Friday, 08 May 2020 18:33

Millie the Waitrose cat: unveiled at last

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After almost a year's trial and error, local sculptor John Somerville finally feels ready to display his clay model of High Barnet's feline celebrity, Millie the Waitrose Cat, before she is cast into a small bronze statue.

 

After her death in January last year, Millie's countless admirers donated over £2,800 towards a permanent memorial for a cat that made a name for herself greeting shoppers outside Waitrose supermarket at the Spires shopping centre.

Her owner Paula Gabb was so overwhelmed with messages of sympathy that she launched an appeal and was astounded when well over 200 of Millie's admirers made donations.

Mr Somerville is putting the final touches to the clay model before it is cold cast in bronze at his own studio in Wood Street and then sent to a foundry for casting in bronze which will cost £2,000 or more, together other costs for materials.

Well known locally for his life-size bronze sculpture of Spike Milligan -- on display in East End Road, Finchley -- Mr Somerville volunteered to take on Paula Gabb's commission to prepare a model of Millie.

"Millie is perhaps the second most difficult statue I've ever undertaken, second only to my two-ton statue of Spike.

"Believe it or not, but there aren't many statues of cats. Yes, there are lots of lions, but cats are very difficult to represent in a three-dimensional piece.

"Time and again I tried modelling Millie sitting up with one paw extended. I did two or three life size models, but they didn't seem to work. I just couldn't get the angles right.

"Then i tried lying her down, with her head turned sideways and her paws crossed over each other. That was very much a Millie pose and made her very distinctive.

"I've been working on Millie every day for almost a year. She has taken perhaps l,000 hours of my time, but it will all be worth it if I can produce a fitting memorial to a cat that clearly was a real character and much loved, and if this is the Millie that Paula and Waitrose shoppers remember."

Mr Somerville decided to design the statue with its own back plate which features an outline of the spires.

He thinks the best option would be to bolt the statue to the wall as this would be much safer than a free-standing statue, reducing the possibility of vandalism. There would be a small brass plate telling Millie's life history.

"Ideally, she would be on a marble plinth bolted to the wall, and Millie herself would be just below the five foot level, so that children could look directly at her face, into her eyes.

"Having worked on Millie for so long, I've come to respect her. I see her as Millie the Waitrose cat, the guardian of the gate, who lived to check people out when they arrived to shop at Waitrose.

"She always looked relaxed, lying there with one paw over the other, but she had those piercing eyes and was checking you out before you were allowed into Waitrose. That is what I've tried to capture."

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3 comments

  • Comment Link Saturday, 09 May 2020 06:42 posted by Paula Gabb

    Absolutely amazing John! I am so thrilled,you have done a brilliant job..
    You are so right about Millie checking the shoppers out with her piercing eyes !
    I wonder what she would have thought of the lockdown? I doubt she would have queued !!
    Thank you for all your hard work, it is truly appreciated !

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 12 May 2020 15:47 posted by Barnet Bob

    It looks bloody awful. Like a comedy wonky-faced cat a child would have drawn. What a waste of time and energy.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 12 May 2020 18:59 posted by Millie

    A bit harsh, Bob! I think John did me proud. Meow!

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