Fitzpatrick was born in King William's Town 24 July 1862 (and died at Amanzi (Uitenhage) 24 January 1931). He was the eldest son of James Coleman Fitzpatrick, judge of the Supreme Court of the Cape Colony, and Jenny Fitzgerald, both from Ireland.
On his father's death in 1880, he left college in order to support his mother and family. In 1884, he went to the Eastern Transvaal goldfields where he worked as store man, prospector's hand and journalist, and as transport-rider form Lourenço Marques by ox-wagon to Lydenburg and Barberton. In Barberton, he became editor of the Gold Fields News.
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick worked on a supply route through the Lowveld, along the Old Delagoa 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 Lourenço Marques. This route 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 horsemen were tasked with finding a practical route between the Ohrigstad area and the port city of Lourenço Marques. The route would eventually link Ohrigstad, the Blyde-Truer convergence, Graskop, Sabie, Spitzkop, Pretorius Kop, Godleni poort (north of Komatipoort) and Lourenço Marques.
A Portuguese businessman, Joao Albasini, later improved the route in 1847. He established a more direct and better-watered route between Pretorius Kop and Lourenço 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 Macmac) down the Blyde valley through seven drifts to Pilgrim’s Rest and then linked to Lydenburg via Robbers Pass and Kruger's Post.
In 1875, the route between Pilgrim’s Rest and Lourenço Marques was reserved for the use of the Hungarian, Alois Nelmapius, a successful Pilgrim’s Rest digger and his Lourenço 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 Lourenço Marques and Pretoria reached Nelspruit in June of that year. After this, the road became redundant and was only ever used on isolated occasions.
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, which is generally accepted as a South African classic.
In the early 1900's he used to recount the adventures of his dog Jock (a Staffordshire Bullterrier cross), in the form of bedtime stories to his four children, Nugent, Alan, Oliver, and Cecily, to whom the book was dedicated. 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.
Fitzpatrick’s first wagon journey to Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) 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 mother.
The Samarhole spruit or Ship Mountain Camp is a focal point of some of the major events in story of Jock. It was here that the group he was travelling 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 Lourenço 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 Delagoa Road has been marked, with one Jock of the Bushveld way mark south of Afsaal on the main Malelane-Skukuza tarred road. A second way mark 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 way mark at a parking spot overlooking the Crocodile drift on the Malelane-Crocodile Bridge road where Jock, Fitzpatrick 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.”
Today Jock of the Bushveld Way marks 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 way marks were inspired by Mrs. Cecily Niven, daughter of Fitzpatrick.
Jock's birthplace (he was born in 1885) is marked along the Voortrekker Road, which runs southeast of Pretoriuskop. Found at Jock Safari Lodge, there is a bronze statue that commemorates the bravery and loyalty of Jock.
In 1889 Fitzpatrick went to the Witwatersrand and in 1891 led Lord Randolph Churchill's expedition through Rhodesia (immortalised in Through Mashonaland with Pick and Pen), and prepared the way for Alfred Beit's journey to Lo Bengula's land. In 1892 he returned to the Rand as head of the Intelligence Department of Herman Eckstein and Company (a branch of Wernher, Beit of London), afterwards famous as the Corner House.
Under the Kruger regime, Fitzpatrick became a vital force behind the demand for franchise rights and citizen status for the “Uitlanders” (outlanders), becoming secretary of the Reform Committee in 1895. On the collapse of the Jameson Raid at Doornkop, Fitzpatrick (who declared that Jameson's precipitate action was absolutely against the wishes of the Reform Committee) was arrested with many others, imprisoned and tried for High Treason. (Imprisonment under bad conditions permanently affected his health).
He was an unofficial member of the Transvaal Legislative Council and served on the Inter-Colonial Council, which was responsible for the S.A. Railways. He was knighted for these services in 1902. He later became President of the Chamber of Mines.
Fitzpatrick played a great part in the creation of the Union of South Africa as a delegate from the Transvaal to the National Convention. He acted as liaison between Generals Botha and Smuts and the Transvaal; and he and General Hertzog, in private, worked out the agreement for full language equality.
During his parliamentary career, he successfully fought two memorable elections in defence of his Pretoria seat - first in 1906 against Sir Richard Solomon, and again in 1910 against General Botha, the Prime Minister of the first Union Parliament. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1910.
During the 1914/18 War Fitzpatrick was sent by General Smuts on a countrywide tour, lecturing on the reasons and causes of the war. When it ended, he conceived the idea of the “two minutes silence on Armistice Day”, and the suggestion was adopted and acknowledged by King George V. The idea of the National South African War Memorial at Delville Wood was his and he was Chairman of that committee.
Fitzpatrick had a most engaging personality and a sunny and optimistic nature, but his later life was clouded by a series of personal tragedies. His wife died in 1923. His eldest son, Nugent, had been killed in France in 1917 and his other two sons died within a week of each other at Christmas 1927: Alan from an accident in Johannesburg and Oliver from typhoid fever in Mexico. This left him only his daughter who married in 1923 to Jack Niven.
These blows, though borne with great courage, shortened his life and he died at Amanzi in January 1931 at the age of sixty-nine. He is buried on The Outlook overlooking the Sundays River Valley. His burial place has been declared a National Monument.