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."

7 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!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 23 June 2020 15:48 posted by Mark F

    I put money towards this and I'd prefer a more realistic realisation of Millie, but I'm sure children will like it's approachable style.

  • Comment Link Monday, 29 June 2020 21:15 posted by Dave W

    I'm sorry, but I'm not seeing the resemblance to Millie. Perhaps it will look better in bronze.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 30 June 2020 12:57 posted by Andy

    Was it done by the same guy who did the statue of Christiano Ronaldo a couple of years ago?

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 30 June 2020 14:05 posted by Dennis Bird

    I read with interest your article on the Dollis Valley (“How Green is our Valley”).Unfortunately there are many errors.
    Firstly the geology of the valley and the Barnet area is vastly more complicated than “Ice Age Melt Water”.
    Secondly,so often repeated,the old myth that High Barnet existed originally as a “Settlement on the key Road from London to York”.Ermine Street c.8miles East of Barnet was the way to Lincoln and York.The so called “Great North Road “ through Barnet probably dates from the 15th century and even in the coaching era only took c.20 per cent of the traffic going north through Barnet.Any medieval traveller on the way to York coming through Barnet was hopelessly lost!
    The “High” Road through Barnet by passed the worn out and waterlogged Roman Watling Street to St Albans and the north ,and was always more important than Ermine Street.Barnet was founded as a result of this,York was irrelevant.
    Thirdly,the article suggests that Barnet Fair dates From the arrival of the Railway In 1872.In fact Barnet Fair dates from 1588.In 1834 The Times reported that the Fair was England’s largest cattle market with up to 40,000 animals on display.The Railway meant the Fair changed character ,but you cannot deny its history,and now it hardly exists thanks to the machinations of The London Borough of Barnet formed in 1965.
    Sorry but you need to be a bit more careful with our history.

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