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Patrick Roberts

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The Marsh Cat
of Parkgate

A Sad Tale

The Marsh Cat's pictorial sign, Parkgate


Marsh Cat Restaurant, Parkgate, Wirral On the east side of the river Dee estuary, part way up the peninsula of land known as the Wirral, west of Liverpool, lies the village of Parkgate. A couple of centuries or more ago it was a thriving and bustling place — an important port dealing with many ships and their cargoes and passengers from far and wide. These days it's a quiet place, no longer on the river, because there is now a marsh between Parkgate and the Dee.

As the ships in earlier times could be at sea for months at a time, most of them carried one or more cats to keep down rodents and preserve their cargo. One particular cat, around 1775, was known as one of the best in the business; consequently he was much in demand and voyaged the world over — Europe, Asia, the Americas and the Caribbean: even to Australia. His was such an important job, and he was so good at it, that it became his privilege to be fed from the captain's table — which of course tended to have the choicest food.

But as the globetrotting feline grew old, had used up most of his nine lives and was becoming weary of fierce storms, heavy seas and foreign ports, he was looking forward to an easier life. He wanted to leave the sea and retire to live with his last captain, Samuel Davies, and his wife at the King's Arms public house in Parkgate. Captain Davies's ship was the Nonpareil.

Marsh Cat signboard at Parkgate, Wirral, Cheshire But there was one more journey to make — to take a Major Castlefield and other passengers, including a number of vagrants from a nearby House of Correction, to Ireland. It should have been a routine voyage; but the weather was bad and casting off was difficult. In addition the captain had a bad premonition; but eventually the Nonpareil set sail out of Parkgate.

It was never seen again. The ship foundered and all aboard her perished in a terrible storm in the Irish Sea.

According to legend, the spirit of the ship's cat wanders the parade (what used to be the quay), looking for the best food to be had among its restaurants. His favourite is the 'Marsh Cat' (pictured), where the good fare to be had reminds him of his adventures of many years ago, before the marshes came to Parkgate.

Website for Neston and Parkgate
Panoramic view of Parkgate by Roger Ellison at Flickr
Wikipedia: Parkgate

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Our featured feline at the head of the page: it was with great regret that I decided to let Pushkin be 'put to sleep' early in 2006, following intractable health problems, a gloomy prognosis and a much diminished quality of life. He was a 'rescue cat' of uncertain age, but I would guess 12 years or more. He will be remembered with great affection as a cat with perfect manners: a gentle soul who seemed even more inscrutable than the average feline. There's a small tribute to him here.

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