Thomas Cullinan was born in Elands Post near Seymore, Cape Colony. He moved to Barberton in 1884 and got married two years later. In total he would have 9 children. In 1887, he moved to Johannesburg where he became a bricklayer before turning to prospecting. He discovered the Premier diamond fields in 1898. They lay a considerable distance from the main well-known diamond fields. However, from the find of a diamond on the surface near a farm fence, he deduced that the diamond must have been washed down from some higher diamond-bearing geological position. Such a position presented itself in the shape of a nearby koppie, which concealed a diamond-bearing layer.
The owner of the land, Joachim Prinsloo, had sold land to both gold and diamond prospectors before, but this time would not sell. Cullinan had to wait until the death of Joachim before he could buy the land for 52,000 pounds from his daughter, who inherited the farm after his death. The mine was known as the Premier Mine when the Diamond was discovered.
Cullinan became a keen advocate for the Union of South Africa and advocated responsible Government for Transvaal and Free State in the aftermath of the Boer War. He represented Pretoria North in the first Transvaal Parliament, and was elected for the same constituency for the first Union Parliament.
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