William The Chapel Cat puts Roslin back on the map

William the cat takes it easy at Rosslyn Chapel with the book's author, Helen Countess of Rosslyn, right, and illustrator Rosie Wellesley. Picture: Greg Macvean

William the cat takes it easy at Rosslyn Chapel with the book's author, Helen Countess of Rosslyn, right, and illustrator Rosie Wellesley. Picture: Greg Macvean

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NOT so long ago Dan Brown’s blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks, propelled Rosslyn Chapel on to the world stage, attracting thousands of fans to the 15th-century property in Midlothian.

Now it’s the turn of a moggy from the nearby village of Roslin to keep the historic attraction firmly on the map.

Yesterday saw the launch of William the Cat and the Rescue of Rosslyn Chapel, a children’s book telling the fictional story of its conservation, as seen through the eyes of William, who alerts people to its deterioration.

The real-life William, otherwise known as William the Chapel Cat, takes up residence in the chapel during the day before returning to the Smith family at night, and has built up a massive fanbase among visitors worldwide.

Written by Helen, Countess of Rosslyn – whose husband ­Peter St Clair-Erskine, 7th Earl of Rosslyn, inherited the chapel – and illustrated by Rosie Wellesley, the fundraising book tells the story of the £9.3 million conservation project which put the building under scaffolding for 16 years until ­September 2013.

“There are lots of books for adults about the chapel and I thought it would be good to write one about the conservation for children,” said the countess, who stays with her family in Rosslyn ­Castle when not at their home in Berkshire.

“In the story William is alerted to the leaking roof by one of the angel carvings and then has to find a way of warning people,” she said.

“In essence it is a way of describing the big problem we faced when my husband inherited the chapel in the early 1980s.

“The roof was leaking and it was deteriorating quite quickly. The stone became saturated and began flaking away so we had to put a big canopy over the roof while we began fundraising.

“That’s the story we tell through the eyes of the cat. There’s plenty to interest children, especially the carvings of animals, including an elephant and a lion.”

Ian Gardner, director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: “A visit to Rosslyn Chapel can be memorable for many reasons. It may be the architecture which was amazing, the 15th-century craftsmanship which was inspiring . . . or the cat, which was particularly friendly.

“William the Chapel Cat – named after Sir William St Clair who founded the chapel in 1446 – has become a firm favourite for thousands of visitors and is regularly mentioned among highlights on the website TripAdvisor. I am sure that this wonderful new book will provide a lasting souvenir of the Chapel and our visiting cat.”