Listen: Gillian Dooley in Conversation with Stephen O’Doherty. Photo credit: NSW State Library.
Before internet cats, before cat memes there was a cat without peer. He was a little black and white ship’s cat called Trim.
Born on board ship, Trim went on to become the funny, fearless and constant companion of Matthew Flinders.
Flinders, a captain in the British Royal Navy is famous for mapping Australia’s coastline.
That enormous task took form 1801 until 1803 and Trim went the entire way with him.
Trim was born at sea in 1799 on a ship called Reliance somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
Cats were important on ships in those days as they kept rats away from the sailors provisions and cargo.
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Flinders adopted Trim and the cat became the navigator’s adored and faithful feline friend.
In 1801 Trim and Flinders began the circumnavigation of Australia.
In 1803, Trim embarked on his last voyage with Matthew Flinders aboard the ship Cumberland.
Most affectionate of friends
On their way back to England their ship the Cumberland was shipwrecked on a coral reef in the Indian Ocean. Matthew Flinders and Trim were both rescued, but became imprisoned on the French island of Mauritius.
Trim went missing after two weeks on the island.
Most faithful of servants
Finders was heartbroken and advertised for the lost cat, offering a large reward, but Trim was never found.
Trim is often depicted alongside Flinders in statues and paintings.
At The NSW State Library Flinders statue is on a plinth and Trim’s likeness is on a nearby sunny window ledge, poised for action.
The best of creatures
Matthew Flinders wrote in memory of Trim describing him as “The best and most illustrious of his race. The most affectionate of friends”
His praise continued for Trim as the “Most faithful of servants, and best of creatures.”
The tribute concludes by saying Trim “Was ever the delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers.”
Most illustrious of his race
Each year Flinders University in Adelaide celebrates Flinders Day.
Dr Gillian Dooley is a humanities researcher at Flinders University who has researched Flinders’ tribute to Trim and other materials stored at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. She is working on a new edition of Flinders’ ‘Biographical Tribute to the Memory of Trim’ and spoke about it to Open House.