Errol and Neville Crighton. The boys were educated at Dale College, King William’s Town – Eric explains that the son of the Presbyterian minister in Adelaide was teaching at Dale, and he was sure the young man would look after the boys. 

William Dods Pringle:

Pringles of the Valleys records: “ William Dods Pringle, the youngest son of Robert Pringle and Beatrix Scott, bought Lyndoch, 5 648 morgen 270 square roods,[28] in 1828 from Willem van Heerden for £900. Lyndoch originally had been granted to Colonel John Graham, whose cousin Thomas Graham became Lord Lyndoch. At John Graham’s death his widow sold the place to W and H van Heerden on 20 January 1821 for the sum of £375.

“Obituary of the late W D Pringle in the Grahamstown Journal, 6 November 1876: ‘It is seldom that the Frontier has been called upon to mourn the loss of a more trusty and tried friend and staunch defender than now, that it unanimously lifts up the voice of lamentation over the death of William Dods Pringle Esq of Lyndoch, whose very sudden death from an apoplectic fit took place on the 2nd instant at the age of 67 years, and whilst to all appearances in robust health.

“ ‘He came to the Colony when but a child, with the Scotch party under the leadership of his elder brother, the late Thomas Pringle, and shared in all the hardships and trials that are recorded in the interesting volume African Sketches from the pen of the same favourite author.

“ ‘His experiences in the Kaffir[29] wars made his very name a terror to the foe, and a tower of strength to his fellow colonists. During the trying campaign of 1845 he was one of Sir Andries Stockenstrom’s[30] most reliable Commandants.

“ ‘He was a truly brave man, cool and intrepid in the hour of danger, and generous to a fallen foe. No one of those who were with him will forget his coming upon the rebel Uithalder, [31] in the Mancazana, when the odds against him and his little band of brave followers were as 10 to 1, and he rode fearlessly into the very midst of them and demanded a parley with the Captain, his followers faithfully sticking to him.

“ ‘When he called upon Uithalder and his band to pile their arms, and was met with a flat refusal, the undaunted Pringle simply replied ‘Well if we are to die, let us die like men fighting for it.’ The immediate surrender of Uithalder’s guns followed, which were then and there broken to pieces. This one instance of his bravery, though only one of many, will suffice to rank him among the true heroes of history.

“ ‘As a farmer he was not excelled. His magnificent estate of Lyndoch, with its many miles of stone wall enclosures, its plantations, etc, will testify to all around the industry and skill of its owner, while the hospitable welcome offered to all, proud that no grudging heart beat within his breast.

“ ‘He returned from Graham’s Town, where he had been engaged as a member of the defence committee but five days before his lamentable death. He will be succeeded at Lyndoch by his only son, who will doubtless worthily fill the ancient hall,[32] being a young man of great promise, who has profitted (sic) much by travels in Europe, and is already highly respected.’ ”


[1] The former Scottish county of Roxburghshire is now largely a district of the region Borders, and lies opposite the upper valley of the Tyne in the English county of Northumbria.

The current Roxburgh district includes most of the former county, plus a small part of the county of Berwick (Berwick was also merged into Borders). The entire basin of the Teviot lies within Roxburgh.

The region was part of Strathclyde, a “Welsh”-speaking kingdom on the west coast of southern Caledonia, until it was conquered by the kingdom of Northumbria and converted to English speech. It remained under Northumbrian rule for four centuries, and was ceded to Scotland in 1018.

(The term Welsh appears in quotation marks, since the language was in fact British; it was similar to the Celtic tongue still spoken in Wales, but was a more northerly variety. The word Welsh was used in the early English kingdoms to indicate any kind of Briton; Cumbria was also a “Welsh” region, and Cornwall was long known as West Wales.)

Roxburgh was constituted a shire by King David I (*1085 †1153, king from 1124).

The district is divided into upland sheep farming in its western areas and agriculture – oats, barley, turnips – together with sheep and cattle breeding in the lower, eastern parts.

[2] The manor’s name has been written in a variety of ways down the centuries, and one of the earliest recorded forms is Hoprigkil (it is written with a stroke above the missing N, indicating, together with the letter G, the sound NG).

It is recorded in 1445 as Hoppryngille, and in 1565 as Hoppringill.

The book The Pringles or Hoppringills by Alex Pringle (quoted in Pringles of the Valleys, by Eric, Mark and John Pringle) notes that the surname dates from the reign of Alexander III (*1241 †1286, king from 1249), and is one of the oldest on the Scottish Border (the italics below are mine):

“It is a place name, that is, it is derived from the name of a place. This place is situated in the parish of Stow, on the left side of Gala Water, about ten miles above Galashiels. It lies about half a mile up from the bank of the river, on the Armet and Todhole burns. This ridge with its level crest – at present well wooded – abuts at its western extremity on the gala (sic) in a remarkably rounded knob some 300 ft above the level of the river, which winds round its base in the form of a semicircle. It is this round or ring-like boss that gave the place its name of Hoppringill, as we occasionally find it written in the old records.

