Since Churchill died, under his instructions, there has always been a ginger tabby cat living at Chartwell, which was the Kent home of Winston Churchill for more than 40 years. For Americans unfamiliar with English geography Kent is located in the far south-east of England.
Churchill and his family left firm instructions that there should always be a Jock living in “comfortable residence” at Chartwell. The instructions appear to have been made in his will. Churchill must have been a cat lover (he was a very genuine, authentic man) because the original Jock was a ginger tabby cat or marmalade cat given to Churchill on his 88th birthday by Sir John “Jock” Colville, his former private secretary. Jock was much loved and spoiled. Churchill’s family would not start family meals until Jock had taken his place at the dining table.
Including the current cat, there have been six Jock’s living at Chartwell since Churchill’s death, 50 years ago. The current incumbent is a rescue cat who is now 19-months-of-age; when he was rescued he was a seven-month-old kitten. He was found wandering the streets of Croydon in South London covered in paint. He was rescued by Croydon Animal Samaritans.
The interesting aspect of Jock’s life, for me, is that his claws are an issue with the people who manage the house on behalf of the nation. It has emerged that while Jock is a star attraction at Chartwell, he does not have complete run of the house because he is banned from the dining room (ironically), the study and the bedroom; all places where the original Jock would have been allowed to visit and enjoy. Chartwell is a big house that was much loved by Churchill and it remains much as he left it.
Katherine Barnett, Chartwell’s House and Collections manager, adopted Jock VI. Katherine is also the curator of Death of a Hero, an exhibition at Chartwell marking the 50th anniversary of the great man’s passing. She says that Jock is barred from certain rooms because he could do untold damage in those rooms.
“It is purely because of his claws… He could do untold damage to irreplaceable objects”.
There it is – I think that many Americans who declaw their cats would empathise with the directive given by Katherine Barnett, but note, no declawing took place!
Catherine Says about Jock:
“It’s a modern day rags to riches story – Jock VI has had a difficult start to his life, but as the saying goes, a cat will always land on its feet. I’m delighted with Jock. He is a very caring, loving cat and I think our visitors will get lots of enjoyment from seeing around the property for many years to come”.
Jock is the living bequest of a national hero and a great celebrity himself….but mind those claws…