Banks Cat

Jilly Allison

© Copyright 2020 by Jilly Allison


Photo of a dirty cat.

In the grimy, soot ridden streets of industrial Middlesbrough of the early 1900’s lived a brother and sister whose exploits, such as they were, spread far and wide to the docks (their father was a ships engineer) and to the market of North Ormesby (where an older brother worked a ‘ Saturday job’.

Effie and Fred were nine and ten respectively, bunched together with twelve other siblings in a two up two down their long suffering mother hardly knew of their exploits.

Not so the rest of the street and more importantly the cat belonging to the widow Banks who lived next door.

This unfortunate feline (for unfortunate it was!) was a dirty tortoiseshell with white ‘socks’. As a young cat it was easy going and friendly, in maturity it slept with one eye open and a nervous twitch!!

Effie and Fred were not malicious children, in fact they were the backbone of the local Sunday School, Effie was maternal and the cat was often times found in an old ‘bogie’ (doing duty as a pram) covered in a crochet blanket and being ‘crooned’ to by Effie whilst Fred looked on with paternal affection.

The cat was not averse to this.

Less acceptable was ‘the funeral’.

Effie and Fred would round up a selection of local urchins, find a cardboard shoe box with a lid and with the right ‘outfits’ of bowler hat and cane, an ancient waistcoat and his brothers ’boots’ along with Effie suitably attired in a chenille cape (off the front room table)and an ancient feathered hat this tribe would promenade to a piece of waste ground where they would stand in a circle and mutter incantations suitable for the occasion.

(For those of a nervous disposition the cat had long since run away and the children did not bury the box!!)

Two up two down houses had a ‘privy’ down the yard, a soil box which was emptied in the night by the ‘collectors’.

Effie and Fred, adept at climbing down the drainpipe, waited with baited breath for father to come to the privy, Banks’s cat nursed to Effies chest was content for the moment, fathers rear descended on the top part of the privy and Banks’s cat was pushed, unceremoniously into the soil exit.

Mayhem ensued, a very scratched rear belonging to father, an extremely smelly cat ran home to the widow Banks, Effie and Fred could not sit down for a week after father had finished with them!!

I have to tell you Effie grew up to being a wonderful pillar of the community, a kind and generous soul, and happily my mother.

Fred on the other hand grew up to enter the ‘law’, he was a long serving Magistrate, an Alderman of the town, and even Lord Mayor and often time reminded us of his misspent youth, reminding us that the antics of their youth would get jail time!!

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