“The first syllable in the name, hope, hopp, op, or up, derived from the same root as the old Norse hop, a haven, denoting a small enclosed valley branching off a larger, is found abundantly in place-names in the south-east of Scotland and the north-east of England, and as far south as Hereford. It occurs as a prefix in Hopprew, Hopkailzie, and Hopcarton in Peeblesshire, Hopkirk in Roxburghshire, Hoprig, Hopefoot in Haddingtonshire; but is best known as a suffix; some three dozen place names, it is said, ending in hope in Selkirkshire, and some six dozen in Northumberland, as Kirkhope, Stanhope, Rattlinghope, etc.

“As to the other two syllables in Hoppringill we find ring, or rink, which is the same word, as the name of a hill in Wrinklaw in Lammermoors, and Rink Hill in Selkirkshire. It will be noted that these names are always descriptive. Thus Hoppringill means simply the hope of the ring or round hill. The rotundity of this hill is well seen from the carriage windows of the trains that pass below, and is well brought out by the contour lines on sheet 25 of the six-inch maps of the Ordinance Survey.”

The author cites the last chief of the clan who, in his will dated 1737, speaks of himself as ‘John Hoppringhill of that ilk’.

However the form Pringill began to supplant the longer name in documents around 1590, and around 1650 this emerged as Pringle.

[3] The placename Stow appears to be fairly common in south-eastern Scotland. A better-known town of that name lies north-west of Selkirk, and another is to be found in Mid-Lothian. Several other Stows are to be found in England. The name usually appears to mean “a holy place” or a church.

[4] Formerly the seat of the county of Selkirk, the town of that name now also falls into Borders. Selkirkshire now forms part of the Borders district of Ettrick and Lauderdale.

The Encyclopædia Britannica states that its Gaelic name, Schaleschyrche, suggests a number of shiels (huts) in the forest near an ancient church.

[5] Until the time of the Indian Mutiny (1857-59), this London-based chartered company (which was English, not British) ruled directly over vast regions of India and was in treaty relations with a great number of native Indian princes. During the Napoleonic period it controlled trade not only between Britain and India, but had also extended its interests to Malaya.

The company was so exclusively English that it is actually surprising to see a Scot as a company official; it is of course possible that he belonged to a branch of the family that had settled in England.

[6] The Royal Navy maintained a base at Simonstown from 1795 to 1803 and from 1806 to 1957.

[7] A popular resort village, also named Pringle Bay, now lies on its southern shore.

It is one of a string of such resorts, starting with Rooi Els (also on False Bay) and continuing east of Cape Hangklip with Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond, Hawson, Onrus and Hermanus.

Inland and east of Hermanus is Stanford, and to the south, on the far side of Walker Bay, is Gansbaai.

[8] In the Standard Encyclopædia of Southern Africa, this placename is spelt as Blaiklaw. However, the Reader’s Digest Complete Atlas of the British Isles gives it as Blakelaw, as does Pama.

[9] Robert’s first marriage in 1785 was to Catherine Haitlie.

[10] Another son of Robert’s, Alexander, settled in the United States. He corresponded with his father, but eventually contact with him was lost.

[11] Baviaan is the Dutch word for baboon. In Afrikaans the word has become bobbejaan, but the Dutch form survives in several South African placenames.

This Baviaans is a tributary of the Great Fish River which runs initially south-southwestwards, then westwards, joining the Fish in the vicinity of Somerset East. The town of Somerset East, however, lies further west, on the Little Fish, not on the larger tributary of the Fish River.

[12] “differenced”: bearing marks of difference to indicate degrees of blood relationship. See this page for more about this.

[13] The Romans used the name Scotti to describe the Irish or Hibernian raiders who plagued them on the west coast of their province of Brittania (now England and Wales, and at times including parts of southern Scotland as far north as the Antonine Wall).

The term Scot continued in use for Irishmen until the Irish colony in Argyll began expanding. From that time on, the kingdom which had emerged from Argyll was referred to by that name, rather than the Irish.

[14] For some reason the illustrations of Edward’s arms misspell the family motto as Amicitia reddit honores, instead of reddidit.

[15] The usual reason for the eldest son’s eldest son not matriculating arms identical to his grandfather’s will occur when he inherits arms in the maternal line of descent, which he may then quarter with his grandpaternal coat.

However, the Stodart system also makes allowance for the addition of further charges which might perhaps allude to a maternal family without actually quartering those maternal arms.

