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Smudge, People's Palace cat

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 1:34 am
by Apollo

I've just made the embarrasing discovery that I have no info on Smudge or her disappearance from the People's Palace, not even the dates.

Any info or a resource would be appreciated.

In return, save £6 and visit Pollock House near the Burrell between November and March, when the National Trust for Scotland waive the entrance fee (well, I didn't know they did that till I wandered in last year :oops: ).

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 9:11 am
by Sharon
I think we might organise a wee walk round Pollock Park come the New Year... taking advantage of the free entry of course!! It's always meant I've never been in when I've been down at least... but then I can be a bit tight that way.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:03 am
by DickyHart
i do know Smudge was a member of the union, and even had a membership card, possibly could've been shop steward.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 2:21 pm
by Apollo
HG group visit to Pollock House would probably bring new reports of a terrorist assault 8O . The place isn't as fully open as when they charge, and there's not many staff, but I like it that way.

Currently searching for my boxed set of Smudge postcards, in case there are notes on it. Should've been sitting on sideboard, but it's not not.

Smudge was indeed awarded staff benefits, officially earning her keep in return for pest control.

Her disappearance was feared to be a kidnap for ransom and, as time passed, it was assumed she was not going to return. Then, after some weeks (3, but I'm not sure) she turned up fine and well on some nearby waste ground. After that, staff bought her a new collar and name tag, and probably kept a closer eye on her wanderings.

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 9:49 am
by Seamey
My mother still drinks from her Smudge mug.

I seem to remember smudge tshirts being on sale as well.

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 3:16 pm
by Apollo
She got the full celebrity treatment, your mug plus the usual photos, postcards and similar items, and the ultimate collector's item, the ceramic Smudge, which was produced in various sizes, with prices to match.

Guess I was spoiled by having known the real thing, as I always thought the pottery version just didn't look right, being too smooth and shiny from the glaze. That said, they were kind of cute.

Must make the effort to look out info next time I'm in the People's Palace. Out of the habit of dropping in since they shut it a while back, then avoided while they refurbed the Winter Gardens, and then they screwed up the access while the Doulton Fountain was being rescued.

I can't recall any particular memorial, perhaps I'll complain if they haven't got one. The place has really never been the same since Elspeth King was ousted as curator.

Mailed the musuems address for any info, waiting to see if anything comes back.

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 4:40 pm
by My Kitten
Apollo wrote: The place has really never been the same since Elspeth King was ousted as curator.

Have to agree with you on that, she did a brilliant job there. The place kind of lost its heart once she'd gone.

PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 11:30 pm
by Apollo
Dropped in to the People's Palace on the 3rd.

Although I couldn't think of anythig there about Smudge, I put that down to being overly familiar with the place, and just hadn't noticed. After scouring 3 floors and finding nothing, I tried the shop, maybe a postcard or one of those wee books they do, but there was nothing.

Now decidedly grumpy, I decided not to chance asking in case I got a reply along the lines of "Who's Smudge"? However, I did leave with a handfull of "Please tell us what you think" forms :evil:

Maybe wander in again, next time I'm near the Barras.

PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:38 am
by Apollo
Museums office did get in touch with the People's Palace, however the answer is depressingly incomplete:

"Info is patchy at best - Smudge was 'working' here from early 80's until 91 &
was a member of the GMB Union! Was then retired to live with Elspeth who had been Curator here - believe Smudge lived until 2000/01."

I replied suggesting that having one of the ceramics as a memorial might have been nice.

Maybe just me, but I think it's a bit of a shame there isn't a better memory of a local hero/celebrity (a real one) of the time.

PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 1:17 pm
by Apollo
I now have the text that appeared in the Glasgow Herald and Evening Times, October 25, 2000:

Pic from the earlier days: ... ction=view

Feline favourite of People's Palace finally runs out of lives

Died at her home, after a long illness, SMUDGE, THE PEOPLE'S PALACE CAT,
Glasgow's Kitty of Culture during 1990.

When Smudge joined the People's Palace as a lowly rodent operative in 1979,
Glasgow City Veterinaries looked in her mouth and pronounced her to be 'a fairly
old cat'.

Popular with People's Palace visitors, ceramic replicats were made of her by
potter Margery Clinton in 1987. When the limited edition of 50 sold quickly, a
mass edition was produced, so that visitors could take one home. Fridge
magnets, notebooks, t-shirts, postcards, Christmas cards and mugs quickly
followed, and the fundraising success of Smudge was such, that the phrase
'there's a little money in the kitty' was commonly used by museum staff.

Smudge became a member of the General, Municipal and Boilermakers Trade Union,
after NALGO refused her admission as a blue collar worker.

When she became a supercat, she loaned her paws to many campaigns, including
'Save the Glasgow Vet School' (1989), 'Paws Off Glasgow Green' (1990), and was
the first recorded pick-cat, when she appeared at the head of the picket line at
Kelvingrove during a strike in 1989. She was proclaimed as Glasgow's Culture
City Kitty in 1990.

