This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Jummy the Cat from Rugby

08 November 2013

Dogs find their way into antique photos with some regularity. Cats? Not so much. Even less so, cats that have a name.

This postcard of a handsome black cat has the following caption:
"Jummy" the Cat which walked from Hampstead to Rugby, a distance of 85 miles, June 1904. It was taken from Rugby to Hampstead in a closed basket.

Underneath is a note:

Are you going to
Rugby Show?

Heard you were in town
last Thursday.

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The postcard, which left Rugby at 9:30 PM SP 7, 1905, contains a cryptic message to a Miss Smith of Heath House, Brinklow, Counventry.  The secretive admirer offered this short doggerel, but signed it with only his (or her) initials. 

I wish I was I know where,
And I know who was with me.
I wish I had I know what,
And I know who could give me.
C.D.R.? L.B.

A cat that made a solo trek of 85 miles would be remarkable at any time, and Jummy made the news even in Ohio, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran this detailed report in its September 18, 1904 edition. The cat was owned by Mrs. Mark Robinson of No.9 Belsize Grove, Hampstead, and in June 1904 Mrs. Robinson moved to Hampstead from Overslade, which is near Rugby. Her cat was then about 7 years old and a medium sized cat. When furniture began to arrive at his new home, Jummy took exception and disappeared. After several weeks, news came from Overslade that Jummy, thin and rough, had returned to Rugby.

What made this notable was that Jummy could not have seen this route on his first trip to Hampstead because he had been carried there in a closed basket!


Google Maps shows us a possible pedestrian route northwest from Hampstead in London  to Rugby and gives a better appreciation of the distance Jummy walked. Today this pathway measures only 78 miles. The world is smaller now, I'm told.

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But I believe Jummy might have taken a longer but easier course. Interlaced between roads and railway tracks is another line of transportation that Google does not recognize - the inland British Waterway system. The section that connects London to Birmingham is now called the Grand Union Canal, and both Hampstead and Rugby are "ports" on this intricate system of narrow canals and locks. Regent's Park which is along the canal is only a modest stroll from No.9 Belsize Grove. 

The Grand Union was made from an amalgamation of several 19th century canal companies and is now 137 miles long with 166 locks. Stanfords map store provides this image to which I have added red arrows to show Hampstead and Rugby.

Grand Union Canal
source: Stanfords

Wikipedia provides this nice photo of the Hampstead Road Locks in London. What sensible cat would turn down an opportunity to hitch a ride north on a narrowboat? It might be longer, but it certainly would save the paw leather and offer some food and lodging on the journey.

Camden Lock, or Hampstead Road Locks
source: Wikipedia

Whether Jummy walked or floated the entire distance back to his purrrferred home, we can never know. Yet it is still a feat worthy enough to record his name in the digital Catalog of internet trivia.

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Last spring on our holiday to Britain, my wife and I had the great pleasure to meet another spirited cat who easily could be one of Jummy's descendants. Starsky lives in Kensal Town, not far from Hampstead and only a block from the Paddington branch of the London canal network. His mistress takes him everywhere and on this holiday, they joined us on a trip to Weardale in the Pennines of the north of England, where Starsky keeps a second home.

On a beautiful June day we took a long walk around the Burnhope reservoir and Starsky insisted on accompanying us (and complained about it too) the whole way. Though he sometimes got carried, he managed to circumnavigate this lake complete with pastures, forests, sheep, and dogs for a distance of nearly 5 miles. A very impressive feat for a medium sized cat.

On our return, Starsky took his boots off to wait for his tea and posed for my camera.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
scratch the link for stories on old photographs and maybe cats too.


Karen S. said...

Oh indeed that was a wonderful pose too! How nice of him to do that. Wouldn't it be something if a person could discover that actual route that was taken, I mean you just never know what could have crossed paths back then. I do know a few Tom cats from out in the country here that take long tours about, but not any 85 miles that I know of anyway! Imagine that, I just may have to ask a Tom or two around here where all they wander off to! Great post.

Deb Gould said...

Kudos to Jummy -- that's quite a trek!

Kat Mortensen said...

I think your theory is a good one. There's also the railway which could have been the chosen method of travel.

As someone who has had cats all her life, I know they are not ones to have their routines or environments disrupted without being very put out. In my married life, we have had four cats who have been moved about seven times. They were always indoor cats though, and not too keen to venture out and make their way back to a previous location, so they had to adapt.

I've also had the great experience of getting to know someone else's cat. While on holiday in an old Inn on the Cornish coast, I befriended a cat who spent the night on my bed, and in the morning, made his way out of my window, over the rooftop, down to the ground below—a regular Casanova!

Boobook said...

Jummy is a purrfect name for a cat.

PS We have millions of cats that are now living feral lives in the Aussie outback doing untold damage to the wildlife, so I'm a bit biased in my opinion of cats.

Jo Featherston said...

It's a great story, regardless of how Jummy got there, and I love Weardale, from whence my husband's Featherston ancestors originated. The lived at locations such as Middle Rigg and High Rigg, not far from the Burnhope Reservoir.

Jackie van Bergen said...

Agree with Boobook re cats and Australian wildlife but do recognise what a clever cat Jummy was.

Sharon said...

It is amazing that many animals have inbuilt GPS.

When it comes to direction, I am totally blonde!

Georgina Malcolm said...

Goodness! I know Belsize Grove quite well. Jummy would be taking his life in his paws just crossing the road these days.

Liz Needle said...

Fascinating post about an amazing cat. What adventures he must have had.

Kat Mortensen said...

Mike, I wanted to say that I enjoyed having a look at your Dobbin-family blog, and left a couple of comments over there--one on the beach shot with Wally's dad included, and one on the "guard-cat" at Blanche's front door. Lovely tribute to her and the rest.


Postcardy said...

I am always amazed when I hear about cats finding their way home. I wish I had a better sense of direction.

Kristin said...

I had a cat that made his way home when left with friends during our vacation. It was only about 5 miles, but he hadn't seen the route.

Patrica Ball Morrison said...

I have heard of dogs making journeys and finding their ways before, but this cat tale is new to me. Very interesting

Little Nell said...

Another creative bogger, picking up on the cat element of the prompt this time. That’s quite a journey and you may well be right about the canal.

Wendy said...

Well, I didn't think it was possible: a TST Sepia post with no mention of a trumpet, B flat saxophone, or band leader. Still it was a purrfectly fun read.

Anonymous said...

Cats are such great companions.

anyjazz said...

What a delightful yarn with accompanying photographs. Thanks!

Bob Scotney said...

Never underestimate a cat; they are survivors. Didn't Jummy do well.


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