‘Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been? I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen’
When Elizabeth II undertook an official visit to Southwark Cathedral, she stopped in her tracks once she spotted Doorkins Magnificat, the Cathedral Cat. I was informed that her Majesty was fascinated to meet this working feline who embodies the lines of the traditional nursery rhyme but I was not told if Doorkins also frightened a little mouse under her chair.
Verger Paul Timms is responsible for the Cathedral Cat – a duty that he oversees with tender devotion and yesterday morning he led me out into the courtyard where Doorkins likes to spend the quiet hours before noon. Sure enough, Paul only had to call and Doorkins appeared from a conveniently-placed stand of shrubs and shady undergrowth, running enthusiastically to greet us.
Quite a small cat, with delicate features and graceful movement, the gentle creature was happy to be petted and photographed while Paul Timms told me Doorkins’ story
“One of my jobs as Verger is opening the cathedral in the morning and closing it at night, and one particular morning in 2008, a young cat appeared at the door to the courtyard when I opened it at seven. Remarkably, we’d just been having a conversation with the Dean about the mouse problem and we had decided that we should get a cathedral cat, when – lo and behold – Doorkins appeared.
At first, I wouldn’t see him for a couple of days but then he came back and I started feeding him, and he began to present himself every day at the door at seven. I called him ‘Doorkins’ because he was the cat in the doorway, although sometimes people think we named our cat after Professor Richard Dawkins, the Atheist. It was the clergy who came up with ‘Magnificat.’
The congregation are in love with Dookins and give money for food and for visits to the vet. They asked us to produce postcards and greetings cards with pictures of the Cathedral cat, and Doorkins even has a facebook page. The vet discovered Doorkins was a female and of Abyssinian breed. She certainly has her mood swings and, somedays, she will let you pet you pet her but, on other days, you only have to look at her and she’ll scratch you.
They knew Doorkins in the Borough Market, she used to go over there and catch the mice. At first, she had divided loyalty and used to go to both the Market and the Cathedral but nowadays she is solely our Cathedral cat.
In the winter, Doorkins spends all her time in the cathedral. I open the door but she takes one look outside at the weather and walks back inside again. In the summer, she spends all her time outside. In the morning, she is in the courtyard and then in the afternoon she moves round to the churchyard. She’s very popular with visitors, they come to visit her and take her photograph, but when it gets too busy she goes down into the crypt where they can’t follow her, and just comes up every now and again to use her litter tray.
One day, a ginger cat appeared in the cathedral and they began having conversations, screetching at each other during services, so the Dean said, ‘One has to go.’ A Verger took Ginger home and adopted him. Another time, we had an an art installation created by an Artist-in-Residence with beautiful textiles and the Artist was scared what Doorkins might do to it, so she had to go to a cattery for three weeks, but she was quite happy once she came back and fell into her old routine again.
We think Doorkins is about ten or eleven, we’ve had her eight years and she was about two when she arrived.”
Doorkins’ summerhouse at the south side of the cathedral
A painting of Doorkins greets visitors to the cathedral
Doorkins shares the same colouration as the cathedral
Doorkins merchandise in the cathedral shop
Doorkins recumbent in the cathedral yard
You may also like to read about
Schroedinger, Shoreditch Church Cat
This post first appeared on Spitalfields Life | In The Midst Of Life I Woke To, please read the originial post: here