Scratch & Co. The Great Cat Expedition: Molly Lefebure
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Publisher: Mountainmere Research
Date: 2006 (New Edition)
This unique and intriguing account of the first ascent of the
H.K.P., the Highest Known Peak in the Kingdom of Catland, originally
published in 1968 with illustrations by the well-known Lakeland guide book
author and topographer, A. Wainwright, is seriously in the tradition of
classic mountaineering stories and over the years since its first
appearance it has built-up an enthusiastic readership amongst the
As well as being a most exciting adventure story, this is a witty send-up
of a mountaineering book - complete with "Alpine Club" type characters,
hair-breadth rescues and all the tensions of a Himalayan expedition.
Climbers, dedicated fell walkers, Wainwright fans and Lakeland devotees of
all ages and persuasions have followed the adventures of Scratch and his
fellow climbing-cats, his high-altitude terrier sherpas, his twitchy
low-level rabbit porters and his free spirited adversaries, the foxes,
emerging from their borrans amongst the crags to waylay these
expeditionary-offcomers. Such are the colourful and keenly observed
characters, making this book witty and gripping reading; not to mention
Manx Scoop and Whiskey Bylines, ace reporters for the Cat Times and Cat's
Courier and Manx Scoop's fighting mad mongoose ever keen to sink his teeth
into anything that vaguely resembled a snake.
The choice of illustrator was an easy one. A.W. was, of course, good
friends with Molly Lefebure for many years, a friendship originally started
by post after she wrote to him regarding an error in one of his guides.
They shared a lot in common, not only their love of the countryside and the
Lake District - but also for cats. When asked to illustrate Scratch & Co.
he was all enthusiasm until he met the mongoose, "The cats I can draw with
my eyes shut. But a mongoose? I've never as much glimpsed one!" he said.
Fortunately a stuffed mongoose was discovered in Kendal Museum, where he
worked as Curator. When reporting the good news A.W. confirmed "I've spent
a couple of days with the little chap and I think I've got him!" The
letters accompanying the illustrations were written in typical Wainwright
humour. Within these typed letters were several of his concerns, primarily
for "prostituting his talents." He jested that he may have to walk the
streets holding his head in shame for drawing a scruffy little dog having a
piddle (page 131) and confessed "I have sunk very low indeed!" The original
copy of the frontispiece showing `the route of the expedition' also carried
signs of Wainwright's character. A small patch near Stockley Bridge covered
a burn mark which occurred when he experienced "a moment of tense
excitement" when his pipe spilled onto the paper.
The Great Cat Expedition was ready to start. Readers have been joining it