|The Right Honourable
Sir Thomas Upington
|Thomas Upington, from a portrait in Het Volksblad, 1883.|
|Prime Minister of the Cape Colony|
13 May 1884 – 24 November 1886
|Governor||Sir Leicester Smyth
Sir Henry D'Oyley Torrens
Henry Augustus Smyth
|Preceded by||Thomas Charles Scanlen|
|Succeeded by||John Gordon Sprigg|
28 October 1844|
Mallow, County Cork
|Died||10 December 1898
Wynberg, Cape Colony
|Spouse(s)||Mary Elizabeth Guerin|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Dublin|
Early life 
Upington was born in Rathnee, near Mallow, County Cork, on 28 October 1844. He was educated at Cloyne Diocesan School, Mallow, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where in 1863 he obtained Mathematical Honours in the Hilary term examinations.
He was called to the Irish Bar in 1867. In 1868 he became secretary to Thomas O'Hagan, 1st Baron O'Hagan, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and in January 1870 he appeared as registrar to the court in Dr MacSwiney's appeal to the Visitors of the King and Queen's College of Physicians against his ejection from a Fellowship.
Political career 
Service as Attorney General 
Upington emigrated to the Cape Colony in 1874 (probably for his health) and was elected to the Cape Legislature in 1878. While he was Attorney General, in 1879 he was active in the war on the Northern border, although in a civil capacity - he did not hold any military command. He was on “the northern bank of the Orange River at the time of the last attack, only it was thought Claus Lucas would have surrendered, and in that case Mr Upington wished to superintend the negotiations himself” Irish Times 6 June.
He raised the military unit known as "Upington’s Foot" and served in the so-called “9th Kaffir War, 1877-79” for which he received the "South Africa Medal 1877-9 (sometimes called the South Africa General Service Medal 1877-9 and sometimes the South Africa War Medal 1877-9). Upington's Foot was one of the 240 (mostly small) South African locally raised units which took part. It had only 30 members and fought against the Gcalekas and Gaikas in the Transkei.
Term as Prime Minister (1884-1886) 
He became the fourth Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1884, after the growing Afrikaner Bond Party compelled the government of Premier Thomas Charles Scanlen to retire. He was appointed to form a government by the powerful Afrikaner Bond, but held office for only two years, in what subsequently became known as the "Warming-pan" Ministry.
This principle issue that dominated Upington's short Ministry was the conflict over two tiny Boer mercenary states - Stellaland and Goshen - which had been established by Boer invaders in "British" Bechuanaland and which the British demanded were ejected. The issue placed Upington in a near impossible position as he owed his parliamentary support to the Afrikaner Bond which was strongly sympathetic of the Boer states, while the British Imperial authorities demanded his action. In response, he travelled to Bechuanaland (with John Gordon Sprigg accompanying him as his Treasurer General) “in the endeavour to effect a peaceful arrangement”. The sympathy which he at times expressed for the Boers in this controversy helped to maintain his parliamentary support, but made him very controversial in the eyes of the Imperial authorities and the Cape political elite. He was accused of propounding Parnellite principles and denounced by British politicians in Cape Town as a “Fenian” whose “offence is rank”, and who “has been fraternising with Mynheer Van Dunk instead of sticking with John Bull”.
In 1885 he oversaw the final opening of Molteno's original railway line from Cape Town to Kimberley. In many ways, as Prime Minister of the Cape he was seen as having more in common with the locally-oriented policies of the earlier Molteno and Scanlen governments, as opposed to the pro-imperialist policies of Sprigg and subsequent ministers such as Rhodes and Jameson. Nonetheless, his Ministry was too short and circumscribed by greater regional forces for any distinct policies to take shape.
Character and later life 
In 1885 he became Lieutenant Colonel, commanding the 1st Administrative Battalion, made up of the Cape Town Highlanders and two small corps. Later in 1887, he was made a Knight companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (per South Africa, 17 December 1898, pp. 591–2).
The Pall Mall Gazette, in 1890, described him as:
“the crack speaker, brilliant and sarcastic . . . The clubland of Capetown looks to him as its humorous and sententious oracle: he is a good hand at cards and the best of good company. . . He often looks and often professes to be with one foot in the grave, and his most brilliant efforts are said to be made after a few weeks’ light diet of champagne (doctor’s orders). His robustest friends, however, expect him to survive to crack jokes on their epitaphs.”
Sir Thomas Upington died on 10 December 1898 (aged 54) at Wynberg, Cape Town. He was survived by his widow Mary Elizabeth Guerin of Edenhill, Mallow/Fermoy, Cork, and by his children: Beauclerk, Arthur, Edith, Florence and Evelyn.
- D. W. Kruger: Dictionary of South African Biography. Vol II. Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria. Tafelberg Ltd, 1972. ISBN 0-624-00369-8.
|Attorney General of the Cape Colony
Thomas Charles Scanlen
|Prime Minister of Cape Colony
Sir John Gordon Sprigg