A new resident now in situ on the banks of the Union Canal in Linlithgow is, literally, the cat’s whiskers!
Dudley the Cat was officially unveiled by local MSP Fiona Hyslop, sculptor David Annand and Burgh Beautiful convener Ron Smith on Monday.
The sculpture is a fitting tribute to the cat’s original owner, Liz Burrows, who was a founding member of Burgh Beautiful.
Before Liz died in January 2012, aged 71, she asked Ron and his wife Myra to look after her much-loved rescue cat, Dudley.
She also bequeathed a large legacy to the group she worked so tenaciously for.
Among other things, her bequest funded much needed improvements at Burgh Beautiful’s work base in Manse Road.
But the group wanted to use the rest of the money to create a lasting legacy to Liz, who was a great lover of the arts.
So it hit on the idea of a sculpture of her much-loved pet.
Ron explained: “Liz lived by the Union Canal with Dudley and was an active member of Linlithgow Union Canal Society.
“So we decided on a bronze sculpture of the cat at the Canal Basin – on the opposite side of the canal to her memorial bench.”
However, there was one major snag – an unsightly telegraph pole, carrying an 11,000 volt power cable, which leaned over the adjoining flower bed.
What to do? Ron emailed Clive Selley, the chief executive of Openreach.
Three months later – on December 17 last year – the offending pole was removed and the power cable directed underground, with the company covering the costs.
Burgh Beautiful also struck on the idea of crowdfunding to meet the full project costs, £14,000.
As well as money from Liz’s bequest and crowdfunding, funds were also contributed by West Lothian Council Arts Fund, Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Town Management Group, the Town Centre BID and the Rotary Club of Linlithgow and Bo’ness.
Having secured the funding, Burgh Beautiful was able to commission David Annand to create the sculpture, somewhat smaller than his last local work of art – Mary, Queen of Scots at Linlithgow Palace.
But the artist enjoyed creating Dudley, nonetheless, as it was a return to his roots.
He explained: “I did lots of cats before I went freelance and have always loved doing them – they’re good subjects.
“They’re always fun and it was certainly easier than the Mary, Queen of Scots statue.
“I made Dudley in clay, he was fired at Powderhall Bronze in Edinburgh and then, for the finishing touch, I put the twinkle in his eyes!
“W L Watson and Son of St Andrews did a really nice job with the granite too, which actually came from China.”
Despite a soggy morning to unveil the moggie, Fiona Hyslop was delighted to be invited to do the honours.
She said: “I live in the town and am so proud of everything the community here does, including Burgh Beautiful which was so close to Liz’s heart.
“As well as acting as a landmark for walkers along the canal, the statue could also attract tourists to the canal basin to see Dudley in the same way hundreds flock each day to see Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh.”
For Ron and Myra, who looked after Dudley for four years until his death, the sculpture captures the not-so-ordinary moggie.
Ron said: “Dudley was an ocicat, descended from the ocelot cat, a step up from your average moggie – and he frequently gave the impression that he was well aware of that!
“He was a very handsome, loving and affectionate cat, always partial to petting and a nice cosy lap to curl up in.
“Unfortunately, though, he was also an inveterate food thief! It was never wise to leave anything food related unattended as Dudley would be on it in a flash!
“I don’t think Liz ever quite managed to work out how he extricated from her handbag the guineafowl from a restaurant meal that she had intended to eat later.
“It was nowhere to be seen – and neither was Dudley!”
The statue has already received many a stroke.
Ron added: “David’s very life-like representation of Dudley has delighted us all.
“In the short space of time he has been in place, he has already attracted a great deal of attention and petting.
“Who knows, perhaps he will end up as Linlithgow’s answer to Greyfriars Bobby!”
Burgh Beautiful’s next project is also animal related – it is hoping to erect a Black Bitch greyhound statue in the High Street.
David has previously been privately commissioned to sculpt a greyhound so he could well be returning to the town for a third time ... watch this space!
* This article was brought to you thanks, in no small part, to LUCS chairman Stuart Rennie who provided much-needed notebook coverage to Julie on a rather wet and dreich Monday morning. Many thanks, Stuart!