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WANTED: Postal puss for new mail museum

'The cats are not expected to attend work, but they will represent the postal museum on social media'

17 August, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Charlie, who belongs to the Postal Museum’s Harry Huskisson 

A NEW attraction celebrating the history of the postal service is hiring cats as it revives a tradition that is more than a hundred years old. The Postal Museum, which is opening up the old mail rail tunnels near King’s Cross, has even taken out an advert in the New Journal in its recruitment drive for new feline friends.

The first Post Office cat was hired in 1868 to catch mice shredding through letters. They were paid a shilling a week which went on their food and general upkeep.

Now, the museum in Phoenix Place is asking people to submit photos of their pets online to win a cat-size postman’s hat and the chance for their cat’s photo to hang in the museum office. “We really wanted a real cat but because we also hold an archive it’s not allowed,” said Harry Huskisson from the Postal Museum. “The cats are not expected to attend work, but they will represent the postal museum on social media. Every month a new cat will be nominated.”

The museum’s ad in the CNJ

The tradition of cats in public spaces is popular in Japan where Tama, the station master at Kishi Station, drew in thousands of visitors to a little-known area. The station building was even rebuilt to resemble a cat’s face seven years ago. After Tama died in 2015, a temporary altar, laden with hundreds of flowers, was set up outside the icon’s funeral which drew in more than 3,000 people.

The last paid Post Office cat was Tibs, who roamed the corridors of the Post Office headquarters in the City. The death of the 23-pound cat in 1965 made it onto the cover page of the staff magazine, distributed throughout the country.

Tibs, the last paid Post Office cat, died in 1965

Charlie, who belongs to Mr Huskisson is currently standing in until the first cat is chosen next month. He says Charlie, who lives with his parents in Devon, is a “wuss who always wants to be cuddled but with a mouser reputation”, making him a perfect interim candidate. From next month, the “Mail Rail” tunnels will be reopened, allowing people to ride on trains through previously abandoned tunnels under Mount Pleasant Sorting Office – where cats are not allowed to roam.

The original track stretched from Paddington to Whitechapel and had its heyday in the 1930s when it was widely used. The whole line closed in 2003 because its upkeep was deemed more expensive than carrying post on the road.

After going on the train, visitors can learn more about the system through an interactive exhibition hosted in an abandoned engineering depot. Tickets have already sold out for September and October with only a few weekday dates left for November.

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