FRANCES A. SIMPSON (1857-1926)
OF BLUE PERSIANS AND NEW SOCIETIES
The years 1901-1903 were extremely important ones for Frances Simpson as she was kept extremely busy. 1901 saw the proliferation of many new Specialist Societies, a number of which she was personally involved with. Her efforts on behalf of the 'Blue Persian Cat Society' (B.P.C.S.) in particular during this time were nothing short of monumental. In addition to this, she was actively engaged in writing her first major work, Cats, and All About Them which was subsequently published in London by Isbister & Company in early 1902.
On the home front, as a single woman, Frances shared a house with her single younger brother John Percy Simpson, who was a Solicitor by occupation. Probably at some point before the turn of the century they had moved to 'Durdens House', at St. Margaret-on-Thames, and it was from here that she worked on the manuscript for Cats and All About Them. This was also the listed address of their father, the Rev. Robert James Simpson, who passed away there in January 1900.
In January 1901, just prior to the death of Queen Victoria, the Editor of Our Cats, ably supported by the National Cat Club's Mr. Louis Wain and others, decided to honour the 'Cats Meat Men of London', with a dinner. The event was to be held at the City of New York Restaurant, Holborn. Frances Simpson gives us first-hand information about the event:
"The applications for tickets were so numerous, that 400 men had to be refused; and when the 250 guests were seated, it was clearly proved that every available inch of accommodation had been utilised. Having been present, I can testify to the excellent supper and entertainment provided for the 'Cats-Meat Men of London'."1
A contemporary press report from the day provided the following additional information:
"A letter from the Princess of Wales, expressing Her Royal Highness's best wishes for its success, and her regret that absence from London prevented her from having the pleasure of being present. Mr. Louis Wain, the famous cat artist, presided, and, rapping on the table with a soda-water bottle, explained that the gathering was not a charity, but the guests were invited as cat lovers, and met as 'pals'. Visitors were impressed by the youth of many of the vendors of pussy's favourite dainty. They were a hilarious assemblage, and greeted the appearance of the soup, the roast beef, and the boiled legs of mutton with prolonged cries of 'Mee-att!' in the familiar notes of the street. At the end of the repast, Mr. Wain said that all knew the old tom who ran after the cart and sneaked his ha'porth, and her who said 'Meauw' till she got her bit. They were all right, but he appealed for pity for those poor cats who by chance, circumstances, or cruelty were thrown out into the world."22
"During the dinner, the Duchess of Bedford, rendered invaluable assistance, by passing the sprouts at a critical juncture. Lady Reid was there, and Mrs. Stennard-Robinson, of The Ladies Kennel Association; also the Editor of 'Our Cats' by whose efforts the dinner was organised. By the nature of his calling, the 'cats-meat man's voice is singularly well developed, and as the evening went on things became very merry. Several theatrical people very kindly came and sang. Mdlle Janotha brought her cat, and the Duchess of Bedford gave the men 250 half pound tins of tobacco!"22
The next major event of 1901 for Frances was the pivotal formation of the Blue Persian Cat Society. On blue Persians in general, and on the eventual formation of the Society, she very candidly reports:
"I have bred blue Persians ever since I took up the fancy, which is longer ago than I care to remember, and I have found them strong and hardy cats, requiring no special food, and enjoying the best of health without any cosseting or coddling...
"Ten years ago, I used to have my blue kittens be-spoken for about £5 each before they were born; but nowadays, when blues are so plentiful, one must be content with lower prices and the average sum for a good blue kitten is three guineas. Still I am sure that for beginners in the fancy, wishing to combine pleasure and profit, there is no better investment than a good sound blue queen with orange eyes. The demand for blue kittens is really larger than for youngsters of any other breed.
"As one of the first breeders and exhibitors of blue Persians I feel I am in a position to speak with authority, and I am of the opinion that no breed has made such rapid strides, either in improvements or popularity, as blues. In this statement I am supported by our best professional judge, Mr. T.B. Mason, who, writing to me on the subject says: 'I find ten good blues at the present time to one we came across two to three years ago. I am of the opinion that in no colour of cats have we seen more distinct progress than we see in blue Persians.' Such a statement coming from our most able and ubiquitous judge, is a valuable one."
"There are, of course, a large number of fanciers who, amongst other breeds of cats, keep one or two blues, and several keep blues and silvers only. I think I may safely say that blue Persians, have the largest number of admirers, and certain it is that at all our large shows the blue classes are the best filled. At the Cat Club Show held at Westminster in 1899 the number of entries in the blue female class was a record one - there were no less than 48, and the blue males mustered 42."
"Seeing therefore how popular this breed had become, in April, 1901, I founded and started the Blue Persian Cat Society, a book of rules was drawn up, and the following ladies and gentlemen appointed as officials of the Society:
Presidents: Viscountess Maitland, Mrs. Maconochie, Miss Gertrude Jay.
The chief objects of the Society were: To promote the breeding and exhibiting of Blue Persian cats; to define precisely, and to publish a description of, the true type of Persian cat, and to urge the adoption of such type on breeders, exhibitors and judges, as the only recognised and unvarying standard by which blue Persian cats should be judged; the improvement of the classification, and, if necessary, the guaranteeing of classes for these cats at shows supported by the society; the selection of specialist judges to make the awards at such shows.
In the flurry to establish specialist clubs, the only longhaired varieties at this time not provided for, were Blacks, White and Brown Tabbies. In Cats and All About Them Frances duly informs us:
"When the Blue Persian Cat Society was founded, the idea of making it a self-coloured society and including Blacks and Whites was raised, but the 'Blue' fanciers wished to keep to their own colour. Probably before another year is out, some enterprising and enthusiastic 'self' breeder, will gather these handsome breeds within the fold of specialist societies."3
And as expected, they did not have long to wait, with the formation of the 'Black and White Cat Club' in 1902.
In the Annual Report of the Blue Persian Cat Society, given in April 1902, membership had already swelled to 183, which included recent resignations, but did not include non-responsive annual returns by the date of the meeting.
In late 1901, Frances obtained a promising young blue male kitten, named 'Bonnie Boy', which she exhibited at the Crystal Palace show of that year, where, at the age of four months old, he took second prize in a class of thirty-nine kittens, the limit age being eight months. He was also awarded a Special, for the Best Orange Eyes in the Kitten classes. In the photo of him given here, he is only three months old.
A kitten show held at Bellvue, Manchester in October of 1902, clearly showed the benefits to the Shows of support received from the Specialty Clubs, in guaranteed classes and in prizes or specials offered:
"Twenty-two classes were arranged, and over fifty specials offered. Entries were twenty in excess of the previous year, and would have been still higher in number if sickness had not prevented several well-known silver breeders from exhibiting. The litter class numbered 17, and these, with the splendid blue classes, were the chief glory of the show. There were 18 pairs of blue kittens and 40 entries in single blue kittens, and it was most noticeable how few of these specimens failed in eyes. There were rows of gleaming orange orbs, that rejoiced the heart of the Hon. Sec. of the Blue Persian Cat Society."1
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