News from 1930 Cats Stow Away on Arabic III

Mark Baber

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The New York Times, 30 March 1930

STOWAWAY CATS SAIL TO EUROPE ON ARABIC
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Feline Pirates Grab Watchman's Herring, Raid Crew's Galley---Face
British Quarantine

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Before the White Star liner Arabic sailed yesterday for Liverpool, the
crew made futile search above and below decks for two of the pirate cats
from the Chersea [sic] piers which got on board Friday night, according
to Ben Fidd, the veteran watchman. There is a penalty of $500 for taking
a cat into England under the new law, unless the foreign animal stays in
quarantine for six months.

Fidd said the cats stole his supper, a Bismarck herring, and bolted up
the gangway when he chased them. One was Tumtum, a pink cat from
Formosa, and the other Cheechee, a Calcutta cat which had its tail
chopped off by a jungle wallah in the Red Bazaar, the watchman said. He
said they were the toughest among the pirate cats along. the Chelsea
pier.

The cats made themselves known on board the Arabic early yesterday
morning by stealing two red herrings from the crew galley which the cook
had reserved for the boatswain's mate's breakfast. He chased them round
the decks with a potato masher, but they eluded him.

The watchman said he reported the incident to Colonel Jack O'Neill, pier
superintendent, who expressed his sympathy by saying: "If you go putting
Bismarck herrings down where hungry cats are around it's like asking for
it."

-30-
 

Mark Baber

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Sorry, Noel; you're looking in the wrong place for an All Fools' item. This article is for real.
 

Noel F. Jones

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The article may be 'genuine' in the sense that it appeared in print but that does not preclude it being an All Fool's Day punt back in 1912. Surely it couldn't be that you've fallen for a 94 year old joke Mark...

Noel
 

Bob Godfrey

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Maybe not an April Fool joke as such, but certainly a work of fiction, probably written by T Walter Williams, a shipping news reporter who occasionally provided The Times with fanciful items like this. Such pieces generally included reference to characters of his own invention like the old watchman Ben Fidd, one of the regulars. Yes, indeed, after 76 years 'Gangplank Willy' has stitched you up like a kipper, Mark! I leave it to an old seadog like Noel to tell you what a fid was.
.
 

Mark Baber

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Williams wrote some great stuff for The Times over the years and his obituary specifically named Fidd, "salty philosopher of New York's Chelsea waterfront," as one of his collection of "strange and delinquent characters who wandered about the world getting into trouble with animals bearing incredible names." It also reported that on at least one occasion unsuspecting photographers went over to the Chelsea Piers looking to photograph "the incorporeal Fidd." (The New York Times, 10 November 1942.)

I came across Williams' obit some months ago, and since then I've been pulling together as much of his stuff from The Times as I can locate; similar items will appear here from time to time. As always, my only representation in presenting newspaper articles is that they were in fact published; I do not vouch for their accuracy (or lack thereof).

;-)
 

Noel F. Jones

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I've spent literally hours interrogating the Liverpool Port Health records for April-May 1930 but I'm damned if I can find any reference to Tumtum or Cheechee either by name or description. Could it be they were landed at Cobh?

Surely no harm would have come to them on passage? I've had a hand in throwing many a two-legged stowaway overboard to save on the expense and paperwork but, like most sentimental seafarers, I would draw the line against treating our four-legged friends so cavalierly.

Noel
 

Mark Baber

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Could it be they were landed at Cobh?

Possibly; there's no evidence that I've seen to suggest that they returned to New York.

And, in any event, New York in the years to come would no longer be as hospitable a location for "pirate cats;" by 1934, watchman Fidd was telling The New York Times that the piers were devoid of cats and rats because the depression had forced shipping lines' into better food management practices for economic reasons, leaving less for the pirates to feed upon.

;-)
 

Noel F. Jones

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It could so be they were summarily deported to Formosa and Calcutta respectively. They didn't bother too much with 'appeals' in those days.

And hopefully the Depression meant your NYT man was spending less time in the Market Diner before filing his copy...

Noel
 
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Mores the pity for the Kitties that particular source of food went dry. It was hard being a kitty when the depression hit. Most of them probably ended up as 'Cat Stew'.