Sir Percy Fitzpatrick worked on a supply route through the Lowveld, along the Old Delgoa Road, which was used between May and September (the dry disease-free winter months) by transport riders from the Lydenburg Goldfields (Spitzkop, Macmac, Pilgrim’s Rest and Lydenburg) to Lourenco Marques. It was this route that served as the setting for many of Jock’s adventures.
This road, known as “The Old Transport Road” dated back to 1844 when Andries Potgieter and a party of horseman were tasked with finding a practical route between the Ohrigstad area and the port city of Lourenco Marques. The route would eventually link Ohrigstad, the Blyde-Truer convergence, Grapskop, Sabie, Spitzkop, Pretorius Kop, Godleni poort (north of Komatipoort ) and Lourenco Marques. The route was later improved by a Portugues businessmen, Joao Albasini, in 1847. He established a more direct and better watered route between Pretorius Kop and Lourenco Marques through drifts on the Crocodile and Komati Rivers.
When Ohrigstad was abandoned and Lydenburg established in 1850, the Voortrekkers linked, by means of a mountain pass over the Drakensberg, this new town to the original Spitzkop road.
In 1873 the road was extended from MacMac over the Burgers Pass (named after the president following his visit to and naming of McMc) down the Blyde valley through seven drifts to Pilgrim’s Rest and then linked to Lydenburg via Robbers Pass and Krugers Post.
In 1875 the route between Pilgrim’s Rest and Lourenco Marques was reserved for the use of the Hungarian, Alois Nelmapius, a successful Pilgrim’s Rest digger and his Lourenco Marques and South African Transport Service by the Transvaal Volksraad which donated a number of farms to him for use as resting stations for his carriers. The Transport service collapsed after trouble with Sekukhuni carriers during May 1876. The road was not used because of the Sekukhuni wars, won by the British in 1879 after annexing the Transvaal in 1877, and the first Anglo-Boer War in 1881. Only in 1883 did transport riders use it again, until 1892 when the eastern railway line between Lourenco Marques and Pretoria reached Nelspruit in June of that year. After this the road became redundant and was only ever used on isolated occasions.
Today Jock of the Bushveld Waymarks have been placed wherever this old road crosses or departs from the modern roads, or along the original road where it is still wholly or partly in use. These waymarks were inspired by Mrs. Cecily Niven, daughter of FitzPatrick.
Fitzpatrick’s first wagon journey to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) along this road started on 8 May, 1885. He was the least experienced of a party of transport riders, arranged by Hugh Lanion Hall, to transport supplies purchased at the Port. One of this group was Ted Sievewright, the owner of Jess, Jock’s mum.
Fitzpatrick wrote Jock of the Bushveld in Europe in 1905 while recovering from a persistent illness he had contracted in Pretoria Central Prison where he had been detained for his involvement with the reform committee against the Kruger Government. It was dedicated to his children: Nugent, Alan, Oliver, and Cecily.
In writing this book, he made the Samarhole spruit or Ship Mountain Camp a focal point of some of the major events in this writing. It was here that the group he was traveling with nearly lost their wagons and equipment in a self-inflicted veld fire. It was also here that Jess had her litter. She gave birth at the Samarhole campsite, under a big tree standing near the edge of the spruit. Her timing had been bad, as it happened to be on the same day that the party had decided to resume their journey to Lourenco Marques. While the wagons were being inspanned, Jess aggressively prevented any approach towards the party’s rifles resting against the trunk of the tree. It was soon discovered why Jess had been acting in such a peculiar manner. In the soft long grass beneath the tree the cry of a puppy could be heard. Ted was sent for to entice Jess onto his wagon. She and her six puppies were given a special nest near the tailboard of Ted’s wagon. Of the six, 5 resembled their father, an imported dog, with only one looking like Jess. Fitzpatrick was to take an interest in the runt because the other five had been booked by Ted’s friends. In Jock of the Bushveld, Fitzpatrick tells the story of how this runt would eventually become the champion of the litter, Jock.
The party’s route along the Delgoa Road has been marked, with one Jock of the Bushveld waymark south of Afsaal on the main Malelane-Skukuza tarred road. A second waymark is an original placed, near Fihlamanzi, by the then Transvaal Provincial Administration in 1951 to preserve the route of the Old Road. There is a waymark at a parking spot overlooking the Crocodile drift on the Malelane-Crocodile Bridge road where Jock, Fitz and Jim Makokel had their famous fight with the old crocodile.
The book also contains a number of anecdotes which take place in the White River district. These include the chapters on Jock’s schooldays, his first hunt, Fitzpatrick’s story of being lost in the veld with Jock, the “Impala Stampede”, and “Jock’s Night Out.”
Source: “In Fitpatrick’s Footsteps” by B.P. Simmons.