When two kittens called Mickey and Mouse were entrusted to the care of Lyn Rattle on St Helena, finding them a new home involved hitching a 700-mile ride in a yacht. The Administrator on Ascension had a bit of a problem with mice: the kittens had been summoned.
The way yachtsman David Pollitt describes it, he and his yacht – a catamaran, of course – were being pressed into the service of the Crown.
It’s taken a little while to pull the story together, and Joe the vet’s contribution has gone missing (it’s hoped it will be added later). But here is the almost-complete saga, in the words of the human participants.
I have been working with the feral cats in Jamestown since I arrived on the island just over two years ago, trapping, sterilising and euthanasing.
I am also a ‘foster mother’ for kittens waiting for suitable homes. I received these two kittens, Mickey and Mouse, at the beginning of the year – they were bound for Ascension to live at The Residency with Colin Wells, the Administrator.
I was going to send them on the RMS [the island supply ship] but wasn’t happy about them travelling unaccompanied. I approached the shipping company for a discounted fare so that I could go with them, but they declined.
David Pollitt, a retired music conductor from the USA who is sailing round the world single- handed on his beautiful yacht Shearwater, spent several weeks here on St Helena and we became friends. He then offered me and the kittens a lift to Ascension with him.
I have had some sailing experience as I sailed to St Helena two years ago from Cape Town en route to Brazil, but jumped ship and stayed. Needless to say I was delighted to have the chance to go sailing again. Joe, our vet here on the island, rushed the paperwork through, and we left.
Luckily my partner, David Taylor, is very understanding and was happy for me to go. He knows how I love sailing and how keen I was to deliver the kittens in person.
And so, to David’s account, as it appears on the internet (with the Administrator promoted to “Governor” – best not to say anything at The Castle).
27 March, 2012, St Helena Island: Shearwater has been pressed into the service of her Majesty, The Queen of England, in the form of two small pussycats.
The two have been summoned by the Governor of Ascension, an official appointed by the Queen herself, whose duty it is to oversee this even-tinier island in this distant watery corner of the British Empire.
He now has the wish that these little creatures be transferred from St Helena to his personal residence at Ascension Island and Shearwater is the next boat out. And so I, being a British subject and therefore in her Majesty’s service, will indeed endeavour to successfully complete this mission.
29 March, 2012: Anchors up at 3.30 pm yesterday. St Helena is disappeared below the horizon behind us. The Royal Felines are in repose in their habitation below decks. Their Highnesses commenced a little on the dicey side but have now recovered and have resumed their daily grooming.
Lyn, the highest of caretakers, is in their constant service and the ‘at your service’ skipper endeavours to keep the boat still and quiet amidst sunny blue skies and calmish seas.
“The kittens had a large cage which I kept on the floor next to my bed. Whenever I was in my cabin, I let them out to walk about and lie on my bed. They were seasick for two days but recovered on day three.
They were very good and well behaved in spite of being out of their comfort zone. The trip was perfect – good gentle trades from behind and moderate seas.”
Ascension Island, 7 April, 2012: We knew we were in the service of the Queen when, a full 60 miles from Ascension, we received a call from Ascension Radio on the VHF inquiring as to our ETA and if “all is well on board.”
At about 5 am, we made our way up the western side, still dark, only the ubiquitous lights of BBC, USAF, RAF, ARIANE, and Cable and Wireless.8:30 am Wednesday – anchor hits bottom, digs in well. The ‘Royal Cargo’ (I was reprimanded for using the “P” word ) up on deck for the first time, had withstood the rigours of their mid-Atlantic voyage.
Soon, a boat at high speed appeared with the veterinarian, Dr Caz, stethoscope in hand.
A quick check and we were ushered ashore – the two Royals, their Caretaker and Skipper. Passports stamped, fees waived. Our driver, a Ms Caz, whisked us up to The Residency. Extraordinary woman – five careers on the island: Veterinarian, Driver, Lawyer, Longshoreman, and yes, Rocket Scientist, monitoring the rocket launches of ARIANE and NASA.
What a drive… the lavaesque town of Georgetown with its few historic old harbour buildings nestled amongst the newer, almost barracks-like, one storied affairs, sidewalks and gardens lined with black-crushed lava, hot, dry – four dormant volcanoes looming behind. Up, up a serpentine road we go, up into the lushness, the wetness, the cool clouds of Green Mountain at 2,817 feet. At the top, The Residency.
And then, there he was in his finest: socks, running suit, colorful stripped shirt and no hat – Mr Colin Wells, who immediately inquired where the ——- were (yes he used the “P” word!). Him seated now in a big, comfy chair very much befitting the ceremonial handover. We brought forth the royal felines. It was love at first sight, at least on the part of the Governor.
The royal guests were delivered successfully and are now, as night approaches, hiding behind various pieces of furniture at The Residency.
Colin Wells had us to stay at The Residency so I could see the kittens settled in their new home. I then boarded the RMS to go home to St Helena and David Pollitt set sail for Florida.
THANKS COLIN! I want to thank Colin Wells for his kind hospitality and generosity. Amongst all else, he filled my fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables for my long trip home.
I hear from Colin that the kittens are fine and settling down to their life of luxury. It is a beautiful setting and they will be very happy there. I miss them terribly and am waiting for the next batch.
The cats are well. They are getting used to The Residency, with all its rooms, and despite my best efforts to get them to explore they seem quite happy to sleep and eat in the main bedroom.
Having been abandoned in St Helena and spent a week on the yacht Shearwater (in great, loving company), they are now enjoying a touch of luxury.
But they are now aware of the abundance of birds, rabbits, land crabs and mice outside, so I expect them to be on the move soon to claim control of the garden.
Special thanks are due to Matt Joshua on St Helena and Nicola Dillon on Ascension for help researching this story.