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by Molly Lefebure with illustrations by Alfred Wainwright.
This unique and intriguing account of the first ascent of the H.K.P., the Highest Known Peak in the Kingdom of Catland, originally published in 1968 with illustrations by the well-known Lakeland guidebook author and topographer, Alfred Wainwright, is in the tradition of classic mountaineering stories, and over the years since its first appearance it has built up an enthusiastic readership amongst the mountaineering fraternity worldwide. After a number of years out of print, Mountainmere Publishing, based in Blackburn, AW’s place of birth, has recently republished it.
Mountaineering club members, dedicated fellwalkers, Wainwright fans and Lakeland devotees of all ages and persuasions have followed the adventures of Scratch and his fellow climbing-cats, his high-altitude terrier sherpas, his twitchy low-level rabbit porters and his free-spirited adversaries, the foxes who emerge from their borrans amongst the crags to waylay these expeditionary-offcomers. Such are the colourful and keenly observed characters, making this book witty and entertaining reading, not to mention Manx Scoop and Whiskey Bylines, ace reporters for the Cat Times and Cat’s Courier, and Manx Scoop’s fighting mad mongoose ever keen to sink his teeth into anything that vaguely resemble a snake.
When the author, Molly Lefebure, asked her old friend AW, with whom she had corresponded for a number of years, to illustrate Scratch & Co., he was enthusiastic until he met the mongoose. ‘The cats I can draw with my eyes shut. But a mongoose? I've never as much glimpsed one!’ he said. Fortunately a stuffed mongoose was located in Kendal Museum, where he was then working as Curator. AW later reported: ‘I've spent a couple of days with the little chap and I think I've got him!’ The Great Cat Expedition was ready to start. Readers have been joining it ever since.
Molly Lefebure is the author of a number of wide-ranging books. Starting with her experiences as Medical Secretary to Keith Simpson, the famous Home Office pathologist, she followed this with a biography of John George Haigh, the acid bath murderer, after which came books about the Lake District, including ‘Scratch & Co’ (the setting for which is based around Borrowdale), two novels; she also wrote books for radio and television. She is the author of acclaimed biographical studies of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Hardy, and is at present finishing her third Coleridge study, ‘Private Lives of the Ancient Mariner’.
reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2