We were looking for what we imagined was a country restaurant with a view. After a couple of U-turns and one kilometre too many eating dust behind cattle trucks, I finally spotted a sign: “The Lookout”.
Could that be it? A sturdy old gate with flaky white paint and a national monument badge on the gatepost hinted that it wasn’t. But we had come too far to be deterred by such minor details. Reluctantly my 93-year-old mother allowed herself to be unpacked from the car. The gate creaked in sympathy. As we carefully picked our way down the uneven, winding path, high bushes made it impossible to see more than a few meters ahead, so I went on alone to spy out the land.
I don’t know what I was expecting. Certainly not two graves, side by side: Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and his wife. And round the corner, Sir Percy’s bequest to the world — his favourite view of the Sundays River Valley, from this Lookout.
Today Fitzpatrick is remembered mainly for Jock of the Bushveld, which is based on the bedtime stories he told his four children. It was his friend, Rudyard Kipling, who persuaded him to publish them. Sadly Fitzpatrick’s eldest son died in France in 1917 and the other two died within a week of each other over Christmas 1927 – one in an accident in Johannesburg and the other of typhoid in Mexico. Only his daughter outlived him.
It was Sir Percy who prompted George V to proclaim at the end of World War I “that at the hour when the Armistice came into force, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, there may be for the brief space of two minutes a complete suspension of all our normal activities … so that in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”
But perhaps a man of Sir Percy’s sunny and optimistic nature would prefer to be remembered as a pioneer of South Africa’s citrus industry. I wonder if so many orchards of this sunshine fruit could be seen from his farm Amanzi in the 1920s.