Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jock of the Bushveld Transferware Plate

Sometimes when I come upon a piece of transferware I've not seen or don't recognize I do a little research to learn what story it might tell.  This Royal Doulton plate was no exception.  The imagery is absolutely beautiful and the title, Jock of the Bushveld, intrigued me.  

 Do you know of Jock?

In the early days of South Africa’s European history, a young, 22 year old man by the name of James Percy FitzPatrick returned from England to South Africa to support his recently bereaved mother. 
In 1884, FitzPatrick left his home in the Cape for the Eastern Transvaal at the lure of gold.  Gold had been discovered in the area and the rush was on.   FitzPatrick was one of few who had come from all corners of the world that made his way to the region of some of Africa's most scenic untamed wilderness to claim a portion of gold for himself.  However, Percy’s attempts at gold-digging were somewhat unsuccessful and before long he gave up, bought a wagon and some oxen and began life as a transport rider.

Transportation in those days was arduous, slow work. Roads were 
mere dirt tracks and the wagons that travelled them were pulled by 12 to 16 oxen which had to be fed, watered and, very importantly, protected from wild animals. 

The mid day heat was nothing less than scorching and was best avoided by traveling for four hours before sunrise and for four hours after sunset. During the day men hunted for their meals or saw to various chores around the camp. In these hard times, many men sought out brave and obedient canine companions to keep them company during the cold nights, to accompany them on hunting trips and to act as an extra set of eyes on the restless South African bushveld (low lands).  Percy FitzPatrick was no different. However, good dogs were hard to come by and FitzPatrick was short on luck.

Not long into his career as a transport rider,  one of FitzPatrick's companion's (Ted Sievewright) dogs had a litter of puppies.  She was a well respected bull terrier trail dog, though somewhat unattractive, and she had been covered by a pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  Five of her six pups were the epitome of their breeding.  They were strong, fat and had good coloring.  However, one of them was a runt.  He was weedy, ill-proportioned and was the victim of constant sibling attack.  Since the runt had not been spoken for, Percy came upon the idea of taking him on as his own.  However, right at the last moment Percy was offered the pick of the litter.  After a night of contemplation he decided to stick with the little weakling, thus saving him from being drowned in a bucket for being the runt. 

Percy called him Jock and it seemed as if the puppy knew from the very first day that FitzPatrick was his master.  He even followed him home without any coaching.  Jock was very loyal towards Percy, and proved countless times to be a brave companion, and champion of the litter from which he came.
Years later, after FitzPatrick had made his own fortune as a politician, author, and pioneer of the fruit industry, married and became a father, he would recount the adventurous times he shared with Jock as bedtime stories to his four children.  His close friend, none other than Rudyard Kipling, also took part in the story telling evenings and persuaded FitzPatrick to gather them into the form of a book.

Jock of the Bushveld was published in 1907 becoming an instant success being reprinted four times in that year alone with over 91 editions at last count and never having gone out of print. It is now widely accepted as a South African classic.  The book was highly praised by Theodore Roosevelt who called it "the best and truest story of a dog that I have ever read" and went on to say, "and I think that I have read them all."  This was a compliment that Percy treasured dearly.
Amazon has numerous printings of the book available here: Jock of the Bushveld  

The upscale private lodge within Kruger National Park known for the diversity in wildlife and particularly its Big Five sightings, the Jock Safari Lodge, was named after Jock.  It is built in the area near where the stories of Jock and Percy took place.

If you are fortunate enough to visit the Kruger National Park, you can follow the Old Transport trail which traces the route used in the winter months by the transport riders and was the setting for many of Jock's adventures.  It is marked with the plaques shown below.

Jock has been commemorated in numerous ways including not only the book and lodge, but movies, statues, plaques, maps and even this rare transferware plate which depicts him at the forefront with Percy (standing) and others in the group around a campfire.  The border of the plate is fittingly decorated with some of the various wild life in the Transvaal.

Sources: Jock Safari Lodge, AngelFire, Kruger National Park, Wikipedia

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