Stubby is my second inspiration for the character of Galway O’Toot the magical Irish lepremogg

School out, a lovely sunny day and two little girls, my best friend Lillian and me, were off on an adventure. Our favourite dollies and teddies, dressed in their Sunday best, sat smiling over the edge of their pram, their seat, a wicker picnic basket packed tight with fish paste sandwiches, sponge cake, dog biscuits, bowls, beakers and bottles of orange squash. Springer spaniel Rolly and Guinness, the Border collie danced, barking ecstatically around the pram; our destination was the beach.

The tide was right out, the mud flats glistening in the sunshine. Far out near the water-line, an army of tiny, side-stepping mud crabs scavenged busily for whatever it is that mud crabs scavenge for. Seagulls swooped, dived and strutted importantly among them and the dogs, unable to contain their excitement, raced and splashed across the mud, sending the gulls screeching into the air and scattering the startled crabs back into their holes. But then we noticed something else was out there on the mud; something strange that sent the two dogs slowing and tip-toeing over to investigate.

stubbyFrom where we had set up camp in the shelter of a sand dune, the something strange out there on the mud looked like a rock or maybe just a lump of driftwood, but then as we sat watching and the dogs approached, it moved. Sniffing cautiously, Rolly jumped back, barking in alarm and the way Guinness suddenly backed off, brought us quickly to our feet. The strange something was beginning to look very much like… a cat.

Kicking off our sandals, Lillian and I rushed across the slushy mud shouting at the dogs to stop and stand. Well trained but surprised at being prevented from their favourite, cat chasing pastime, the dogs actually obeyed. Sad eyed, they sat together in a puddle, drooling and panting with disappointment as I bent, picked up and carefully carried the thin, wet and muddy black cat back to our camp and placed him gently in the pram amongst the still smiling, but genuinely concerned, teddies and dollies.

Lillian opened the picnic basket and as I pushed the pram homewards and the puzzled dogs looked on, our hungry passenger wolfed the fish paste sandwiches – he left the crusts – golloped down the sponge cake and to the disgust of Rolly and Guinness, he licked, sucked and chewed for afters, one of their dog biscuits.

Several days of rest, good food and love and Stubby, as we named him, for he had no tail just a furry bob on his bottom, blossomed into a handsome, bold and affectionate cat. The lack of a tail was quite a puzzle to our family and friends. Some would have taken bets if there had been any chance of proving whether the missing tail was the result of deliberate cruelty, an accident or actually missing at birth. But in time and to everyone’s satisfaction, the answer came.

Another of the many strays that had arrived at our door was Snowy, a fluffy, pure white, coquettish female, and it wasn’t long before Stubby was smitten by the love bug and Snowy, hiding in a wardrobe in a bag of jumble, produced a pretty litter of four kittens. One like its father was all black and three like Snowy, were pure white. But one of the white kittens, a delicate, fairy-like little boy we named Oberon was, to our surprise and delight, born without a tail. So now we had proof that Stubby, sad survivor of the mud flats, was in fact a genuinely tail-less, magnificently magical, pixie Manx cat.