ASHTAROTH OF HADDO (1897)
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Haddo House, is the ancestral home of the Gordons, later the Earls of Aberdeen. It dates from 1732 and was designed in the Georgian Palladian style by William Adam.8 And it is from her occupancy of this grand estate that Lady Aberdeen, formerly Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks, later established the 'of Haddo' suffix for her 'cattery' name. She married John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, the 7th Earl of Aberdeen, later 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, at St George's Church, Hanover Square, London on 7th November, 1877.8
The Earl was also a cat and dog lover. As a young boy he rescued a pet cat named 'Shelley' out of the family fishpond, in a state that suggested to both he and his sisters that life was extinct. Nevertheless 'Shelley' recovered and became a favourite inmate of Haddo House. Sometime afterwards the late Queen Victoria came with the Prince Consort to pay a visit to the then Earl of Aberdeen, and the children had strict orders to keep Shelley and her two recently arrived kittens out of the way. Just, however, as the Royal party came up, Shelley escaped from control and the children came rushing out of the house in pursuit, in which the Prince Consort joined. Shelley was captured and brought back to be presented to Queen Victoria, one of the few cats who ever had so great a distinction.1
As the wife of a nobleman and high ranking liberal politician from the House of Lords, Lady Aberdeen's life naturally revolved around her husband's career and duties. But she was well educated, having studied English, French, mathematics, history and geography. Her father was Baron Tweedmouth, at whose home social events were held and where she met many famous politicians. This grounding was an excellent preparation for her lifetime of involvement in political matters.7
Her husband became Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire in 1880 and he served as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 1881 to 1885. He was also briefly appointed as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1886 as well as becoming a Privy Counsellor. In 1884, he hosted a dinner at Haddo House, honouring William Gladstone on his tour of Scotland. This special occasion was captured in a painting by Alfred Edward Ernslie, shown below.6
In 1893 Lord Aberdeen was appointed the Governor General of Canada, a post he would hold until 1898. In the year she arrived in Canada, Lady Aberdeen was named the first president of the International Council of Women, an organisation that campaigned for women's rights. As a consequence, she organised the National Council of Women of Canada and travelled the country establishing local branches. She was also the first sponsor of the Women's Art Association of Canada, founded in 1892. Another key organisation she helped to establish was the Victorian Order of Nurses, which aimed to give women better training and a higher salary, so they could provide services to rural and disadvantaged populations. Both Lady Aberdeen and the group's supporters had to overcome resistance from the medical community before receiving the organisation's royal charter in 1898, the same year that she and Lord Aberdeen returned to England.7
When the Liberal Party regained control in Parliament in 1906, Lord Aberdeen was named Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for the second time. Their second term lasted from 1906 to 1915 during which time Lady Aberdeen's focus was on the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis and improving children's health.7
These and many other social reforms involving Women and Children, including addressing issues of social housing to address poverty, were the driving forces in her highly-charged, busy, politically complex and aristocratic life. Given the nature of her lifestyle, it certainly seems improbable that she would have been able to find time for any hobbies or relaxation for personal pleasure.
Nevertheless, she did somehow make room for her involvement in the Cat Fancy and while also vigorously supporting her husband's great interest in breeding and showing Skye Terriers. Her father, Lord Tweedmouth, ran an extensive kennels at Guisachan and was largely responsible for developing the then new breed of dog known as the Golden Retriever.
Lady Aberdeen's interest in cats centred largely on Silver Tabby and Pure Blue Persians, although she also bred Blacks, Smokes, Brown Tabbies and also a Tortie and White. But it is for her Silver Tabbies that she was generally recognised and of those, 'Ashtoreth of Haddo', 'The Rajah of Haddo', and 'Pharoah of Haddo' were her most renown.
Unknown Berkeley Dick | Unknown Ashtaroth of Haddo, Dec-20-1897, Silver Tabby Persian, F | Unknown Minnie Unknown
The background of 'Ashtaroth of Haddo' is somewhat lost in the ether. From her registration details we have very limited information. Her breeder is not listed. Her sire is recorded as 'Berkeley Dick' and her dam as 'Minnie'. Both the names 'Dick' and 'Minnie' respectively are common names in feline historical records, so it is often difficult with the duplication of early names to definitively pin-point an owner or a bloodline with any degree of accuracy. Nevertheless, we do have her date of birth, which was 20th December, 1897 and we have a photograph or two of her, which accurately confirm her colour and pattern as a Silver Tabby.12
Her life and her fame however are inextricably linked to her famous owner, Lady Aberdeen, who was one of the many early aristocratic supporters of the burgeoning cat fancy in the mid-to-late 1890's and who continued to take an interest in pedigreed cats for at least another 10-15 years. The timing of her birth also coincided with the imminent return of the Earl of Aberdeen from his Vice-Regal duties as Governor General of Canada, 1893-1898, so it would seem probable that Lady Aberdeen, knowingly an admirer of Silver Tabbies in particular, may have already put feelers out for a potential breeding queen of that colour, to be taken up on her arrival back in England.
Lady Aberdeen is likely to have had direct links with a number of aristocratic fanciers, and with royals who were involved in breeding, such as HRH Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein. Other fanciers that would have been well-known to her would have included Lady Marcus Beresford, The Duchess of Bedford, Lord and Lady Alexander. Like most breeders, as well as having a specialist interest in Silver Tabbies, she also bred and owned Blue Persians.
