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The Cats of Harrison Weir : A Victorian artist and avid bird-watcher banished cats from his country cottage, but soon wished he hadn’t.
The Cats of Harrison Weir

Based on ‘Our Cats’ by Harrison Weir (1824-1906).

Harrison Weir was a Victorian artist, engraver and illustrator who specialised in drawing animals, especially songbirds. He was also mad about cats and assumed, naturally enough, that his two passions were incompatible. He discovered, however, that he could not have been more wrong.

THE world’s first cat show, held at London’s Crystal Palace in 1871, was organised by Harrison Weir, artist, illustrator and bird-watcher.

Harrison had learnt drawing and engraving under George Baxter, the pioneer of commercial colour printing. As songbirds were a favourite subject, later on he bought himself a country cottage so he could observe them from his window. Cats, reluctantly, were forbidden.

All went well, until he caught sight of a rat, stealing birdseed. Then came mice, scuttling behind the wainscot of his bedroom and giving him sleepless nights. The rats killed his chickens, the mice gnawed his vines.

So Weir went to London, leaving the cottage in the capable paws of three farmyard mousers, hired guns who unsympathetically despatched vermin but knew to leave ducks, chickens and songbirds alone. He returned two weeks later to blessed nights of unbroken sleep, cheeky sparrows foraging beneath his window, and hens happily laying.

For the first time, he said, he really appreciated what cats do for us.

Based on ‘Our Cats’ by Harrison Weir (1824-1906).

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Picture: © Karl and Ali, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
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