A Narrow Escape: Robert Pringle and the stock thieves

Robert Pringle narrowly escaped death when a stock thief fired at him.  Bullets hit him in the face, arm and shoulder.  According to a report in The Graaff-Reinet Herald on Saturday, November 7, 1851, rascals one night stole some sheep from Thomas Pringle’s kraal. When this was discovered a commando of 14 men – including six sharpshooters from Cradock – rode out to track them. The men could not believe their eyes when they saw the thieves sitting in a concealed place roasting the mutton.  No one was sure how many rogues were in the band – they had seen the spoor of only five – but they feared more may be hiding in the bush. For this reason, Thomas fired and sent the vagabonds scurrying in all directions. As Robert rose to take a shot, one of the thieves fired and dangerously wounded Robert. He got thirteen buckshot in his face, chest and left arm.  The man standing next to him was shot dead.  The vagabonds held their position.  They had the advantage of being in an unapproachable spot and this prevented the men from the commando from even reaching the body of their dead friend. It lay only a few paces from the villains’ stronghold. A messenger raced to Cradock to summon Dr. Armstrong, who arrived as soon as he could, and extracted some of the shot from Robert. He could not reach four in the arm and shoulder. The doctor thought it in advisable to cut them out as they had deeply penetrated the flesh. Robert had suffered immense pain when the others were removed, particularly when one was cut out of his forehead. A shot which went through his upper lip and into his nose, came out into his throat two days later. The Doctor said that he had never before seen such a narrow escape.  Beside the shots in his body, one musket ball, one pistol bullet and five buckshot had passed through the brim of Robert’s hat.


© Rose’s Roundup,December 2011 (No 215)

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