The history, carvings and legends of Rosslyn Chapel have inspired many writers over the years – from Sir Walter Scott to Dan Brown – but a new children’s book about the historic Chapel has been inspired by a visiting cat!
William the cat has been a regular visitor over the past 10 years and can usually be found curled up on a pew, whether the Chapel is open for services or visitors. He has become such a feature that a new range of retail products has been introduced to the Chapel’s shop, based on ‘William the Chapel Cat’, and he is now the inspiration for a new children’s book, written by The Countess of Rosslyn and illustrated by Rosie Wellesley. The new book, William the Cat and the Rescue of Rosslyn Chapel, tells the story of the Chapel’s recent conservation project, when the building was under scaffolding for 16 years. The last pieces of scaffolding were removed in September 2013.
Ian Gardner, Director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: ‘A visit to Rosslyn Chapel can be memorable for many reasons. It may be the architecture which was amazing, the 15th century craftsmanship which was inspiring…… or the cat, which was particularly friendly! William the Chapel Cat – appropriately named after Sir William St Clair who founded the Chapel in 1446 – has become a firm favourite for thousands of visitors and is regularly mentioned among the highlights of a visit on the review website TripAdvisor. I am sure that this wonderful new book, specially written by Helen Rosslyn, will provide a lasting souvenir of the Chapel and our visiting cat.’
The book’s illustrations are by Rosie Wellesley, a graduate of the Royal Drawing School. She said: ‘Illustrating Helen’s story about the chapel was a real joy. I fell in love with Rosslyn Chapel whilst visiting and drawing in it. Spending the time there made me feel a strange connection with those who built it, as I grappled to capture the character of their carvings. At night, after visitors had left, I sketched whilst the organist practised and then in the peace when everyone had gone. Of course – not everyone, as William kept me company!’
The book was conceived by American philanthropist Renee Harbers, while she was visiting the chapel in 2010. On a tour, she noticed William the cat and, through her subsequent conversations with The Countess of Rosslyn, the idea of telling the Rosslyn Chapel conservation story through William’s eyes came into being. She said: ‘The Harbers Family Foundation has conservation in its DNA. Whether it’s preserving a pristine habitat in Suriname or an historical landmark in Scotland, we want to help save what’s worth keeping for future generations to enjoy’. The production of the book was underwritten by a generous grant from the Harbers Family Foundation and all income will support the ongoing conservation of Rosslyn Chapel.
The Countess of Rosslyn is married to the 7th Earl of Rosslyn and, as Trustees of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, both play an active role in the conservation of Rosslyn Chapel. The Chapel’s recent conservation project was funded by the Trust, with generous support from funding partners including the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland.
William the Cat and the Rescue of Rosslyn Chapel is available, at £7.95, from the Chapel’s shop or can be ordered through our online shop.
The book has been designed by Studioarc. All income supports the conservation of the Chapel, through Rosslyn Chapel Trust, which is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC024324.