ROMALDKIRK MIDSHIPMITE (1896)
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Among the earliest breeders of Creams of note was the famous Romaldkirk Cattery of the Misses Winifred and Mildred Beal, (Romaldkirk Rectory) near Darlington, from which came a notable litter containing two remarkable early males, who made an immense mark on establishing the Cream as a recognized and sought-after colour variety. These were namely Romaldkirk Admiral and Romaldkirk Midshipmite (1896), who were never known to be shown in anything but superb coat and condition, becoming commonly referred to as 'The Heavenly Twins'.
At about this time also, breeders of Orange cats (Reds) began to realise that Creams were essential in the breeding of consistently good reds, by helping to clear the coat of barring and to produce the elusive 'orange females', the Victorian breeders not yet understanding the principles of the sex-linked red genome. So this added to the appeal of the good 'Cream or Fawn' cat and helped to raise its profile as a valued member of the Persian family.
On the colour of Creams and the difficulties of breeding cats of sound colour, the following notes are from the renowned breeder and judge of Cream Persians, Mr Frank Norris (of Kew Cattery):
"Cream cats are of a modern colour in Persians, but are now being more freely bred and finding numerous supporters. There are however, very few good ones in the fancy, for size, and colour are difficult to obtain. The great failing with them is that, although they are called cream cats, the best and soundest coloured ones are really of a fawn shade. So many show markings, patches, or shadings, whereas the colour should be one shade and sound throughout; better to be a little dark in colour rather than shade from cream to white, as is the case with so many specimens exhibited."
The litter which produced 'The Heavenly Twins', was born 11th June, 1896, from a pairing of Romaldkirk Laddie (1894) a Blue, and Romaldkirk Fluffie (1892) a Blue-Cream. Although both parents were dilutes, it is interesting to note that Fluffie's dam was a Red or 'Orange' female of some repute, named 'Jael' of whom the following is recorded by Frances Simpson: "Jael was quite unique as an orange female, and at fifteen years of age could yet win in her class by reason of her grand colour, perfectly shaped head, short face, and tiny, well-set ears. Such a cat stands out in any breed, and such a cat may never again be bred. Jael died in 1902 after a long and successful career.1"
Knowing as we do now, that the gene for 'Orange' was inherited by Fluffie from her dam, and subsequently passed to her two famous sons in the dilute form of cream, little Jael's contribution to the establishment of the Cream has been immense, but has seldom if ever been noted!
Miss Beal does herself however, make mention of the humble beginnings of Creams out of Orange cats: "The cream or fawn Persian was a few years ago looked upon as a 'sport' and when cream kittens appeared in an orange strain they were considered spoilt oranges, and were either given away or sold for a few shillings……now however, it is very different.1"
Turkish Delight, NCC 1544, Blue Romaldkirkk Laddie, NCC 1852, Blue | Pearl, NCC 1061, Silver Tabby Romaldkirk Midshipmite, Jun-11-1896, Cream M | Caiaphas, Blue Romaldkirk Fluffie, NCC 1955, Blue-Cream Jael, NCC2309, Orange
Midshipmite's singularly notable sibling was his own 'heavenly twin' Romaldkirk Admiral. But there were other siblings from later repeat breedings. From a litter born in March 1898, came the Blue male Romaldkirk Commodore, and Blue female Romaldkirk Flora, both retained by Miss Beal. From a litter born in April 1899 came both Romaldkirk Iris, a Blue female retained by Miss Beal, as well as Crème De La Crème, a valuable Cream male who was sold to Mrs Woodcock, another ardent admirer of Cream Persians.
Of their winning form, we once again refer to a commentary by Frances Simpson who made the following observation: "I have made frequent mention of Miss Beal's noted creams during my chapters on orange and cream cats. These two celebrated champions are commonly known in the fancy as the 'heavenly twins', their registered names being Romaldkirk Admiral and Romaldkirk Midshipmite. They are really fawn Persian cats,very sound in colour, well made, big boned, and are always exhibited in the pink of condition, and at all seasons of the year are in marvellous coat. Certainly the cold climate of the Romaldkirk cattery, which is situated 730 feet above the sea level, must, anyhow, suit this variety of Persian cat. I suppose the day will come when these well-tried and well-seasoned veterans will have to retire from public life and make way for some of their already noted offspring. In the North, South, East and West, these 'heavenly twins' have reigned supreme, and Miss Beal must almost have lost count of the number of prizes won by them, which, I think I am safe in saying, would give an exact record of the number of times exhibited.1"
On the subject of the accommodations of the Romaldkirk cats, we have the following description from the pen of Miss Winifred Beal: "I have recently utilised an old granary, which is over the coach-house. This is about 40 feet long and has a room at one end, with five windows and good ventilation above. In addition I have three big cat houses and a loft, where most of the queens reside. 'Middy' and 'Admiral' (the 'Heavenly Twins') have small wooden houses, felted inside and out, with wired runs and concrete floors.1"
Of Romaldkirk Midshipmite's specific wins, the NCC register confirms the following early wins, which were claimed hand in hand and in opposition to his equally successfully sibling: 2nd Crystal Palace 1897; 1st and Championship Crystal Palace 1898; 2nd Botanic 1898; 1st and Championship Brighton NCC 1899; 2nd Westminster 1899; 1st and Championship, Crystal Palace 18996.
