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Life of “The Lion”

Tony De Bolfo  June 28, 2012 1:23 PM

This is the story of Frederick Neville (‘Fred’) Pringle, Carlton’s 23-game footballer of the early 1920s. Fred was born in Assam, India, three days before Christmas 1899, and was but a child of five when he followed the clan across the waters to the Apple Isle.
 
“Fred was the youngest of three boys and his father and mother were English. He was born in Assam because his father went there as a tea planter,” Fred’s stepson Richard Pringle-Jones said recently.
 
“The family had a relative already in Tasmania and the mother and the three boys opted to go there rather than return to England, while the father remained in Assam until his retirement. Fred’s father was quite a successful tea planter, but any wealth was affectively confiscated in 1948 after India won its freedom from colonial rule and all the land was reclaimed.”
 
Fred, it seems, was gifted with great sporting prowess from the outset. According to Richard, Fred ran a record time for the 50-yard schoolboy sprint in 1910 - a record that remained intact for more than 40 years.
 
In 1914, Fred joined the Cananore Football Club (later known as Hobart FC) as a 15 year-old. In time he earned the nickname “The Lion” - presumably because of his fearless deeds as the Canaries’ resident follower.
 
But in May 1917, after the TFL went into recess for the Great War, Fred enlisted with the 10th Field Artillery Brigade.
 
Serving as a gunner in northern France, Fred escaped death by millimetres when a stray bullet grazed his head. Admitted to in England’s Cheltenham Hospital in October 1918, he was repatriated the following June.
 
In 1923, Fred was recruited to Carlton as a strapping ruckman and sometime key position type. Sporting the No.4 made famous by Viv Valentine, Ken Baxter, Stephen Kernahan, Peter Bosustow and (now) Bryce Gibbs, he would turn out for the Blues in 22 matches over two seasons through 1923/24, during which time he earned state selection with Harry Bell for a match played in Ballarat.
 
Why Fred went to Carlton remains unclear, but according to Richard “it was a fun time from what he said . . . and I know that Carlton got him a job selling Riley cars out of a showroom in St Kilda”.

A public servant by profession, Fred ultimately served as secretary in the Tasmanian Attorney General’s Department.
 
Married in the mid-1930s, Fred and his wife Bernice became proud parents to a daughter Patricia, who died earlier this year. After Bernice died in May 1945, Fred remarried Becky Jones - Richard’s mother - herself widowed when her husband was killed on active service during the Second World War.
 
For Richard, Fred’s presence in those formative years was truly a blessing.
 
“My name was Richard Jones because I carried the name of my later father, but when I turned 21 Fred asked if I could change my name to Pringle-Jones, which I did,” he said.
 
“That was because he was such a very good father to me”.
 
Before leaving for the mainland to join Carlton in ’23, Fred was afforded a grand farewell by the good people of the Cananore club and presented with a toiletries set in a leather case. In accepting the token of his club’s esteem, Fred assured his comrades that he would often be with them in spirit, and should he return to Hobart at any time, would play with no other than a Cananore team.
 
True to his word, Fred returned to Cananore and duly captained and coached the Canaries to three successive premierships - 1925, ’26 and ’27. By 1928 he opted to hang up the boots, having also represented Tasmania in six interstate matches.
 
Fred Pringle died on November 12, 1982. In 2003, seventy-seven years after giving the game away at Cananore, Fred Pringle was posthumously honoured as one of the inaugural inductees into the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame.