Tilly – RIP

The last couple of weeks have not been a good start to the year. In the middle of my illness last week it became apparent that Miss Tilly, who shared my life for the last 10 years, and my sister’s life for 6 years before that was considerably more unwell than I was. Last Tuesday I had to take her to the vet for the last time and make the horrible decision that the time had come for her to be put to sleep.

Tilly came into my life at a time of family crisis, when my sister had given birth to my twin nephews and my offer to help that situation was to take the cat. This meant an epic journey from Yorkshire to Bridge of Allan which was punctuated by much yarling, even though a sedative had been applied. In retrospect, I suspect that things would have been easier if the sedative had been applied to me rather than to her.

Tilly was a cat of an extraordinary personality who left her mark (sometimes literally) on those who encountered her. Whilst living in Bridge of Allan, her job was to deal with mice and spiders, twin tasks which she accomplished whenever she felt like it. Whilst not on mouse duty, her favourite pastimes included bird spotting (she would chatter to them freely) and bat watch (which could occupy many a happy evening). Her ability to deal successfully with snakes was noted on this blog on St Patrick’s day in 2005.

It was not always clear what religion she followed. An early interest in joining me for the recitation of the Daily Office made me wonder whether she was an Episcopalian. When I realised that she liked me singing the psalms I wondered whether she was Jewish. Later I realised that she simply believed that all worship was directed towards herself. She only rarely went to church though her appearance at my nephews’ baptism when she was seen on the altar leaping over the dressed chalice from one side to another 10 minutes before the service began will stay with me forever. She was a great advocate of water from the Holy Shrine of Knock.

In the firey crucible of Bridge of Allan politics she adopted an attitude of disdain to all local political activists though was widely believed by Bridge of Allan Liberal Democrats to be a member of the Bridge of Allan Conservative party. Her fury at my standing in a General Election knew no bounds.

Tilly was at least as opinionated as I am. Diffidence and belligerence were her stock in trade. She bit evangelicals and regarded couples looking to discuss upcoming weddings as fair game. Many tried to charm her though she had little interest in charm itself.

However, she and I had an accommodation that went far deeper than ever it could have done by simply trying to tame the passion which never left her to the end. The first six months of our acquaintance were not an easy time. However eventually, Miss T decided that I was worth it and astonished me by beginning to purr, something which she then continued every day for the rest of her life. It was a sound which I hear in its absence every day still.

She enjoyed tremendously bad health for many years and together we learned so many techniques for dealing with her ailments in entertaining ways. Whether linctus had to be rubbed on her (our) paws, ointment put in her eyes or her pee collected at regular intervals, we coped. The giving of pills morning and evening in her latter days became something of a source of pride to both of us and could even be accomplished whilst on the telephone to admiring friends. It was suggested that the giving of the pill routine could in fact be featured on Britain’s Got Talent.

People from St Mary’s will know less of Tilly than members of my former congregation in Bridge of Allan. They knew her as housekeeper of the Rectory and from her appearances on this blog. On moving to Glasgow when I came to take up the post of Provost here, Miss Tilly decided to leave public life and lived an inactive and satisfied retirement since then.

I’ve known many people ask whether their animals have souls or go to heaven, even people who are uncertain of their own attitude to their own mortality and what lies beyond. For those who have loved and bonded with an animal its hard to imagine that heaven could be heaven without them. Several of those who knew Tilly have volunteered the opinion this week that she’s likely to be sitting impatiently by the gate of heaven waiting. If she is, St Peter should mind his ankles.

The last couple of weeks have been a horrible start to the new year. However, my deep sadness at losing Tilly has to be matched by a sense of thankfulness for the life she lived and the companionship that we shared. She was never happier than playing with wool and I choose to remember her wearing a strand as an Easter bonnet as pictured above.

Actually, the truth is, she was only really engaged in playing with wool if I was at the other end of it.

For that, and for countless other reasons, she is very much missed and the tears have been many.


  1. She sounds lovely. My prayers for you.

  2. fr dougal says

    Commiserations on losing a much loved companion.

  3. Sorry to hear that. We have experienced a similar bond with our dog, Jack, and so can imagine something of the pain you’re experiencing.

  4. Alas, I don’t know you or Tilly, but what a beautiful obituary. “She was never happier than playing with wool” is a fine and noble thing to be able to say of a life. Whether or not she’s gliding about catching cosmic mice in cat heaven, she will have a small afterlife in my corner of Facebook. I hope your year gets better soon.

