Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tom the Cat RNR (Royal Naval Ratcatcher)

World War Two was all but over,when Shonnie was drafted to a small naval vessel at Devonport on the south west coast of England. It was there he first clapped eyes on Tom, who was weaving his way through the legs of the sailors in their mess, picking up a morsel here and there. This big tomcat had attitude and his sailor "oppos" had great affection for the big fella. A ratter of extraordinary ability, no one can recall ever seeing any vermin below decks. Tom(no time for fancy nancy names in the Navy) had been a member of the crew for a few years now, and was a source of comfort to the men, eager to return home to Blighty. They had a small sailor's hat made for him,with navy blue ribbons which tied under his chin. Tom was proud of the honour his crew mates had bestowed on him, and when the mess table had been cleared, he would parade on top, tail held high and erect as a poker; he moved with the prancing steps of a Lipizzaner horse. There was much cheering and laughter which further encouraged our thespian moggy to reprise. Shonnie could not believe his eyes,the more so when some of the crew began singing "The Drunken Sailor". When it came to the chorus,"Hooray and Up He Rises",Tom would rise up on his back spogs ever so gingerly, sway with the music, and punch the air with his two remaining paws. Grown men were seen to weep with laughter. The captain was a frequent visitor to this floor show below decks.
How Shonnie managed to adopt Tom when he left the Navy,I don't know,but home together they came to Dalmore in 1946. Shonnie gave Tom a glowing testimony to his father,Bodach Glass, and his two sisters, explaining how fortunate they were, to have exclusive use of the greatest rat catcher in His Majesty's Senior Service.They were much impressed. Tom was himself impressed with his new home in the glen, a far cry from his former station among the darkness, the dirt and the smell of the ship's bilges. Here were high hills and fertile fields, a place where in the past, he could only dream about. There may be some rats in the roof space of No.5, his new home, but if he were not mistaken(and he wasn't), he could count a dozen or so rabbits leaping about the hill with impunity. He would need to renegotiate his contract with Shonnie, which he did, on the understanding that he would tutor the resident cats in the best practices of ratting.
This was indeed a home fit for heroes.

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