Gerald was a striking Bengal cat who, with his brother Donald, moved from London to York in 2017 with his owner, Justine. Donald tended to stay close to home, but Gerald loved to roam the streets. For the next three years he roamed freely and by many accounts, brought great pleasure and comfort to visitors and locals alike.
Gerald in the Minster Precinct (Picture Credit BBC News)
Sadly on 14th September 2020, Gerald, aged 6, passed away from natural causes, close to York Minster, one of his favourite haunts. Condolences were received from far and wide, including from Larry, The Downing Street Cat. Gerald was buried by his human family near to York Minster, with Donald also in attendance.
Within days, a crowd funding campaign had raised enough money to commission a permanent memorial to Gerald. It was at this point that Justine contacted The Cat Gallery for advice. Having encountered Gerald myself in the shadow of York Minster I completely "got" why this cat had such an impact on those who met him and why he needed to be remembered. As custodians of The York Cat Trail it was clear that Gerald's permanent memorial must form a part of this popular tourist trail.
Gerald outside York Minster (Picture Credit Yorkmix)
Over the Winter, Justine set to work finding a sculptor, eventually settling on Antony Bartyla, who learned his craft working for the Fitzwilliam Estate in Malton. A suitable site also needed to be found for the sculpture. Whilst a Minster location would have been very fitting, the obstacles to making this happen were just too great. Whilst Justine considered alternative options, The Cat Gallery happily agreed to "foster" Gerald.
We "cat-sat" Gerald's statue from early March 2021. We put him in the shop window, but kept him wrapped up in a cat motif scarf, ready for a big unveil when lockdown ended.
Gerald under Wraps at The Cat Gallery, April 2021 (Picture Credit: Yorkmix)
Finally, Boris eased the lockdown rules and an unveiling ceremony was arranged. Justine said Gerald deserved to have a cat loving celebrity unveil him. I thought no more about this until I got an excited text from Justine saying that Actor, Mark Addy (The Full Monty, The Thin Blue Line, Game of Thrones to name but a few) would be doing the "reveal".
So on Thursday 29th April, we set up a table on the pavement outside the shop (remember, no indoor mixing at this point) and carefully placed the wrapped Gerald sculpture outside.
The ceremony was announced by Ben Fry, York Town Crier. I said a few words and passed to Justine, Gerald's owner, who introduced Mark Addy. Mark then unveiled Gerald and the socially distanced press and public observers then took pictures.
So Gerald's sculpture is now unveiled and remains in our window, pending the readiness of it's final resting place, which will be the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate.
Gerald at The Cat Gallery April 2021. Copyright: The Cat Gallery
At The Cat Gallery, we are delighted to have been a part of the "Gerald Story" and we look forward to adding Gerald to our York Cat Trail at the next re-print.
If you would like to know more about Gerald or The York Cat Trail, please contact The Cat Gallery via our Email Contact Form.
Mark Addy with the sculpture of Gerald (Picture Credit: Yorkshire Live)