Gregory I and Sarkis were first painted in 1989 by Vanessa Tinker, ARCA, looking out of an upstairs window above the front door. As this was a ‘blind’ window overlooking the front entrance porch, it serves as a reminder that this is a feline residence. It has led some passers by to refer to it as the Cats’ House, which seems an appropriate designation.
Later they were immortalised on parchment by the late distinguished heraldic artist, John William Bainbridge (1940-1996), who in 1991 included them in the Grant of Arms issued by the College of Arms in London.
Gregory II was included in a group portrait of the household at Charlton painted by the talented young artist, Philip Stephen Huxley in 2009. By fixing the viewer with his steady gaze, he provides the link between the portrait and those who view it.
My interest in Van cats goes back to 1965 when I read an article on “The Swimming Cats of Van” by Laura Lushington in Animals magazine. From childhood I grew up with cats at home but my particular interest in this breed was their connection with Van. Although Van is now in Turkey it was part of the historic heartland of the Armenians and during the 10th & 11th centuries was an independent principality of Vaspurakan under the Artsruni dynasty, with its capital on the island of Aghtamar. The Armenian presence was significant here until the Genocide of 1915. My particular interest was that I am an Orthodox Christian and the Armenians were not only the first Christian nation but had valiantly maintained the Orthodox faith throughout the centuries despite having lost their nationhood.
This blog shares a very personal encounter with Van Cats, a fascinating and quite rare breed, originating in Eastern Turkey. There are several other excellent sites touching on the history and characteristics of the breed as well the sites of individual breeders. This blog is a celebration of the Van cats, past and present, who have become part of our family and we hope will encourage others to consider inviting a Van cat into their home.
Sembat (a pseudonym) is an historian and a genealogist and delights in the cats’ pedigrees for their intricacy. Unlike the better-informed breeders he doesn’t have a profound grasp of genetics but is grateful for the commitment shown by some of the breeders to maintain the integrity of the breed and at the same time avoid the dangerous inbreeding which threatened those who first entered Britain just over half a century ago.
Trevor is the IT expert and amateur photographer who constructed this blog and will be demonstrating his enthusiasm for Van cats in a more visual way.