Church cat Fred stars in his own good book

Fred on the steps at St Patrick's with writer Eleanor MacDonald
Fred on the steps at St Patrick's with writer Eleanor MacDonald
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HE is one of the most loyal parishioners of St Patrick’s and can regularly be seen joining in with the hymns and helping to boost church coffers.

The four-legged church-goer even shares a house with the priests and gets to sleep on the presidential chair.

Fred on the steps at St Patrick's with writer Eleanor MacDonald

Fred on the steps at St Patrick's with writer Eleanor MacDonald

Now Fred the cat’s antics are being serialised in a set of books written by parishioner Eleanor MacDonald.

The books have become as popular as the mischievous moggy himself, with proceeds going into church funds.

Mrs MacDonald has penned – and illustrated – four books so far, each depicting one of Fred’s fictional adventures.

However, despite being a figment of Mrs MacDonald’s imagination, the adventures are not a million miles away from real life for Fred.

In the first story, simply called Fred, the star of the book disappears from his home within the parish house and no-one can find him.

It mirrors an incident which happened in 2006 when Fred went missing for three weeks – and only turned up after an appeal in the Evening News.

Mrs MacDonald, a private English and maths tutor, began writing the stories after her husband Clayton put the idea in her head.

The 53-year-old – who had never written a book before in her life – said: “My husband just suddenly said, ‘you should do a story about Fred because he’s quite a character’.

“I had a go and handed them in with trepidation to Father Michael because he is in the stories and, fortunately, he liked them and said I should try and sell them in the shop.”

Father Michael is no longer working at St Patrick’s, and former parish priest Father Kieran has also left, so Mrs MacDonald is already thinking about new characters.

She said: “The books have been popular with the parishioners as they know Fathers Michael and Kieran, who have both gone to pastures new now. I will probably write the next one with our new priest Father Desmond, if he’s happy with that.”

The second Fred book – Fred and the Little Black Dog – also stars one of Mrs MacDonald’s own pets, Rufus. When Fred’s garden is invaded by a canine intruder, it tests the age-old question of whether cats and dogs can ever be friends.

In the third instalment – Fred and the Water of Leith – the ginger and white cat gets into difficulties in the river after stowing away in Father Michael’s car.

The last book, Fred and the Magpie – which is yet to go on sale in the church shop – sees Fred catch a thief responsible for liberating some of the parish valuables.

Fred has also been the star of the church’s restoration campaign, and features in a comic strip appealing to people to donate to the fund.

Mrs MacDonald added: “Fred is well known at St Patrick’s, which is why the stories have been popular.

“They’re completely fictional, but I’m sure that people can imagine Fred having these adventures.”

Fred has been living at St Patrick’s since 2003, after coming from a local cat rescue organisation.

He has the run of the church and its grounds and loves going into the church to meet people.

He often follows the priests into the church and has been known to “dance around” during hymns. He often has to be discouraged from attending services to avoid distracting the congregation. The presidential chair in the sanctuary is one of his favourite sleeping spots.

The books are sold at the shop at St Patrick’s Church and Mrs MacDonald also self- publishes them online through a company called Lulu.

gfraser@edinburghnews.com