Imvubu Newsletter

Jock of the Bushveld

© Victor, S. 2011. Imvubu 22: 5, 1,9.

South Africa’s first feature-length, 3-D animated movie, ‘Jock of the Bushveld’, opened at local cinemas on Friday, 29 July. The film is based on its namesake and a South African literary classic, ‘Jock of the Bushveld’, which was penned by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, a famous ‘son’ of King William’s Town.

It is the much-loved tale of a dog and his owner traversing the Southern African hinterland. First published in 1907, the book was an instant best-seller and has, since then, never been out of print. It has been translated into several languages including Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu and is the only animal classic to come out of Africa.

A string of celebrities are attached to the latest film, including musician Bryan Adams (the voice of Jock); Oscar winner Helen Hunt (Jock’s mother) and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu lending their voices to the film’s characters. Tutu provided the voice for Jock’s spiritual advisor. Sir Tim Rice, Oscar-winning lyricist of Disney’s Lion King and Aladdin is also involved as well as awarding-winning musician Johnny Clegg.

The book has generated several plays and films including a 1986 live-action movie which turned Johnny Clegg’s ‘Spirit of the Great Heart’ into an international hit. Clegg has composed a new song for the animation.

Jock’s creator, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, was born in King William’s Town on 24 July 1862 and was baptised as James Peter in the local Catholic Church. He later renamed himself James Percy. His baptism records can still be viewed at the Sacred Heart Church in King William’s Town. His father, Justice J.C. Fitzpatrick was a judge of the High Court of British Kaffraria when the town was capital of British Kaffraria. The family home and Sir Percy’s birthplace is still extant and is situated at 28 Durban Street. It is a large double-storey house which subsequently became a KHS boarding establishment and is now a block of flats. The Fitzpatricks left King William’s Town in 1869 when the judge was transferred to Cape Town.

‘Jock of the Bushveld’ is based on the stories Fitzpatrick used to tell his children about his experiences during the gold rush of the 1880s round the Pelgrim’s Rest, Lydenburg area in Mpumalanga. Jock, although he was the runt of the litter, became known for his amazing loyalty, courage and bravery.

Fitzpatrick’s own life was packed with adventure. He was a miner, a storekeeper, a newspaper editor and a transport rider. Arrested in January 1896 for his part in the Jameson Raid, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of £2 000. He was released after 4 months. He eventually became a businessman, a member of parliament, a gifted writer and a pioneer in the citrus industry. Fitzpatrick was knighted in 1902. He died on his farm Amanzi, near Uitenhage, in 1931.

The animation is released just over 100 years after the classic was originally published, proving that the story of the iconic ‘Jock’ is clearly an enduring and much-loved South African institution.


Dictionary of SA Bibliography, p. 292-293.

Makhubele, Mantombi ‘Jock of the Bushveld to leap onto big screen’ from Times Live website (

Unknown, ‘”Sir Percy Fitzpatrick: A Famous ‘son’ of King” in The Mercury, 23.05.1985 (supplement), p. 9.