  5. She was indeed one of the great characters in our Church, although I’m still convinced she leaned more towards Paganism.

    We mourn your loss.

  6. Muriel says

    I never met Tilly but I know how you are feeling at the moment. You told her story so well and movingly.

  7. Kelvin, my thoughts, and doubtless those of my own little Elmo, are with you both at this time. That was a beautifully crafted obituary.

  8. Hugs and prayers from Dumbarton. I sure ken what it’s like. I still have a photo of Toastie on my phone and as my computer wallpaper.

  9. I’m sorry. So hard to lose a friend but thank you for sharing Tilly with us so beautifully here on the blog.

  10. It’s a wonderful tribute. And, of course, this is very believable:

    ” Later I realised that she simply believed that all worship was directed towards herself. “

    I so know what this hard decision is like. You have my deepest sympathies.

  11. Sad news indeed. Thoughts & prayers are with you Kelvin. And that’s one of the best obituaries I’ve ever read (for a member of *any* species )

  12. Elizabeth says

    I’m so sorry. Losing a cat is a deep loss indeed. Sending much sympathy from the south side.

  13. Rosemary Hannah says

    Yes, that is a wonderful obituary. She was plainly a very great cat indeed.

    I can imagine no divine dispensation which loses such wonderful, characterful animals, and rescues us.

  14. A cat of great character! No wonder she will be so sadly missed.

  15. How heartbreaking. I can picture her exactly from this beautiful obit. And am loving the thought of St Peter with scratched ankles.

  16. Hilary and maxdog says

    Sending sympathy from the Rectory in Dunfermline. Tilly sounds a wonderful cat and the obituary is just lovely and so well written. Think it’s material for the next inspires .

  17. I’m sorry about Tilly. When I saw your post I was struck by how much she looks like my own cat who died a few years ago. I posted their two photos with a bit of what you wrote. Maybe the two of them are making friends in heaven.

  18. Condolences from Oz, on the loss of Tilly. Having a furry companion die is so sad. Take comfort from the fun times you had together and the knowledge that you gave her a good home.

  19. Tracie says

    What a lovely lady she was. Hugs for you.

  20. Hilary says

    What a lovely memory of her. Our pets give us so much love…. Condolences…

  21. Russell Goulbourne says

    I’m really sorry to hear this very sad news, Kelvin. What a lovely tribute to her. The purring will never cease…

  22. Sophie says

    I am so sorry, Kelvin. It is dreadful when beloved creatures die. I hope your flat is not unbearably empty without your Tilly.

  23. Ritualist Robert says

    A cat who can vault over a dressed chalice really does deserve some kind of veneration.

    Such a moving tribute.

  24. Christine says

    What a wonderful obit for Tilly. I have never met Kevin or Tilly, but I applaud your strength in writing this lovely piece for all to share. I am a pet bereavement counsellor, and really believe that much good comes from us feeling able to express our grief for our lost animals, in whichever way we feel we can manage. It is also very heartening to read such a piece on a Church-related site. Bless you both.

  25. Patricia says

    If Tilly’s obituary is anything to go by her memory will, in the days, weeks and months to come provide you with in exhaustable supply of stories to share with others ~ both those who knew her and those who meet her through the retelling of your stories. My sympathy to you in your loss ~ one that is shared by many others who have lost beloved pets and companions.

  26. Andrew Barr says

    Dear Kelvin,
    Deeply moved by your piece. Miss Tilly has left light for all of us who care about the SEC. Our dear friends , Emmy, Joshua, Mc Bean, Batty and most of all Caspar live on in us, and Mrs Tilly will be purring not far away always I am sure.
    Mrs Tilly, risen in glory.

  27. Beautifully written – sad and uplifting. What a lovely picture of her. Cute nose too.
    I was idly checking out your blog to see if you had a perspective on MOOT, but was immediately sidetracked by, firstly Miss Tilly, then clerical footwear ( I’d go for the purple Prada, if the soles were also painted purple – or the shiny black sequins).
    I’m almost tempted to swap cathedrals……. should enjoyment of the Provost’s blog be a consideration when choosing one’s place of worship?


  1. […] Meanwhile, sympathy to Kevin Holdsworth who is mourning the loss of Tilly. […]

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