HER illustrations and tales have entranced generations of readers across Scotland and now Morningside’s favourite kitten is coming home – thanks to a trapped bird.
Aileen Paterson, creator of the Maisie of Morningside stories, will for the first time welcome fans into her own street in Edinburgh’s Abbeyhill Colonies as part of one of the city’s fastest-growing community arts events.
She revealed she only agreed to take part after a starling recently became trapped in her chimney and she had to call on the services of festival organiser and gas engineer Bill Mazur to free it.
She said: “He just came round and pulled out the fire place, freed the bird, took it out carefully into the garden and it flew away. After that, I was in.
The 77-year-old is now set to show original artwork from the story series and give readings during this weekend’s Colony of Artists exhibition.
The festival will see artists who live in the Colonies open their houses to display a range of locally produced art and craft.
The first Maisie story, Maisie Comes to Morningside, appeared in 1984 and, although the kilt and Fair Isle jumper-sporting feline is best-known for living in a tenement flat in the famously genteel suburb, Aileen said it was in Abbeyhill, where she has lived for the last 26 years, that the character came to life.
“I think these houses are like the way I lived as a little girl and it’s a lovely idea to have a festival of local art in them,” she said.
“About ten years ago, I remember I had to go into hospital. When I came back, all these people came up to me and said, where have you been? Have you been on holiday? Why didn’t you let us know?
“People inevitably get to know a bit about you here. It’s very intimate with all these little houses and streets, and I think those are elements that have fed into Maisie.
“A lot of people wouldn’t actually know the Colonies – I have the utmost difficulty in getting people to understand where they are and how they are arranged. This is a great way of getting people to discover them.”
Describing the Colony of Artists exhibition as a “terribly likeable” idea, Aileen admitted she was not keen to take part when her neighbours announced they were organising the inaugural event seven years ago.
She said: “I sort of thought, no I can’t do it. I can’t have people coming in and saying things like ‘I thought she was younger’ and ‘she doesn’t dust very well’.”
But after Mr Mazur’s rescue efforts she changed her mind, and the organiser said he was delighted.
“Every year the festival grows more and more,” he said. “It started seven years when two local artists put a leaflet through everyone’s door – that was the first year I got involved.
“That year was family and friends, then it was friends of friends, and then we started putting it out into the shops nearby, now it’s known throughout the city.
“There are so many artists involved now and who have been involved over the years. But probably, with the amount of publishing she has done, Aileen tops it. I’m absolutely delighted she’s taking part.”