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Patrick Roberts

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Fragments 8

Alfie the Chepstow Cat, Monmouthshire
James, the Council Cat from Shropshire


Chepstow, Monmouthshire

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Alfie the black cat, born in 1994 and originally a rescue cat, was a part of daily life in the small town of Chepstow, in Monmouthshire, South Wales from 2003 when his humans, Caroline Gammon and her three children, moved there from Cirencester. Over the next ten years he became something of a town mascot and had been described as 'the most famous cat in Wales'.

He loved to bask in the sun outside his home, at the bottom of Steep Street by Merrick's the chemist's shop, and everyone, from the elderly to bus drivers, would stop to say 'hello'. Some people thought he was a stray, but he had a loving home and just liked meeting people and getting a stroke and a bit of petting; being friendly and gentle he had many friends. His fame spread much further afield when in summer 2012 the children, Tom, Sam and Alice, set up a Facebook page for him, and he gained followers from as far afield as South Africa and Australia.

If he were not there, people would miss him and ask after him, and many enquiries were received during the very cold weather of early 2013 — but Alfie was safely keeping warm indoors. However, on 12 March there was a message on Facebook saying that the last of Alfie's nine lives had come to an end and he had died peacefully in his sleep that morning, aged about 19. There were hundreds of tributes and messages of condolence from far and wide.

Alfie the Chepstow Cat, at the bottom of Steep Street

Alfie the Chepstow cat, Monmouthshire Alfie the Chepstow cat, on the windowsill of Merrick's Pharmacy, Monmouthshire Alfie the Chepstow cat, who died in March 2013 Alfie the Chepstow cat

Plaque for Alfie the Chepstow cat, made by potter Ned Heywood

His funeral was well attended and he is buried in the garden of his home. An unusual way of celebrating his life was a wake, organised by the landlord of the Coach and Horses, the local pub, who said: 'Ms Gammon and her family are regular customers of mine and we all knew Alfie, so I decided to organise something where we could have a sing-song and pay tribute to him.' About 100 people attended the wake, some coming quite a distance; there was a eulogy and a specially written poem was read. A collection raised funds for Cats Protection, and another pub in the town also raised over £100 for the RSPCA in Alfie's memory.

There were calls from townsfolk for Alfie to be permanently remembered, perhaps by renaming the part of the street where he would hold court as 'Alfie's Corner', or perhaps by means of a plaque or statue in his memory. The town council was considering the requests, then Chepstow potter Ned Heywood, who makes Blue Plaques for the City of London and elsewhere, offered to make a special plaque at no cost in memory of Alfie. It was completed by May and there was a photo (left) — a lovely tribute indeed.

Alfie's family confirmed on Facebook that in October 2013 the plaque had been erected close to where he used to sit.


James, the Council cat

from Shropshire

Councillors of the North Shropshire District Council who meet in the small town of Wem, in the West Midlands county of Shropshire in England, reported in August 2006 that they'd had an unusual visitor sitting in on one of their meetings: a tabby-and-white cat. Apparently he frequently visited the council offices, especially liking the Customer Contact Centre, which is generally busy during daytime; but he'd also attended a meeting. Revolving doors, or doors with sensors, seemed to cause him no problems. 'He is very docile and is no trouble,' said one of the councillors. 'He came into one of the council meetings to see how we were getting through the agenda, and sat on the back row with the councillors. As a resident of North Shropshire, he probably thought he should see what we were up to.'

James the council cat, Wem, Shropshire

Staff were concerned that the cat, who seemed well fed, might have an owner who thought he'd gone missing, so he was pictured in the local paper. Wem resident Alison Evans made herself known as his owner, and said his name is James. She knew he wandered — he was a regular visitor to the local primary school, St Peter's, and also to the car dealership of Wem Motors — but she hadn't known he was making friends with the councillors too!

James the council cat with owner Alison Evans, Wem, Shropshire

During October 2006 James needed expensive surgery following some incident in which he was injured; it isn't known whether someone kicked him or he was hit by a car, but his stomach was displaced into his diaphragm — quite a serious problem. The Council members were so upset to learn of his injury that the chairman of the council and the town mayor decided to donate towards his vet's bill, and to ask fellow councillors to do the same. A number responded, with the result that the bill of £490 (over 900 US dollars at the time) was paid. Owner Alison, who has three other cats, said she was extremely grateful. 'At the moment he's recovering in his own little bedroom, away from the other cats,' she said, 'and is lively and purring. It's quite nice, as usually I don't get to see much of him!'


Since we reported on James' interest in local council meetings in 2006, he recovered from his surgery and has continued to attend meetings, becoming a familiar figure in the offices and coping well with the revolving doors at the entrance. In September 2009 he made his local newspaper again — with a new photo of him relaxing in a handy box — because the composition of the council had changed. The former North Shropshire District Council has become part of a new, county-wide unitary Shropshire Council, and the new body met for the first time.

James the council cat, overflowing his box in 2009 - Wem, Shropshire

Sure enough, James turned up to lend his support and was greeted as an old friend by those members who had been on the previous council. New members were slightly taken aback at first when he strolled in, had a walk around, sharpened his claws on a table leg and rolled over to have his tummy tickled! He stopped to listen to part of a debate, but then seems to have become bored and left, only to return a few minutes later. He did this several times — perhaps as though to suggest the meeting had gone on long enough? We're pleased to hear he's still active and taking some interest in local affairs!

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Our featured feline at the head of the page, and your companion through Feline Fragments, is Maggie. She came as a kitten from Powys Cat Rescue. One of their volunteers had seen her wandering around, apparently uncared for, and thought her rather young to be just left to roam. The person 'responsible' for her said she 'didn't care', and so the youngster was taken in for rehoming. Only about 4 months old when I brought her home in 2003, she was a self-assured soul, probably because of her early experience, and was soon climbing all the available trees in the garden. She was a determined hunter in her earlier days, and was usually outside, but now prefers snoozing unless the weather is good. She has superb whiskers — and as the photo shows, loves getting into things! (see it here without the puzzle effect)

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