Ratcliffe Pring

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The Hon
Ratcliffe Pring
StateLibQld 1 158544 Ratcliffe Pring (1825 - 1885).jpg
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Eastern Downs
In office
27 April 1860 – 22 April 1862
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by John Donald McLean
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Town of Ipswich
In office
30 May 1863 – 4 August 1866
Serving with Henry Challinor, Arthur Macalister
Preceded by Frederick Forbes
Succeeded by George Reed
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Burnett
In office
22 April 1867 – 17 August 1870
Serving with Robert Mackenzie, Charles Haly
Preceded by Charles Robert Haly
Succeeded by Berkeley Moreton
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Town of Brisbane
In office
17 August 1870 – 11 January 1872
Serving with Kevin O'Doherty, George Edmondstone
Preceded by Simon Fraser
Succeeded by John Handy
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Carnarvon
In office
25 November 1873 – 2 January 1874
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by William Miles
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Brisbane City
In office
12 February 1878 – 15 November 1878
Preceded by Simon Fraser
Succeeded by Seat abolished
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Fortitude Valley
In office
26 November 1878 – 28 May 1879
Preceded by Francis Beattie
Succeeded by Francis Beattie
Member of the Queensland Legislative Council
In office
24 April 1862 – 26 May 1863
Personal details
Born (1825-10-17)17 October 1825
Crediton, Devon, England
Died 26 March 1885(1885-03-26) (aged 59)
Brisbane, Queensland
Resting place Toowong Cemetery
Nationality English
Spouse(s) Frances Pye
Occupation Barrister, Judge

His Honour the Honourable Ratcliffe Pring (17 October 1825 – 26 March 1885)[1] was a lawyer, politician and the first Attorney-General in colonial Queensland.[2]

Early life[edit]

Pring was born on 17 October 1825 at Crediton, Devon, England, the second son of Thomas E. Pring, solicitor. He was educated at Shrewsbury School, and entered at the Inner Temple in November 1845, being called to the Bar in June 1849.[1][2]

Pring suffered from bronchitis which motivated him to immigrate to Australia, arriving in Sydney in 1853. He practised as a barrister on the Moreton Bay, Bathurst and Goulburn court circuits of New South Wales with much success.[1][2]

In 1857 a Northern Supreme Court for New South Wales was established in Brisbane. Pring was appointed as its Crown Prosecutor and a Queen's Counsel by Sir William Montagu Manning, the Solicitor-General for New South Wales. Pring took up residence in Brisbane in April 1857, when the court opened.[1][2][3]

Political life[edit]

On 27 March 1860 Pring was elected to the first Legislative Assembly of Queensland for the district of Eastern Downs, and served under (later Sir) Robert Herbert as Attorney-General in the first Ministry formed under responsible government from December 1859 to August 1865.[2] In the second Herbert Ministry he filled the same office from July to August 1866. He was also Attorney-General in the Robert Mackenzie Ministry from August 1867 to November 1868; in the Charles Lilley Government from November 1869 to May 1870; and in the first Thomas McIlwraith Administration from May 1879 to June 1880, when he accepted a puisne judgeship of the Supreme Court of Queensland.[2][4]

Pring served as member of the Queensland Legislative Council from 24 April 1862 to 26 May 1863. He also served in the Assembly for Ipswich from 30 May 1863 to 4 August 1866; for Burnett from 22 April 1867 to 17 August 1870.

