In October 1902, just four months after the end of the Anglo-Boer War, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick bought the farm Dreyersgeluk near Verkykerskop in the Harrismith district from the insolvent estate of Petrus Dreyer. Fitzpatrick got Herbert Baker to design a fine sandstone homestead and assist him in building it in 1903 ‘but without full professional services’ (Keath 1992:104-105). Baker, who became Sir Herbert in 1926, was an English architect who worked in South Africa from 1892 to 1913. Baker’s first job was for Cecil Rhodes on Groote Schuur; over the next twenty years he dominated the architectural scene in South Africa, designing the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1910.
James Percy Fitzpatrick was born in 1862 in King William’s Town, the son of Irish immigrants from Tipperary.
Active in politics and very pro-England, Fitz agitated for war against the boers and was convicted of treason against the Transvaal state in 1896. Being on the winning side, though, meant he was then knighted in 1902.
As an author his most famous work was ‘Jock of the Bushveld’ written in 1907 while staying at Buckland Downs, about his life as a transport rider in the lowveld goldfields of the old Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek. The Jock stories began as bedtime stories told to his children. Apparently urged to publish them by his friend, famous author Rudyard Kipling, the stories became one of South Africa’s most famous books of all time.
Around 1910 Fitzpatrick ordered a large number of different varieties of oak trees from England and planted them in the shape of the Union Jack on about 35ha of land on Buckland Downs.
Sir Percy said “I would rather be a meerkat in Africa, than a millionaire in England.” Of course, he meant that only as long as Africa was under British rule.
Fitzpatrick’s daughter Cecily (1899-1992) later stayed on the farm with her husband Jack Niven. In the 1940’s the famous ornithologist Austin Roberts (1883-1948) used to visit them on Buckland Downs. Patrick Niven tells how Roberts involved the family during a 1942 visit in a collecting expedition to the nearby Spitzkop for specimens of swifts.
Cecily became very involved in birds – her name is reflected in the List of Members of the Southern African Ornithological Society (SAOS) for April 1935, the receipt for her subscription is signed by Austin Roberts who was Hon. Secretary at the time. In 1948 she established a Committee for Bird Protection as a subsection of the Wild Life Protection Society. In 1957 Cecily was the driving force behind the first Pan African Ornithological Congress which took place in Livingstone, Zambia. In 1960 she established an Institute for African Ornithology – now fondly known as the ‘Fitzstitute’ – dedicated to the memory of her father, Sir Percy FitzPatrick through a £15,000 endowment (around ten million Rand in 2007 money) from the FitzPatrick Memorial Trust.
A first edition copy of Jock is going for $7500. And then THE first edition is for sale by Clarke’s Bookstore. I wonder how much that will fetch? Here’s the inscription Percy himself inscribed in it:
Illustrated by E.Caldwell
First edition, First impression. 475 pages, colour frontispiece, plates and marginal illustrations, dark green cloth with gilt titling and gilt vignette of Jock on the upper cover, light foxing throughout mainly in the text and on the page edges, with the drawings of a dung beetle pushing his load with his front legs rather than his back legs on pages 65, 337 and 457 and Snowball the horse being dragged out of the river on page 316 – these drawings were changed in later impressions. The spine is starting to fray at the top and the bottom, the bottom edge of the upper cover and the corners are slightly scuffed, housed in a specially made oatmeal textured cloth solander box with a dark green title label gilt on the spine, a very good copy of the first edition.
5000 copies of the first impression were printed at a total cost to Longmans of £416. 7s. 11d.
Signed on the title page by J Percy Fitzpatrick. His full name was Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick.
Inscription on the front paste-down end paper reads: This is the first copy of “Jock”- “ belongs to the Likkle People” and the mere narrator desires to acknowledge that fact in proper form. J Percy Fitzpatrick, Hohenheim October 1907
The dedications page reads: It was the youngest of the High Authorities who gravely informed the Inquiring Stranger that “Jock belongs to the Likkle People!” That being so, it is clearly the duty, no less less that the privilege, of the mere Narrator to dedicate the Story of Jock to those Keenest and Kindest critics, Best of Friends, and Most Delightful of Comrades The Likkle People.
Fitzpatrick’s adventures during this time of his life, when he was pioneering in the Bushveld, are vividly described in his book Jock of the Bushveld, a South African classic.
In the early 1900’s he used to recount the adventures of his dog Jock (a Staffordshire Bull terrier cross), in the form of bedtime stories to his four children, Nugent, Alan, Oliver, and Cecily, to whom the book was dedicated – the likkle people.
Rudyard Kipling, an intimate friend, used to take part in these story-telling evenings and he it was who persuaded Fitzpatrick to put the stories together in book form. Having done this, Fitzpatrick searched for a suitable artist to illustrate the book and eventually came across Edmund Caldwell in London and brought him to South Africa to visit the Bushveld and make the drawings on the spot.
The book, which appeared in 1907 for the first time, was an immediate and overwhelming success, being reprinted four times in that year.
Extracted from his South African Memories pages 24 -25: Of course to those who have read Jock of the Bushveld he needs no introduction. Jock and Jess and Jim will always live in the memories of the Little People whom he was addressing and whom in every generation of young South Africans he will continue to address. The Little People have always loved Jock and his companions because they know what was being told to them was true and that it was all about their own wonderful country.
Overall Condition: A Very Good Copy