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Museum Cats 13


Smith Art Gallery
and Museum


Oswald the cat, Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, Scotland

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After leaving the People's Palace in Glasgow, and having taken in Smudge, the former Palace cat, until she died in 2000, Elspeth King went on to become director of the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in the town of Stirling. There she had the company of Oswald, the resident mouser and cat-in-charge. He wasn't always a resident, having first moved close to the museum with his humans, but after a brief spell away in a different town, Bridge of Allan, which didn't suit him at all, he returned to the Smith full-time.

We can hardly do better than reproduce, with permission and a little minor editing, his story as it appeared on the museum's website.

Oswald Clingan-Smith
Cat-in-Charge, Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum
Concise Catography and Purriculum Vitae
Born: 12 May 2004
Ancestry: descendant of Sehkmet and Bastet, the Cat Gods of Ancient Egypt, who came with Princess Scota, daughter of Pharaoh, to establish Scotland through the Scottish line of Gib Hunter and Pussy Baudrons.


Oswald the museum cat, Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling Oswald arrived in Kings Park to live with the Clingan family in the summer of 2004, at 38 Albert Place, Stirling. He took an immediate interest in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum at 40 Albert Place, where he applied for the position of Cat-in-Residence. At that time there was no vacancy, though, and the grey eminence grise was Willow of Royal Gardens, who regularly came to the Smith grounds to beat up Oswald.

Oswald was one of the first to embrace Twitter, and his Twitter Feeds, which extended across Kings Park, often ended in a struggle between him and the Smith Collection's Curator, Michael McGinnes, for the possession of daft wee wrens and sparrows, which Oswald caught on a regular basis. Apart from tweets, he would also catch moles, voles and rabbits. At one point, his name was changed to 'Lee Harvey' Oswald, as he was a dedicated assassin.

Oswald soon set about making himself indispensable in the service of the Stirling Smith and the visiting public. Working as a volunteer, he offered a meet-and-greet service to visitors, welcoming them at the door and guiding them round the building. When they got tired of the exhibits, he stretched himself out full length on the floor so that the finer aspects of his fur coat could be examined and stroked, free of charge.

He also became a regular attender at the evening meetings in the Smith's Lecture Theatre. Among his favoured groups are the Stirling Literary Society, the Field and Archaeology Society, the Philatelic Society, the Embroiderer's Guild and the Astronomy Society. During the day he attends the meetings of the 1745 Association and the Geographical Society. He has a particular liking for the Dickens Book Group and has enjoyed all of the Dickens novels read on these occasions.

Oswald the cat, Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, Scotland Oswald developed a special interest in museum security. When staff members were called out in the middle of the night to attend to the alarm system, Oswald would often be waiting to accompany their inspection. Sometimes Oswald himself was the cause of the alarm call-out, having been locked in the Theatre or some other alarmed section of the building after hours. He usually woke between 8 and 10 p.m. to set off the alarm and check that the system was in working order.

Oswald has an additional interest in gardening, and on Thursdays accompanies gardeners Martin, Magda, Sue and others around the grounds. Although Oswald's task is to keep the garden rabbit-free, his catches are sometimes not fully appreciated. He has been hunted himself, on one occasion by the Stirling Wolf (or a Husky look-alike), which chased him up a tree.

Oswald has never neglected his office duties, and has been known to despatch half-finished e-mails to many surprised recipients at the click of a mouse.

In 2009 Oswald moved with the Clingan family to Bridge of Allan, a place full of unpleasant, nasty fat cats who made the life of a great Kings Park Cat a misery — so on 25 August 2011 Kim Clingan brought him back to the Smith, where he has been ever since.

He spent Christmas 2011 inspecting a brand new luxury cattery and giving it his seal of approval, before it opened to other cats in 2012.

By 24 February 2012 he had doubled in weight. Since put on a diet, he is totally happy as Cat-in-Charge of the Smith, where he continues to serve the public and do the work of two giant Edinburgh pandas.

Social media

Since June 2007 Oswald has had his own film on YouTube, with some excellent photos. His Twitter Feeds are private, but you can follow him on [the other] Twitter, where he tweets with the name @smithsupercat and provides museum information from a cat's point of view. And he has a Facebook page.

Oswald, cat-in-charge at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, Scotland Oswald the cat at the Stirling Smith Museum cat Oswald at the Stirling Smith, Scotland Oswald the museum cat, Stirling Smith, Scotland Greeting for Christmas 2013 from Oswald the cat and the Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, Scotland

Smith Super Cat knitting pattern

Knitting pattern launched for Smith Super Cat, a lookalike of Oswald the museum cat at the Stirling Smith, Scotland Oswald was so popular that he had his own knitting pattern, designed by Museum Assistant Elizabeth Douglas, a keen knitter and flower arranger. She said at the time: 'Oswald is quite fond of wool, and gave me a lot of help with the pattern while we were both on evening duty.'

Many visitors fell in love with Oswald, and said how much they'd like to take him home, but he was totally dedicated to his job and even refused to stay with his original owners when they moved (see above). However, with the pattern, visitors were able to knit their own Oswald, which could be stuffed to make a soft toy or weighted to make a door stop.

Update, March 2020

The following notice appeared on Oswald's Facebook page.

Since the prime minister's address saying that nobody was allowed to carry out non-essential work owing to the coronavirus outbreak, the two remaining staff members who were still working in the museum and taking care of Oswald had to pack up and go home.

That meant we had to take Oswald to the Cottage Cattery that day. Nobody knew how long this crisis will go on for, but most sources tell us it's likely to be at least three months. We felt it was unfair to leave him there for such a long period of time; he's an old gentleman and he needs a cosy bed and lots of cuddles. So, we had to make the heart-breaking decision to rehome him. He has gone to a wonderful home in Glasgow with a friend of Dr King, The Smith's previous director. He's going to be utterly spoilt and live out his retirement in peace.

Oswald brought joy to so many people over the years and he was loved by everyone who met him. The decision to rehome him was not taken lightly, but we believe it was the right thing to do for his welfare. This has been an exceptionally difficult time for us and we would appreciate your support.

Oswald, we love you, little man. Be happy.

It must have been distressing for him to be taken away from his familiar surroundings, but the coronavirus outbreak upset many lives, and it does sound as though Oswald has a good home where he'll be cherished for his remaining years.

Further links

With our thanks and acknowledgements to Elspeth King and the museum for permission to reproduce Oswald's 'PV' (Purriculum Vitae) from the Stirling Smith website and the use of their photographs.

See also our page for Smudge the Trade Union Cat and rodent operative at the People's Palace Museum, Glasgow, who retired from public duties in 1991 to live with Elspeth. Smudge died in 2000, but a memorial for 'Sister Smudge' can still be seen outside the People's Palace.

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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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