Another possibility is that the grandson might have been granted a title requiring the use of heritable symbols of rank in his arms. In the case of a peerage, this would entail a coronet (between the shield and the crest) and supporters; a baronet would add the baronet’s badge to his shield.

However, since the Glen Lynden and Glen Thorn Pringles are South African, they would be ineligible for this kind of title. Members of the family who might qualify would be individuals who have become domiciled in another country.

[16] From the article Thomas Pringle, by A M Lewin Robinson, in the Standard Encyclopædia of Southern Africa.

[17] Thomas Pringle, SESA.

[18] References to Thomas’s brothers’ descendants as being his own recur (ironically) from time to time. A travel feature in Weekend Post (Port Elizabeth) during September 2004 again referred to the Eildon Pringles as his “descendants”.

[19] At the time of writing Pringles of the Valleys, Mark had retired from his farm Newstead, in the Tarka district. He had also been mayor of Tarkastad for two years, and was a veteran of the South African War.

[20] John was, at the time of writing Pringles of the Valleys, was Director of the Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg.

Educated at Carolina High School in the Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), he graduated in science at the University of the Witwatersrand. From 1937 to 1953 he was Director of the Port Elizabeth Museum and Snake Park (now called Bayworld). In the mid-1950s he was awarded a Carnegie Grant to study developments in museums in the United States.

[21] Although referred to as a Government establishment, the farm Somerset was run for the private profit of the Governor. It was later divided into plots and became the town of Somerset East.

[22] It is likely that the name Thorn Kloof refers to previous occupation by a Boer farmer, who might have called the place Doorn Kloof.

[23] The Church of Scotland, later constituted in this country as the Presbyterian Church of South Africa. It is now part of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of South Africa.

[24] The term Kaffir is no longer regarded as a proper term to describe black South Africans, but was previously in general use; in English, it remained in use longest among rural white farmers, men who frequently were fluent in the Xhosa language and conversant with Xhosa culture. In the 19th century the term was used specifically of the amaXhosa.

His reference to Eliote as a “servant” also uses a term now regarded as politically incorrect, but Eric uses it to refer to an employer-employee relationship which was by no means unequal.

[25] Elsewhere in Mankazana Eric describes Eliote as a childhood playmate and fellow maker of mischief, and mentions that when he (Eric) was farming in the Prieska district as a young man in the late 1920s, both Eliote and their Mfengu playmate Runi travelled on foot to join him there. When he returned to Glen Thorn in 1931, following his father’s death, they went with him.

[26] The Bushmen, mistakenly nowadays called San, were the indigenous people of the entire Southern African region, and before the arrival of Bantu-speaking settlers from the north and Europeans at the coasts, had lived in this part of the world for some 30 000 years.

Their hunter-gatherer bands have disappeared from most parts of South Africa except the Kalahari, but their descendants are to be found as the result of intermarriage with Bantu-speaking and other communities.

The Khoikhoi (wrongly known as Hottentots) were of Bushman stock, and most rural Coloured people in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape are largely of either Bushman or Khoikhoi descent.

The amaXhosa are estimated by anthropologists to have some 60% of Khoisan ancestry.

[27] Gladys Marjorie Kent, born 1907. Gladys and one of her sisters had travelled to Prieska to visit their brother Gerald, who was farming in partnership with Eric. Gerald and Eric had played rugby together at school in Grahamstown.

[28] While measurements in South Africa have since 1970 all been in SI metric, previously a mixture of Imperial and Dutch measures were used. Land was measured in morgen and square roods.

[29] See footnote 24 regarding this usage. These wars are now usually called the Frontier Wars (there were nine in all).

[30] Not only is the surname Stockenström misspelt by omission of the diaresis on the second O, but he is referred to as “Sir Andries” when in fact he was only made baronet in the 1870s.

[31] This name is properly spelt as Uithaalder.

[32] “Ancient hall” is a rather overly grand manner of referring to the farmstead, no matter how well established, that the family had not even occupied before 1823.


Acknowledgements: Information on the Pringle family from Pringles of the Valleys, by Eric, Mark and John Pringle; and Mankazana (Secret Loves), by Eric Pringle; from the Standard Encyclopædia of Southern Africa; and from British Families in South Africa by Cor Pama (Human & Rousseau). Both Pringles of the Valleys (1957) and Mankazana were privately published by Eric Pringle. Mankazana is undated.

Illustrations: Eric, Alan and Edward Pringle’s arms from both Pringles of the Valleys and British Families in South Africa. The Pringles of the Valleys images (in which metallic inks were used, rendering them unsuitable for scanning) were photographed by Ivor Markman. The British Families images have been improved using illustrations of a scallop, an estoile and a pheon from A Complete Guide to Heraldry by A C Fox-Davies. Colours adjusted using MS Picture It! ©