"I have a story to tell you. Gather round." He prurred.
We all ran from our resting places to settle in a fairly organised circle on a leafy patch so that we might hear Mickey' s tale. We love to listen to his stories of daring and danger.
"Long, long ago," began Mickey, thoughtfully stroking his whiskers. He wanted to set a scene that would captivate even the most fidgetty of his audience.
"In the great port of Southampton, a huge ship docked, bound for New York on her maiden voyage. She had travelled from Belfast and on board were crewmen and Jenny. Jenny was an ancestor of mine."
We had heard on the radio that a very big ship had met a fateful end 100 years ago with a great loss of lives. But how did Jenny survive?
"As you know, all the sea-faring vessels had a ship's cat on board - and the Titanic was no different. They kept the rats and mice down- and it was a trip that Jenny had been looking forward to for a long time as some of the world's richest people were to travel on this luxurious liner, and the food was sure to be excellent. But as Jenny had only recently given birth to her kittens, she made the decision that whilst the ship was in berth at Southampton, to take her babies to the safety of dry land. But in the chaos of loading so many people on board, together with the luggage and supplies, Jenny only managed to carry four of her five babies to the shore. The huge vessel left just before noon on April 10th and a little kitten remained snuggled up in a corner of G Deck, between the food store and the post office where the mail was sorted. Luckily one of the kindly crew spotted him and took him to the safety of his quarters."
Mickey paused. We were indeed on tenterhooks.
"There were about twelve dogs on board too, you know. But only three tiny ones survived."
Neddie could no longer stand the suspense "What happened to the kitten, Mickey?" He blurted out.
"The kind postman called him Becan, which means 'Little Man' in Irish. And he found him some milk and food and Becan curled up in a snug blanket at the corner of his bed. But at 11.40pm on Sunday 14th April, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg. The man wrapped Becan tightly up in his blanket and hid him under his coat as he struggled to escape higher up the decks when the alarm was given. People were pushing and crashing into each other, running blindly down the corridors in a state of terrible panic.
'Women and children first! Women and children first', the officers shouted as they tried to lower the inadequate lifeboats into the freezing water. The man knew that he would have to wait his turn and he frantically looked about among the jostling crowds surrounding him. A pretty young woman, clutching her husband's hand, was being shepherded through the mass. 'Excuse me, excuse me. Do you have room for Becan?' She glanced briefly, her eyes shining with terror, but on seeing the helpless little kitten she immediately said 'Of course' and tucked him safely into her small bag of belongings. Her husband and the kind man could only stare after them as they were lowered on the lifeboat into the dark North Atlantic Ocean on April 15th 1912.
Sadly the two men did not survive, two out of the 1,517 people who died that night. But little Becan, together with Lily May, was rescued from Boat D and taken by the Carpathia to New York. Lily May had an apartment in London and she and Becan journeyed back some time later, where the young cat made his home and went on to father kittens of his own.
"And I am very proud to say that I am descended from Becan, the cat who survived the Titanic."
Wow! We've heard some of Mickey's yarns before, but to be honest, whether it is quite true or not, that is some tale - and we for one are certainly not going to argue with it! Gordon xxx