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Book Review: Two Perfectly Marvellous Cats (Rosamond Young) : BH

Originally published by British Heritage magazine. Published Online: August 12, 2001 
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Two Perfectly Marvellous Cats by Rosamond Young, published by J.N. Townsend; Exeter, NH; tel:800-333-9883. $20, hardcover.

The act of honouring those exhibiting loyalty, bravery, and devotion is not entirely unusual, except in the case of Faith and Simon, who just happen to be cats. Author Rosamond Young chronicles their tales in her TWO PERFECTLY MARVELLOUS CATS.

The stories of these two purrfectly marvellous felines begin in England approximately 50 years ago. Faith was an abandoned grey tabby who finally found a home with Father Henry Ross, pastor at St. Augustine's Church in London. Young describes how Faith took to the rector and the parishioners, particularly enjoying church services. She would sit at the rector's feet while he preached his sermon and then walk with the parishioners to the altar rail as they received the Eucharist.

After four happy years at the church, Faith became the mother of one kitten, Panda. The year was 1940, and England was at war with Germany. On the way home from Westminster one day, Father Ross was stopped by the alarmingly familiar sound of the air raid siren. Waiting safely in a bomb shelter, the frantic pastor listened in panic to the radio's report of eight city churches reduced to rubble. Returning to find his own church among the devastation, one of his first thoughts was of Faith and Panda. Desperately searching through rubble, he finally heard a soft meow. With new energy he tossed charred sheets of music aside. The next louder meow pinpointed the location of Faith and her son. Thankfully, he found them both alive and well, with Faith bravely shielding Panda with her body.

The tale of the courageous mother spread. Following the war, Maria Dickin, founder of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, established the Dickin Medal, an award presented to animals displaying conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty to the armed forces or civil defence. She was so impressed with Faith's bravery that she created a special silver medal for the civilian cat.

The book includes the story of another brave cat caught up in wartime. Simon was a ship's cat during the Second World War. He had the important job of protecting the food supply from the rats and mice, a duty he performed with distinction. We follow his story from the bombing of the British warship Amethyst to its entrapment on the Yangtze river by Communists.

During the gruelling period of the ship's entrapment, Simon, despite his own serious injuries, continued to perform his duties, which now included visiting the injured crew members. After two months of being trapped and with food and fuel supplies nearly gone, the captain decided a flight to freedom was in order. Under the cover of night, the ship withstood heavy artillery fire until finally realizing freedom.

The story of the Amethyst's escape quickly spread through stories in newspapers and on the radio. In a unanimous decision, the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals conferred the Dickin Medal on Simon in 1949. Simon has the distinction of being the only cat to receive the medal among 18 dogs, 3 horses, and 31 pigeons. Sadly, four days before the presentation, Simon became ill from a virus and died in his sleep.

Roz Young retells these tales with wit, humour, and compassion. Through the course of the stories, she reveals how the felines' courage and determination touched the lives and hearts of the many who came to know and love them. These loyal cats teach us that heroism comes in many forms.

Two Perfectly Marvellous Cats by Rosamond Young, published by J.N. Townsend; Exeter, NH; tel: 800-333-9883. $20, hardcover.

Anita Frullani

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