This post was over at bewilderbeast.org, but it belongs here, in the Olden Daze blog.
I read Jock of the Bushveld again for the how-manieth time. I enjoy it every time. Percy Fitzpatrick wrote his classic tales of his days with trek oxen and wagons on the lowveld on the highveld: On his farm Buckland Downs in the Harrismith district.
Always gets me thinking of my wonderful dog Jock in high school:
We got Jock from Reg and Jo Jelliman. They farmed very near Buckland Downs out on the Meul river side of town, out Verkykerskop way. He was apparently a registered Staffordshire Bull Terrier, with the formal name Copperdog-Something on his papers.
. . and then in Westville many years later our first dog in our first home was TC – to me she was a mini-Jock:
She lived to a ripe old thirteen years. I buried her at the bottom of that beautiful garden in River Drive, alongside Matt (above) and Bogart who both came after her but died before her.
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, poor bugger. Fitzpatrick then got Herbert Baker to design a fine sandstone homestead, and to 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. His 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. Calling for an invasion of the sovereign state he was living in! He was convicted of treason against the Transvaal state in 1896. Nasty! Being on the winning side, though, meant he was knighted in 1902. All is forgotten if you win, and what happened gets re-written.
As an author, his most famous work was ‘Jock of the Bushveld’. Written in 1907 while staying at Buckland Downs, it told 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. Despite these two obvious anti-local actions, 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 – probably at a nesting site?
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 himself – honorary 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 in 2019. 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. Overall Condition: A Very Good Copy
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 – 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 than the privilege, of the mere Narrator to dedicate the Story of Jock to those Keenest and Kindest of critics, Best of Friends, and Most Delightful of Comrades, The Likkle People.
Fitzpatrick’s adventures – centred on his dog Jock, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross – when he was pioneering in the Bushveld, are vividly described in this South African classic. He used to recount them in the early 1900’s to his four children, Nugent, Alan, Oliver, and Cecily, to whom the book was dedicated – the likkle people.
Rudyard Kipling, an intimate friend, at some time took 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 Likkle People whom he was addressing and whom in every generation of young South Africans he will continue to address. The Likkle 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.