Both of the 'Heavenly Twins' were popular and successful as sires. But more of Midshipmite's progeny went on to become well-known breeding and/or show cats in their own right. Among the better known of 'Romaldkirk Midshipmite's' progeny are:
Matthew of the Durhams,Cream Persian male, born August 10th, 1900. Dam: Mrs Hildyard's 'Hazeline of the Durhams'(1899). Of Matthew, Frances Simpson quotes a reporter in 'Our Cats' magazine after the 1901 Botanic Show: "Creams are we prophesy the coming cats. There seems to us, great possibilities in this variety. 'Matthew of the Durhams' is one of the cats we would bring forward in support of this view. Eminently aristocratic, breathing an air of refinement, this cat might be the petted darling of a princess whose cats are all collected by a connoisseur." She then confirms that "Mr Western is justly proud of his purchase, for he claimed this fine cat at the Sandy Show, 1901, when he was exhibited by Mrs Darcy Hildyard."
Miriam of the Durhams, Cream Persian Female. Litter sister to 'Matthew of the Durhams'. Of both Miriam and Matthew, their breeder had the following to say: "Hazeline produced five creams, two of which I have kept. 'Matthew' and 'Miriam of the Durhams' both won as kittens at Manchester, and 'Miriam' has since taken first and specials at Barnard Castle, Westminster and Reading. 'Matthew' is growing into a very handsome cat, and I hope to exhibit him at the Botanic…..This I think, distinctly proves that good creams can be got from a pair of the same colour.1"
Crème De La Crème of Wigan, Cream Persian male, born 31st July 1900, was sired by 'Midshipmite' and out of 'Psyche of Wigan' , who is listed as a daughter of Midshipmite's sibling, 'Admiral', making this male, owned by Mrs Woodcock, a direct doubling of the 'Heavenly Twin' combo!
Celia of Wigan, Cream Persian female and her sibling Cynthia of Wigan, Cream Persian female, born April 2nd, 1901 both bred by Mrs Hildyard, came from a repeat of the successful breeding which produced 'Matthew' and 'Miriam of the Durhams'. They too became the property of Mrs Woodcock, who was clearly a fan of the Cream Persian and determined to establish a strain which would be dominated by the successful 'Romaldkirk' & 'Hazeline' combination.
Evening Primrose, Cream Persian Female, born 13th April, 1901, was yet another cat produced by Mrs Hildyard from repeating the combination of 'Midshipmite' to 'Hazeline' , this time the resulting female being sold to Mrs F. Neate.
Primrose of Walton, Cream Persian Female, born 13th August, 1901, was a further repeat breeding of 'Midshipmite' to 'Hazeline', this time, Mrs Hildyard selling to Mrs Gent.
The Misses Beal retained a number of cats from a combination of 'Midshipmite' and a Tortie female by the name of Romaldkirk Wallflower (1896) who was from Romaldkirk Toga ( a Blue, 1893) and another Tortie, Romaldkirk Torpedo (1893). This combination produced:
Romaldkirk Sambo, Black Persian male, born 25th April, 1898, Owned by Mildred Beal.
In addition, a number of outcross queens were bred to Midshipmite with resulting kittens sometimes being retained by the breeder and sometimes returning to Romaldkirk. A sampling of these include:
Romaldkirk Garnet, Red Persian female, born 1st July 1898, bred out of Mrs Taylor's 'My Fluff' and returned to Miss Winifred Beal for breeding. 'Garnet' was subsequently bred back to her sire's brother 'Admiral' to produce a Cream Persian female, 'Romaldkirk Flirt', born in April 1900.
Of note, is that a good number of the progeny of both Midshipmite and his brother 'Admiral' expressed significantly deep and sound eye colour. 'Orange Girl's' depth of eye colour can be seen in the photo immediately below, and 'Daphne' the daughter of 'Admiral' is notated in the register as having 'brown' eyes.
Clearly this illustration, by Rosa Bebb, which was included in Charles H Lane's book Rabbits, Cats & Cavies(1903) was also based upon the above photograph of 'Midshipmite', but in the absence of photographs, such illustrations are a critical and valuable insight into how these cats were perceived by their admirers.
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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