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Hamish, a long-haired ginger cat born in 1999, became well known around the small Scottish town of St Andrews, noted for its university and celebrated as the home of golf. Owned by retired TV producer Marianne Baird, Hamish lived with her for a year or so in his youth; but after that he became more and more nomadic, often spending days away from home, so Marianne saw little of him, although she did still ensure that he had his annual health check and vaccinations.
Most of Hamish's time was spent around local businesses and shops, such as a hairdresser, estate agents, the Holy Trinity church, as well as university buildings and private homes; he always had plenty to eat and drink! The town has a large population of tourists and students who have encountered Hamish over the years, and with the creation of a Hamish McHamish Facebook page his profile was raised further, with over 7500 Likes in September 2014. Visitors to the town would specifically seek him out to be photographed with him and upload their pictures. Such was the interest from students, visitors and townsfolk that a book was written about him: Hamish McHamish of St Andrews: Cool Cat about Town, by Susan McMullan (right). He appeared on BBC-TV's The One Show (2013) and in various newspaper articles, not only in the UK, and he also featured in a short segment of ITV's The Secret Life of Cats (2014).
On 30 November 2013, St Andrew's Day, and as part of the St Andrews Food & Drink Festival taking place at the time, an ice sculpture was created in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in the town centre. It took the form of a fishing boat at sea with fish leaping ahead and sitting at the prow was a representation of Hamish! The public could watch as the ice boat (named Hamish) was carved and took shape during the day, although the cat had been created beforehand. After dark the display was illuminated, and Hamish himself was taken to cast his eye over it.
In January 2014 Hamish was chased up a tree by a couple of dogs, causing the Lord Provost of the county of Fife, Jim Leishman, to ask dog owners to keep their animals under control and on a lead when around the cat. 'We've got to protect the old boy. He's getting on,' said Jim. 'We've got to make sure he's not upset. He is Scotland's most iconic cat, after all.' Staff from the hairdressers, assisted by students, helped to recover him from the tree.
From April 2014 there is a permanent memorial to Hamish in the town, something that doesn't usually happen while animals are still alive. A public campaign was begun by Flora Selwyn, editor of the St Andrews in Focus magazine, to raise £5000 (around 8400 US dollars at the time) to honour the cat, and the target was soon reached. A bronze statue of Hamish, sculpted by David Annand, was unveiled in Logies Lane, where it stands on a stone plinth; the feline himself made a brief appearance at the ceremony.
Sadly that was almost his swansong; a few months later, in early September, Hamish contracted a chest infection that he was unable to shake off. Despite the best of care, things got worse, to the extent that not long afterwards it was felt best to put him to sleep to avoid further suffering. He's much missed by the townsfolk and those that knew him but at least there's still that memorial to a remarkable cat.
Links and further reading
Acknowledgements and thanks to Chris C Ferguson and Susan McNaughton at Flickr for their images used here (the latter has several more in her photostream of Hamish's statue) take the links to see them full-sized.
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He remains the only cat ever to have been awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry under enemy fire,
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