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The Cat that Walked the Planks

Updated on July 10, 2012

Two Remarkable Characters in the Panoply of Life

The good Captain in full dress uniform
The good Captain in full dress uniform
Flinders statue in Sydney
Flinders statue in Sydney
Trim, paw uplifted in surprise  Sydney
Trim, paw uplifted in surprise Sydney

Cats have provided company to men in all sorts of circumstances

In earlier times, wooden sailing ships presented a wonderful alternative lifestyle for rodents who enjoyed traveling in a home ideally suited to their needs. Many vessels carried an edible cargo and they all carried victuals for the crew. All this largess was stored in gloomy, warm holds full of nooks and crannies where colonies of mice and rats live, loved and bred, as these enterprising creatures always do.

Seamen didn’t have time to chase crafty rodents up and down the ship so this job was often left to the ship’s cat, or cats, who either kept the numbers down or at least prevented them from being in the skipper’s sight so often and sending him into impotent fury.

Such a humble feline was the tom cat, Trim, who belonged to Captain Mathew Flinders, the British explorer.

In a partnership that lasted some five years, Flinders and the faithful Trim traveled the high seas for many thousand miles, sharing some rather incredible adventures.

You may remember from Geography One, that Flinders was the first mariner to chart the coast of Australia, braving some of the roughest and most dangerous waters on the planet. He recorded his experiences in the book published after his death,”Terra Australis,” Latin being de rigueur for non-fiction authors back then to add an intellectual gloss to their work.

The pair then returned to Britain, a journey in those times that called for three months of peril and hardship on a pitching wooden vessel. We might consider this as we skim over the oceans in our Boeing from the Uk to Oz in a matter of hours.

Women and cats have a special affinity not granted to mere males, and Trim was made welcome by Mrs. Flinders, who may well have concealed some feeling of envy at the cat seeing far more of her adventurous spouse than she ever did.

Around that time - 1802 - 1815 - we were beating up on the French, a national pastime that has hardly eased today, although words have replaced muskets and grape-shot. Flinders and Trim ran the gauntlet of French ships in the Channel and set sail for the Antipodes again; three more months of gales and killer waves, to finally drop the hook in Encounter Bay, finding, to his surprise, several French ships had arrived before him…he recorded their meeting was “cordial,” perhaps due to his charming “chat.".

The intrepid pair then survived a ship-wreck of the “Porpoise,” and another close brush with drowning as the “Cumberland” had to put into Mauritius before it foundered. Flinders had to swallow some British pride as he called on the French there for aid.

But the brave captain’s luck had run out and the French decided he was an enemy and a spy to boot! This spelled seven years in captivity for Flinders, but the end for poor Trim. Flinders returned to retire in England after his release and began write his memoirs.

During his incarceration at French hands, Flinders offset his boredom by writing a journal: in it, there is mention of his long time companion.

“My beloved Trim disappeared in mysterious circumstance,” he chronicled. “It must have been an untimely death as he was probably eaten by the Catophagi.” (natives of the island)

Flinders also expressed the wish Trim should be immortalized in some small monument, writing, “I hope (such a monument) would call attention to Trim’s ‘little merriment with delight, and to his superior intelligence with surprise‘.”

Joining the Captain by his monument in Sydney - two hundred years after his emotive wish and 78 years after his own monument was put in place - there now stands a life-sized statue of his cat cast in bronze!

But savvy Trim has found a resting place inside the library! Let Captain Matt stand outside and brave the winds and rain of temperate new South Wales…I’m in here checking on the library mice!

Author: We seem to have a slew of cat articles, poetry and hubbers with “cat avatars.” Isn’t that great!! Meow!


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    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 5 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      I'd never heard of this cat or of Seaman Flinders before. It is nice that Trim has been remembered and honored. Thanks for sharing.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      “Women and cats have a special affinity not granted to mere males…”

      We have a dog and a cat, and have to agree with this comment we don’t hear about very often.

      I enjoyed reading about Flinders and Trim – both fascinating individuals their own right.

    • Perry the Cat profile image

      Perry the Cat 5 years ago from Mouskin, Texas


      do you have a newsvine account under the same name?

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi gang: cat stories are well loved, aren't they...thanks for more comments...that was Dick Whittington, Natasha!...Google it, or Wiki it...


    • Perry the Cat profile image

      Perry the Cat 5 years ago from Mouskin, Texas

      This is a great story, as of course it should be, about a cat. Meow and Bravo!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Hm. I never knew there was a statue to a cat in Sydney! I do remember reading a kids book when I was little and lived in the UK about some guy and his cat, though, but I don't think it was Flinders. It was about a man who was Lord Mayor of London...or something like that...Do you have lots of famous cat stories on that side of the Atlantic?

    • RunningDeer profile image

      RunningDeer 5 years ago from Iowa

      What a cute and charming little story! I love kittycats. Up and shared!

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Thank you for the wonderful account of sea life, and for the story of Trim, and Flinders. How sad it is to lose a friend, especially a cat because they can be so affectionate , and friendly. GBY.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Ah, poor you ... he must have been nervous of you ... you big, rough, tough cowboy, you :) He’ll learn to trust you like the rest of us have. x

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      So did the cat, Angie. Maybe he won't pee on my clothes this week.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Love that comment, Will! :)

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Please accept my apologies for not answering all your valued comments individually. I have a huge personal project going on at the moment stretching me to the limit which i shall be publishing a story about in October when i get back here. Thanks a million guys and cat lovers Bob

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      An endearing tale, indeed.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I'm a dog guy, which makes the cat sitting under my arm as I write this a little difficult to explain.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      I love cat stories, Bob ... but this once has left me sad as we don’t know what happened to Trim.

      I shall worry about that now.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Great "tail". :)) guess how I got rid of my gopher problem? meow.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Ah, yes...the cats do have their skills. Mine more or less is entertainment value only...but then I have to admit he has infinitely more valuable when he catches some insects and chased a snake across the floor bringing my attention to the fact that the intruder had managed to get inside! It was removed, thankfully!

      As usual, I always enjoy your writing! Voted up and awesome!

    • profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago

      That cat is weird, Cat...That stuff shouldn't be poisonous though, i guess kitty just couldn't digest it and it got stuck.


    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

      "hi," from a hubber with a cat avatar. my cat got into the storage closet and ate plastic easter grass on sunday and threw it up all day yesterday. he's fine today. tossing out the easter grass. one scare is enough.

    • profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago

      You said it, Star...I do a bit of napping myself these days. I also eat a lot of fish and have whiskers!

      Cats are singular animals all right


    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Cats are superior to humans. They are self-sufficient and they nap a lot!