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Blue Mountains, Australia

Originally written for the ABBEY GUARDIAN by Pat Mitchell, NSW, Australia
Reproduced with her help and permission.

Over the years there have been many cats in Gracedieu Abbey. First there was the Strippit (striped) tabby cat which we learn about when Jen lies reading the book given to her by Sir Keith Marchwood. The cat's name was Minette and there were several pictures drawn by Katharine Marchwood as she awaited the birth of her baby Kat.

The next cat was Peter, owned by Jane Miles of King's Bottom farm, and we learn from the diary given to Jen by Vinnie Miles that she took the cat to the ruined Abbey where she had her play house in the Chapter house. Peter was a small black kitten.

In 'The Abbey Girls' we meet Mother Superior, a large stout matronly cat belonging to Joan Shirley. She was all black. Mother Superior had a son, a lively black cat with a white front, called The Curate, who was with Joan when she met the girls of the Hamlet Club for the first time. When Muriel is crowned as the Speedwell Queen, Joan gives her a small black kitten, another of Mother Superior's children.

Later, in 'Secrets of the Abbey', we meet a shaggy grey Persian kitten. He is adopted by Mother Superior and is called Grey Timmy. When Jen is hopping along the recently discovered tunnel as she, although injured, goes to rescue Joan, joy and Jandy Mac, she bumps into Grey Timmy and Mother superior. They give her quite a fright at first but then comfort her as she completes her journey. Many times throughout the books the cats are mentioned as in 'Stowaways in the Abbey', when Joan is recovering from the measles.

When Jen as a schoolgirl who loves cats comes to the Hall to stay, one of the first things she does is to visit the cats in the Abbey - Mother Superior, Grey Timmy and The Curate. In 'Strangers at the Abbey' when Joan enlists her help with her cousin Rykie they visit the Abbey and Rykie, who is not a cat lover, just says: "Oh - cats." This does not endear her to Jen.
There are several instances when Jen manages to trip over one or other cat as she creeps about the hall either in search of food for a midnight snack or setting off on some adventure in the Abbey.

In 'Schooldays at the Abbey' the cats are delighted when Joan returns to the Abbey to sleep and they spend much time on her down quilt. Because of mice problems in the Hall, The Curate lives in the Hall and Jandy Mac, who is using Joan's room, is woken at 6am on her first morning as he returns from his nightly visit to the village. Joy tells Jandy that Joan is a real cat worshipper who loves every cat she sees.

Rachel and Damaris settle down as caretakers in the Abbey after Damaris has an accident, and Maidlin, their cousin, brings Rachel a basket containing two small kittens. One, which Rachael calls Miss Nigger after her cat in the Lake district, is a descendant of earlier Abbey cats. The other is a golden cat that she calls Angel but later changes to Golden Boy, then Rory because of his loud purr. They dig up many of the plants and seeds as Damaris plants out her garden around the Gatehouse.
We again meet Rory and Miss Nigger in 'A dancer from the Abbey'. On Mr Edward's farm Rachel, Benedicta and Brian Grandison are talking to the farmer when Miss Nigger who followed them is seen drinking from a stone bowl. On investigation it is discovered there are carvings of angels, etc. around the edge. So Miss Nigger leads them to the finding of the Abbey font. On returning to the Abbey to tell the others, Brian and Benedicta put Miss Nigger in the parlour where she manages to create havoc on the table set for afternoon tea.

In 'Song of the Abbey' Miss Nigger becomes Mrs Nigger when she produces two small kittens. The Abbey twins, Elizabeth and Margaret, persuade Derek Grandison when he is writing the Song of the Abbey to put in a tiny skipping phrase to remind them of Rory and the other Abbey cats.

From all these stories of the various cats in the Abbey it is very apparent that Elsie Oxenham was a cat lover and knew much about cats and their antics.

I have this designed a cross stitch sampler depicting the cats I hope some of the many cat lovers will enjoy doing it.

Abbey cats cross stitch instructions.

PETER, all black.

MINETTE, 2 shades of grey.

MISS NIGGER, all black.

THE ANGEL, All ginger.

RORY, 2 shades of ginger.


GREY TIMMY, All grey.

WRITING, all black.

FLOWERS, Gold centres, bright coloured petals.

BALL OF WOOL, Bright red.

EYES & WHISKAS, silver or white.


BORDER, black or red.

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