He was elected in Town of Brisbane on 17 August 1870.[4] He contributed to many acrimonious debates in 1871, which culminated in January 1871 in physical violence. On 10 January 1871, Pring repeatedly interrupted the member for Clermont, Oscar de Satge. Clark (member for Warwick) complained about Pring's "extremely offensive and personal remarks in regard to the Member for Clermont" and proceeded to make insulting remarks about Pring. Pring called on the Speaker (Arthur Macalister) to rebuke Clark, which he did. Pring then proposed that Clark exit parliament for five minutes to "settle all things", which the Speaker declared to be out of order. Pring responded by calling Clark "the dirty wretch". The Speaker told Pring not to continue this behaviour. Pring then threatened to kick Clark, by which time the Legislative Assembly was in an uproar with the Speaker unable to restore order. Clark and Pring continued to trade insults. Pring then rose as if to leave the Assembly, but, as he walked past Clark, he attacked Clark by grabbing his collar with one hand and tugged at Clark's beard with the other hand, yelling "Come outside and we will settle it". The Sergeant-at-Arms went to Pring saying "I take you in charge". Pring responded "Do you? You will have to catch me first!" and then raced out of the chamber, and the Sergeant-at-Arms was unable to catch him. The Speaker then issued a warrant for Pring's arrest for his contempt of Parliament 9 (the first time this had occurred in the Queensland Parliament), but did not sign it in order to allow Pring to end the matter by apologising, calling on Pring to attend the House on 16 January. However, Pring did not apologise but resigned the following day (11 January), evidently believing that would bring the matter to an end. However, on 22 January, the Speaker, in the absence of an apology from Pring, proceeded with the warrant and Pring was arrested in Dalby where Pring had gone on Court business. However, the police did not know what action to take after arresting Pring as he could not be delivered to the Parliament which was now in recess, so they ended up releasing him. Pring returned to Brisbane triumphant, where he addressed a crowd of sympathisers from the balcony of the Australian Hotel in Albert Street, promising that he would return to Parliament.[5]

He was elected in Carnarvon from 25 November 1873 to 2 January 1874.[4]

Following the retirement of Thomas Blacket Stephens due to illness, in May 1875 Pring stood for election for the South Brisbane seat in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, but was defeated by Richard Ash Kingsford.[6]

However, Pring was later elected in Brisbane City from 12 February 1878 to 15 November 1878 and for Fortitude Valley from 26 November 1878 to 28 May 1879.[4]

In 1863 Pring was offered the position of first Chief Justice of Queensland, over the head of the Judge Alfred Lutwyche, but declined the post, and Sir James Cockle was appointed.[2]

Later life[edit]

Pring died at his residence in Brisbane on Thursday 26 March 1885, after a 14-month illness, of cardiac asthma.[1][7] He was buried in Toowong Cemetery.[8] He left his wife almost destitute.[9]


Ratcliffe Pring was a tenant of the now heritage-listed Newstead House in Brisbane.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Late Mr. Justice Pring". The Brisbane Courier. National Library of Australia. 27 March 1885. p. 5. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Pring, His Honour the Hon. Ratcliffe". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource 
  3. ^ "Opening of the Supreme Court". The Moreton Bay Courier. Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia. 18 April 1857. p. 2. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Alphabetical Register of Members of the Legislative Assembly 1860-2012 and of the Legislative Council 1860-1922" (PDF). Parliament of Queensland. Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Lack, Clem (1962). Three decades of Queensland political history, 1929-1960. S. G. Reid, Queensland Government Printer. 
  6. ^ "South Brisbane Election". The Brisbane Courier. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 27 May 1875. p. 2. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Local and General News". Warwick Examiner and Times. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 28 March 1885. p. 2. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "Pring, Ratcliffe". Grave Location Search. Brisbane City Council. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  9. ^ Johnston, W. Ross. "Pring, Ratcliffe (1825–1885)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  10. ^ "History and Virtual Tour". The Newstead House Trust. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
Parliament of Queensland
New seat Member for Eastern Downs
1860 – 1862
Succeeded by
John Donald McLean
Preceded by
Frederick Forbes
Member for Town of Ipswich
1863 – 1866
Served alongside: Henry Challinor, Arthur Macalister
Succeeded by
George Reed
Preceded by
Charles Robert Haly
Member for Burnett
1867 – 1870
Served alongside: Robert Mackenzie, Charles Haly
Succeeded by
Berkeley Moreton
Preceded by
Simon Fraser
Member for Town of Brisbane
1870 – 1872
Served alongside: Kevin O'Doherty, George Edmondstone
Succeeded by
John Handy
New seat Member for Carnarvon
1873 – 1874
Succeeded by
William Miles
Preceded by
Robert Stewart
Member for Brisbane City
Preceded by
Francis Beattie
Member for Fortitude Valley
1878 – 1879
Succeeded by
Francis Beattie