Gabriel David was the first person from the Barolong nation to be ordained into the Anglican ministry. He was the son of David Maramane, an Anglican teacher and evangelist at Monyaki's Kraal, near Mafeteng. Here Maramane worked with Isaia Seitheko, the son of a Christian chief. Maramane was a convert of the Paris Evangelical missionaries at Bethulie, who then worked for the Anglicans. From 1869 he worked alone on the banks of the Vaal River. In 1872 he walked the 100 miles to Bloemfontein to ask for a priest. His son, Gabriel David, the catechist, was sent as the forerunner until a missionary arrived. Lewis and Edwards report that when Bishop Webb visited the area in 1874 the 'amazing David' brought 200 Africans from the Pokwani area to be baptized (1934, 469, Pressley 1971, 14).
Gabriel David was trained at Canon Mullin's Institute in Grahamstown (Lewis & Edwards 1934, 413~431). In 1872 he was licensed as a catechist to serve at St. Patrick's, Bloemfontein. St. Patrick's chapel had been opened in 1867 to serve the detribalized Africans who had streamed to the town in search of employment. In 1885 David was ordained a deacon and five years later a priest at Thlotse (Lewis & Edwards, 431). Except for the time he spent near the Vaal River David spent all his ministry at St. Patrick's. He described the work at St. Patrick's in the following way:
On January 21, 1882, 16 persons were baptized, the first fruits of St. Patrick's Church. From that time the Lord added many souls to His flock, until His fold became too small for His sheep … We natives began in 1882 to subscribe among ourselves every month to keep this valuable work … I will tell you why the native catechists ought to be fastened to the hook (the Gospel) in order that their countrymen might be caught and made good fish of our Lord (Lewis & Edwards, 432).
David died in 1898, leaving behind him a work that had started in a small chapel and which had expanded so much that the chapel had to be extended several times. He was buried in the 'native village' at Bloemfontein (C/AFR/S/13). His family had always supported him and when Archdeacon Crisp translated the Old Testament and Lessons for Sunday into the Bechuana language it was Gabriel David's daughter who acted as a competent language critic.
J. A. Millard
C/AFR/S/13 Diocese of Bloemfontein 1863-1963 Rhodes Library, Oxford.
Lewis, C & G. E. Edwards. Historical Records of the Church of the Province of South Africa. London: SPCK, 1934.
Pressley, G. Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Barkly West, CP, Centenary. Kimberley: Canon Pressley, 1977.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Malihambe - Let the Word Spread, copyright © 1999, by J. A. Millard, Unisa Press, Pretoria, South Africa. All rights reserved.