One of the top Blue Persians after the turn of the century was Mrs. Slingsby's Champion Orange Blossom of Thorpe, and from registration records and advertising, we can confirm that Lady Aberdeen had purchased his son, 'Titan of Thorpe', whom she used extensively for breeding.
From Miss Seton she purchased 'Pharoah of Haddo', a Silver Tabby male sired by Mrs. Leake's famous silver tabby 'Abdul Hamet of Dingley', whom on his sires side was a direct descendant of the original 'Topso of Dingley'. On the pedigree of 'Pharaoh's' dam, there was a triple line-breeding based on 'Beauty of Bridgeyate', making this a uniquely grand pedigree.
It is also worthy of note that Miss Cope, of 'Roiall' cattery, and who represented the up and coming new and highly successful generation of breeders of Silver Tabbies, saw the benefit of 'Pharoah's' grand pedigree and the type of 'Ashtaroth' and sought to acquire from Lady Aberdeen, a male from this specific combination for her own breeding program. This was 'Roiall Cushie'.
To date no siblings for 'Ashtaroth of Haddo' have been found or accounted for. The names of both parents 'Dick' and 'Minnie' being fairly common in pedigreed feline terms and we can find no other information with regard to her breeder, which would have helped to narrow the search. Although we can find no show results to confirm any wins for 'Ashtaroth of Haddo', we do have the below photograph by Lafayette of Dublin, showing Lord and Lady Aberdeen with their beloved pets prepared for exhibition.
The above photograph, although not published until 1925, is likely to date from around 1904. Once the Aberdeen's Vice-Regal duties were completed in Canada, they returned to the United Kingdom in 1898 after which they resumed their interest in breeding and exhibiting.
The two Persians held by Lady Aberdeen are likely to be 'Bluebell of Haddo' and 'Ashtaroth of Haddo'. 'Bluebell' was bred to Lady Aberdeen's blue stud, 'Titan of Thorpe', a son of Mrs. Slingsby's 'Ch. Orange Blossom of Thorpe'. Both 'Bluebell', and 'Ashtaroth of Haddo' were among Lady Aberdeen's most reliable breeding queens.
'Ashtaroth' was one of Lady Aberdeen's most prolific and successful brood queens and a clear favourite. Between 1900 and 1904 she produced four litters to three different males, resulting in the 12 kittens of record listed below.
To: Miss Derby Hyde's 'Thames Valley Silver King', in a litter born 15th July, 1900, 'Ashtaroth of Haddo' produced:
Given the depth of colouring in this photo of 'Zoroaster of Haddo' we would be forgiven for thinking that he may in fact have been a Golden Tabby, rather than a Silver Tabby. If only the photo was in colour! In the NCC Registrations published in Our Cats 28th June, 1902 he is listed as a neuter and belonging to Lady Aberdeen.
To: Mrs. A.M. Stead's 'Champion Ranji', in a litter born 27th January, 1901, 'Ashtaroth of Haddo' produced:
Lady Aberdeen's purchase of 'Pharoah of Haddo' from Miss Seton is more significant that at first appears. Not only did it bring into Lady Aberdeen's silver tabby breeding program a son of Miss Anderson Leake's famous 'Abdul Hamet', but through the little known 'Girlie' it brought in a triple on 'Beauty of Bridgeyate'. 'Girlie's' sire was 'Silver Owl' himself a son of 'Champion Silver Lambkin', while his dam was 'Silver Dawn, a Chinchilla female out of 'Lambkin Queen' by 'The Nizam' out of 'Beauty of Bridgeyate'. Her dam was 'Burah', a Blue Smoke daughter of 'Champion Glaucus' and 'Beauty of Bridgeyate'. A perhaps little known fact is that 'Girlie' was also the dam of the reknown Chinchilla, 'Rob Roy of Arrandale', so that 'Rob Roy' and 'Pharaoh of Haddo' were dam siblings.
To: Lady Aberdeen's 'Pharoah of Haddo', in a litter born 12th February, 1902, 'Ashtaroth of Haddo' produced:
To: Lady Aberdeen's 'Pharoah of Haddo', in a litter born 28th June, 1904, 'Ashtaroth of Haddo' produced:
The above press photo of Lady Aberdeen was headed "Queen of John Bull's Other Island". The Countess and her pages are shown in full Court dress. At the time, Lord Killeen was the nine year old son of the Earl and Countess of Fingall. Master Robert Arnott, who was the same age, was the third son of Sir John and Lady Arnott, and was a page for two seasons under the late Lord Lieutenant.
The early Cat Fancy in Britain attracted the patronage and involvement of many notable and fascinating individuals during its first 40 years of trials and tribulations. Lady Aberdeen was without doubt one of the most energetic and vibrant personages to enter within its social circles and to this hobby, as in all her endeavours, she brought an attitude synonymous with "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right!"
It is clear, from the choices that she made in her breeding program, that she had a clear understanding of the principles of line-breeding and how to study and build a pedigree. No doubt this is an attribute she learned from her father, Lord Tweedmouth, in his personal pursuit in the creation of the Golden Retriever.
Cat breeding was her hobby, she was not focused on the win, only on producing a healthy, better example of the breed, while enjoying the beauty and company of her cats and providing pedigreed pets and an occasional breeding quality feline for a fellow fancier. The Cat Fancy was a better place for her involvement, and by it, she attracted an educated and dignified class of participants into its ranks.
Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
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