Articles in Featuring Felines are written by
The Ginger Darlings, a trio
Artist, book illustrator and writer Jackie Morris lives in 'a ramshackle cottage held together with spider's webs', as she puts it, by the sea on the Pembrokeshire coast of south-west Wales. She shared the cottage with her children Tom and Hannah, two dogs Bella and Floss and five cats.
Max was a dark tabby who enjoyed posing for paintings and appeared in several of the books Jackie has illustrated. Martha was the oldest of the four ginger cats; she saw it as her duty to purr Hannah to sleep at night and to wake her in the morning. And then there were the 'Ginger Darlings', otherwise known as 'The Three' or 'We Three' Maurice, Pixie and Elmo. The first two arrived after the death of Arthur, Martha's ginger brother; Jackie meant to get one kitten, but 'Arthur had been such a big cat, and they were so small' that she took home two.
They liked to curl up to sleep on top of dog Bella so it was natural that when Bella went for a walk, the kits followed, 'prowling like tiny tigers through the forest of grass, running and hiding and tumbling'. As the youngsters grew, the walks became longer. Elmo, the third of 'The Three', was taken in after black cat Bird died of old age; right from the start he took to joining the walkers. They walk up to four miles a day.
Morning and evening, two dogs and three cats accompanying their human made an unusual sight along the Pembrokeshire coastal path. The cats picked their way across moorland, had learned to navigate stiles, and sometimes climbed up onto signposts. They didn't seem to mind what the weather was like, but did carefully avoid boggy and muddy areas. Generally Elmo liked to lead, Maurice would wander here and there investigating things and running up hills and gateposts, while Pixie liked to stand as though admiring the view and then leap out at Jackie as she walked past. The cats mewed for her and the dogs to wait if they got left too far behind.
Ramblers and other walkers, of course, did a double-take when they met Jackie and her entourage: 'But they�re cats ...' One walker told her, 'You're supposed to keep your dog on a lead'; Jackie replied, 'But he's a cat.' Generally the cats were wary of other humans, preferring to sit under a bush and watch them pass, but occasionally they'd say 'hello'. Wild ponies and the Highland cattle that came to share the hillsides made them nervous at first, but then they took most things in their stride. They especially loved bees and dragonflies, whose movements fascinated them, and in late summer they enjoyed watching and listening to the grey seals and their pups below them on the coast.
The remarkable trio were featured in Your Cat magazine, in local and national newspapers and on BBC Radio Wales. They were said to be looking for a book contract! They also had their own blog which, said Jackie, received nearly as many visitors as her own site. We hope you will join the visitors to both these excellent sites, where you will find many more pictures and a great deal else. I must say I found the cats' blog one of the best and most interesting I have come across, and it's beautifully written and presented.
Since the account above was originally written towards the end of 2007, sadly three of the four 'gingers' died and were buried in Jackie's garden. Martha, 'the old one', was first to go in September 2010, aged about 15. Of the three younger 'Ginger Darlings', Maurice died in March 2011 from causes that weren't clear but may have been associated with breathing difficulties he had been experiencing. And Pixie died in September 2012; she also had been having breathing problems, but her actual death may have been down to a large dog that invaded the garden one day. All this was reported in the We Three Cats blog, and also Elmo had his own Facebook page: I am Cat (also the title of a book by Jackie).
We liked the Things Maurice taught us, published after his passing, and reproduce them here with permission:
In August 2012, not long before Pixie died, Jackie posted A measure of life in cats with a wonderful illustration of all her cats to that point.
But then there were new arrivals! Rather than perpetuating the line of ginger cats, Jackie preferred to keep memories of them separate and special and take a new direction. From December 2012 she had two gorgeous Bengal kittens, brother and sister Mr Genji and Lady Spittifer, known as Baggage and Bundle when they first arrived. As a pair they were referred to as the 'Bengal Babies' (selected images left and right, between the dividers). Elmo was getting used to them, and there are numerous great images and short videos of them on his Facebook page and on the blog page, both linked above.
Tragically, Genji was also lost in June 2013, to a road accident.
[Scroll down for 2023 update.]
Following Genji's death, Jackie took on two more Bengals in December 2013 from the same breeder as previously; they were Little Bear (aka either Bear or The White Cat) and Little Leopard (later simply Leopard). They would walk with Jackie as the original 'ginger darlings' had done, and there are many lovely photos in her journal.
Alas, more heartache was not far away. In early September 2015 Leopard went missing for five days, and unfortunately Jackie had to go away before he'd returned. When he did, she received news that he was being taken to the vet as an emergency, having clearly been in a vicious encounter. Somehow he had made his way home, but was dehydrated, weak with hunger and had serious injuries to his head and face that had become infected. Sadly, although given the best of emergency care, he died after a few days, his little body just lacking the strength to recover. The vet thought he must have fought with something a few days before, possibly a badger, perhaps having 'poked his cat-curious nose' into the animal's sett.
Of the Bengals, only Spittifer and The White Cat then remained, and the elderly ginger Elmo. One positive after Leopard's demise was that Elmo then felt able to rejoin Jackie, The White Cat and the dogs for a walk for the first time in months. Previously, although Leopard could be sweet, he was also something of a bully, and would pester Elmo constantly if they were out together.
By 2016 Jackie had written that 'His Lordship Elmo the Ginger, is now senior pack member, lord of misrule, and very much still alive. He sleeps the day away, curled up with The White Cat or Lady S.'
In spring 2020 Jackie reflected that while Elmo sometimes used to stay out all night in the tunnels beneath the gorse, 'these days he usually sleeps. He is old and stiff of limb, but yesterday he came for a walk ... it was so lovely to see the sunlight on his fur. He's a beautiful, wise old boy. I hope he comes again.'
Three years on, in early 2023, we have no further news of Elmo which isn't to say there's been no mention of him, but so far we haven't tracked anything down. Spittifer and The White Cat have been pictured in recent social media posts. We hope all are still doing well.
We're most grateful to Jackie for originally contacting us in 2007 about her unusual cats, and for her kind permission to use the superb photos illustrating this account. Many more can be found at the We Three blog, which was regularly updated with posts between 2007 and 2014 and is still available to enjoy online, as is Elmo's Facebook page with posts and photos to 2016. Since 2014 updates about the cats can be found among the journal entries at Jackie's main website. See also Twitter and Instagram.
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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.
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Page created December 2007, with later revisions and additions