Tibs the Great
Tibs the Great (November 1950 – December 1964) was the British Post Office's "number one cat" and kept the post office headquarters in London completely mouse-free during his 14 years of service. He was the son of Minnie, and on his death, several newspapers ran an obituary.
Tibs in 1953
|Occupation||British Post Office's "number one cat"|
Cats had been officially employed by the Post Office to catch rodents since September 1868, when three cats were taken on for a six-month trial period at a rate of one shilling per week, in the London Money Order Office. On 7 May 1869, it was noted that "the cats have done their duty very efficiently". By 1873, the cats were being paid 1s 6d, and cats were being employed in other post offices.
Tibs worked at Post Office Headquarters in London for 14 years, and was officially employed and paid 2s 6d per week. He worked in the basement. He was cared for by Alf Talbut, cleaner at the church of St. Martin's Le Grand, who had also owned his mother, Minnie. During his 14 years, Tibs kept the Post Office headquarters completely free of mice.
In 1952 there was "public outrage" that the cats had not had a pay rise since 1873, and the next year there was a question in the House of Commons, asking the Assistant Postmaster-General, David Gammans, "when the allowance payable for the maintenance of cats in his department was last raised?"
There is, I am afraid, a certain amount of industrial chaos in the Post Office cat world. Allowances vary in different places, possibly according to the alleged efficiency of the animals and other factors. It has proved impossible to organise any scheme for payment by results or output bonus. These servants of the State are, however, frequently unreliable, capricious in their duties and liable to prolonged absenteeism. My hon. and gallant Friend has been misinformed regarding the differences between rates for cats in Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. There are no Post Office cats in Northern Ireland. Except for the cats at Post Office Headquarters who got the special allowance a few years ago, presumably for prestige reasons, there has been a general wage freeze since July, 1918, but there have been no complaints!
He also hastened to assure the House that Post Office cats had "an adequate maternity service", and that equal pay prevailed in the group.
Tibs died in December 1964. He had been suffering from oral cancer. He received obituaries in several newspapers. By the time of his death he had grown to 23lb in weight, probably due to living in one of the staff dining rooms, rather than from eating rats.
The last cat employed at Post Office headquarters was Blackie, who died in 1984, which coincided with cloth sacks being replaced with rodent-resistant plastic sacks.
- #MuseumCats Day: "Industrial chaos in the Post Office cat world". The British Postal Museum & Archive, 30 July 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- QI: quite interesting facts about keeping in touch. Molly Oldfield and John Mitchinson, The Telegraph, 7 December 2009. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- Royal Mail 'secret' railway on track to reopen next year. Maev Kennedy, The Guardian, 4 February 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- "Tibs the Great is no more". Post Office Magazine, January 1965. Celebrating 500 Years of Royal Mail. royalmailgroup.com Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- "Cats (Maintenance Allowances)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 513. House of Commons. 18 March 1953. col. 4–5.
- A Brief History of Post Office Cats. Erin Blakemore, smithsonian.com, 9 February 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- Bethan Bell, "Bureaucats: The felines with official positions", BBC News, 28 January 2018.
- Tute, Warren, & Felix Fonteyn. (1953) Cockney Cats. London: Museum Press.