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CULLINAN, Sir Thomas Major

Born: 1862 02 12
Died: 1936 08 23


Born at Eland's Post (Queenstown) died at Johannesburg. The son of T. Bates Cullinan, an Irish settler, he was trained as a builder at Aliwal North, and in 1877 served in the Ninth (and last) Frontier War. In 1884 he went to Barberton and took part in the great gold rush at Moodie's. Two years later he went to the Orange Free State. He married Anne Frances Harding (1866-1963) of Dordrecht, Cape, by whom he had eight children. He returned to Barberton in the second rush in 1866 and in the same year moved to Johannesburg, where he established one of the largest firms of building contractors. He spent much of his time prospecting for gold and diamonds and first found a small diamond pipe, or crater, on the farm Franspoort in the Pretoria district. In 1898, from finds made by diggers at Bynespoort, where the Jonker diamond was discovered in 1934, about 6 km from Franspoort, he correctly deduced that the alluvial diamonds had been eroded down by a spruit from a pipe on higher ground. But Willem Prinsloo, the owner of the farm, refused to sell. It was only after the Second Anglo-Boer War that Cullinan bought the property for £52 000 from a daughter of Prinsloo, who had died during the war. Here the town of Cullinan became established. All his first shafts went into blue ground (kimberlite) and the total area of diamondiferous ground was found to be 3 500 claims. Here the world's largest diamond was found. Thomas was knighted in 1910. He was also the founder of Cullinan Bricks and Ceramic Studios, industries located at Olifantsfontein. He was interested in farming and politics. He was a member of the Transvaal Legislature, 1907-10, and of the Union Parliament, 1910-15 and 1920-21. He was a great advocate of responsible government for the Transvaal Colony and Orange Free State Colony, and of the National Convention to form the Union of South Africa.

[T. C. Robertson. 1971. in SESA, Vol 3: 521.]

The following structures are related to this entry:
Cullinan House - 'The View'
Cullinan Headquarters Building

Books citing CULLINAN

Walker, Michael. 2013. The pioneer architects of Johannesburg and their buildings (1886 - 1899) with postcard illustrations. St James: The Kalk Bay Historical Association. pp 13, 48, 49