Smudge featured on the jacket of 'The Scottish Cat' book by Hamish Whyte in
1987, was the star of the Scottish Cat Club Championship Show in 1988, and had
an angry exchange with Arthur, the Kattomeat Cat, who tried to top-cat her on
her home territory in 1990.

She retired from public life in 1991, although she recently undertook some
contract work at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, where there was
field mouse trouble. She also features in the Museum of Scotland's Twentieth
Century Gallery (opened 1998) and in the guidebook.

A Scottish cat of two centuries, her warm purr, her rich white fur coat with the
distinctive black heart, and her sweet nature will be sadly missed. Her
descendents are all over Glasgow and her replicats can be found in five
Continents, where they have been taken or sent by cat loving Glasgwegians.

Our thanks to the veterinary practice of Una McLean who kept Smudge going; the
Welsh firm of thermal heat pads, ditto; and our good neighbours, the Gillett

Elspeth King and Michael Donnelly

Coincidentally, as this arrived, Elspeth King popped up as Curator of the Smith Museum in Stirling on "Two Men in a Trench", unfortunately getting the bad news that relics believed to have been from the Battle of Bannockburn actually predated it, by rather a lot of years. She took it well and philosophically though.

I have some more info to digest, but it may sadly explain why I couldn't find anything in the People's Palace itself.

PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 2:14 pm
by DickyHart
great stuff apollo, i enjoyed reading it very much.

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:10 am
by Apollo
This is the rest of the info I managed to acquire about Smudge:

In October of 1987, the Winter Gardens were hired by a number of Leftist groups, to celebrate the 70th. anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Following this event, Smudge could not be found. Appeals were made by the museums PR department, and by Glasgow's Lord Provost. 3 weeks later, Smudge was found a short distance away, near Bridgeton Cross.

Around the middle of 1990, the salesdesk received a memo from the Commercial Operations Department that no more Smudge souvenirs were to be sold.

Around the same time, the curator was made aware that if Smudge went into the Winter Gardens again, she may be poisoned or meet with an accident. Consequently, Elspeth King took the cat home to ensure her safety.

After she left the People's Palace, it was made clear to Elspeth King that the number one (of 50 made) ceramic cat, which she had retained for the collection, was not wanted. Rather than see it binned, it was removed, and this is why there is now nothing to reflect Smudge's time at the People's Palace.

The sale of Smudge 'Replicats' financed the purchase of a much needed Amstrad word processor. This is the story which features in the Museum of Scotland's 20th century gallery, with a very big photograph of Smudge and the 'Replicats'. It is also in the current souvenir guide.


Personally, I think it's a despicable way to have treated the memory of one of the city's characters. They shouldn't be allowed to simply 'erase' a record simply because it didn't suit their politics at the time.

Thank goodness for the Museum of Scotland, though I'm embarrassed to say I thought I had combed it from bottom to top (where the 20th. century gallery is), and can't recall seeing the display mentioned. Probably so used to the photo mentioned I failed to notice it.

Reinstatement could be one of HG's future projects :)

PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 10:13 pm
by George
Everyone hopefully knows by now I love cats. I knew of Smudge, but that was a really interesting post, Apollo. I am interested in modern Glasgow 'characters', like jamsey Barr, George, and Smudge. Perhaps a new book should be written. I can afford 'vanity publication' so shit, let's do it!

PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 11:49 pm
by Apollo
Published for free on Wikipedia, or it was until a prolific contributer decided to edit it down to a few line to put it into proper Wikipedia style.

Heck, I don't really mind, that's the aim of the thing after all, but it was the first time I'd created a proper page rather than tweak existing stuff or add a stub, and I was going to use it as a learning exercise, and whoosh, there it went, right before my eyes.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:41 am
by escotregen
Appollo this has been driving me nuts! I have been trying without success to hunt out some old script material relevant to this thread. When I was working in the East End in the 90s I was party to the scripting of a local group's play. It was a satire that used the story of Smudge as an allegory on (i.e. symbolic of) the vindictive treatment of Elsepth King.

For those who do not know, Elspeth was a much respected Curator of the Peoples Palace who combined expertise and a high level of competence with a committment to 'ordinary' peoples' history... and with a strong interest in 'ordinary wimmins' feminist history.

In the 90s the high heid yins in the cooncil were in their heyday of high municipal culture-spin and it was decided that the Peoples Palace was not really the appropriate image for the City any longer. There was then a huge groundswell and community level reaction against the threats to the Palace after people were alerted to closure plans.

There were red faces among cooncilors and officials with furious denials that there ever was such threat. A number of professionals such as Elspeth were then fingered as suspected of tipping off the punters and ... michtie me... even supporting them. Various formal and not-so-formal devices were employed. The consequence was that after a latterly unhappy time Elspeth left the city to take up another Curators post.

Sadly for Elspeth there was no one prepared to stand up and take care of her the way she did for the threatened Smudge who had similalry upset the high heid yins. Nevertheless, her lasting legacy is arguably that she and a few others saved the Poeples Palace from closure.