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K is for… Kaspar the Cat

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A topiary Kaspar the cat, outside the Savoy Hotel, London

Kaspar is the virtual resident cat at the Savoy Hotel in London. His fascinating story began in 1898, when South African  diamond magnate Woolf Joel held a dinner party for 14 guests at the Savoy. One guest failed to turn up, reducing the numbers to 13, and some superstitious attendee predicted that death would befall the first person to leave the table. Joel scoffed at the idea and chose to leave first; just weeks later he was shot dead in Johannesburg.

Shocked by the news, the hotel thereafter invited staff to join any tables of 13 guests. This practice continued until in 1927 despite being unpopular with many guests as they felt unable to discuss private matters freely.  A happier solution was eventually found in the form of a 2 foot-tall lucky black cat, Kaspar, sculpted by British architect Basil Ionides.

Churchill hosted a political dining club The Other Club, at the Savoy from 1911.  He became very fond of Kaspar, to the extent that he insisted he should attend every meeting of The Other Club, and so Kaspar attended all of the fortnightly meetings from 1927.  Notably, when, during World War 2, Kaspar was catnapped by some mischievous Royal Air Force personnel and flown to Singapore, it was Churchill himself who demanded the cat’s immediate return!

As part of the recent massive renovation of the hotel, they commissioned South African artist Jonty Hurwitz, to create a new Kaspar sculpture, which now graces the new art deco restaurant, Kaspar’s Seafood Bar, This white bronze and chrome anamorphic sculpture might not be to everyone’s taste, but the traditional style topiary still stands at the entrance to the driveway.

Linked to Alphabe Thursday and ABCW

aDSC_0636_ppCopyright Debbie Smyth

30 replies »

  1. I had heard of people who would refuse to sit 13 round a dinner table but I am not sure I knew it came from this tale at The Savoy. However knowing how superstitious some people can be I can totally see how this came about. Interestingly my grandparents were married in the Chapel of the Savoy Hotel in the 20’s. I wonder if they had to have a member of staff at their wedding breakfast table?
    Thank you so much for adding this story to #AnimalTales – you always have such interesting tales to tell 🙂

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