PROMINENT EARLY CAT FANCIERS- MRS MCLAREN MORRISON
Lord Pirbright (Henry Baron Pirbright de Worms) was an author, barrister and a member of Queen Victoria's Privy Council. He married Franziska von Todesco and the couple had three daughters: Alice Henriette Antoinette de Worms b. 1865, Dora Sophie de Worms b. 1869 and Constance Valerie de Worms 1875-1963. Henry de Worms came from a Jewish family and that he was a prominent worker in the Jewish community and a president of the Anglo-Jewish Association.
Alice Henriette Antoinette de Worms married her first husband, John Henry Boyer Warner (b 1849), Quorn Hall, Leicestershire (a private secretary to Sir James Fergusson, Australia, and later Master of the Quorn Hunt) in April 1886. The lavish ceremony was reported in "The Queen, The Lady's Newspaper," on May 1st, 1886. Despite the apparently happy occasion, the marriage had consequences: the “Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement” tells us “In 1886, on the marriage of [Henry Pribright's] daughter Alice to John Henry Boyer Warner of Quorn Hall, Leicestershire, a union contrary to Jewish observance, [Henry Pirbright] severed his connection with the Jewish community.” The couple lived at Kepwick Hall, where John H.B. Warner died in April 1891 aged 42. There is a monument to him inscribed "He was a great and intellectual traveller throughout the world all his life: a popular candidate for parliament, a true and noble man."
Alice married her second husband, David McLaren Morrison (1849-1924) in 1892, becoming Mrs McLaren Morrison, the name familiar to cat and dog fanciers. He was 20 years her senior. Their daughter, Theodora “Topsy” McLaren-Morrison was born in 1900. The couple spent a lot of time in India tending to David McLaren Morrison’s business. "The Colonies & India" listed the couple's frequent to-ing and fro-ing between England and tells us that David McLaren Morrison, who was in the diplomatic service, had an address at Queen Anne's mansions, London, S.W. (The Colonies & India, 19th June, 1897, pg. 20), used when conducting business at Westminster. Alice imported numerous dogs, and some cats, from that region of the world. She is best known for her role in the dog fancy, but in later life, after her husband’s death, she became a repeated animal hoarder.
MRS MCLAREN MORRISON AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE CAT SHOW (The Cornish Telegraph, 26th October 1893) Baron Henry de Worms has no son, but has three daughters. The eldest, Mrs. David McLaren-Morrison, was formerly the wife of Mr. J. H. B. Warner, who left her the life use of Kepwich [sic] Park, a magnificent place near Northallerton, filled with curios from all parts the world which were collected by the late Mr. Warner. Mr. David McLaren-Morrison is a well known merchant in Calcutta. His wife is a great cat and dog fancier. She has at Kepwich Park a wonderful collection of these animals, and shows no fewer than twenty-four cats at the present Crystal Palace Cat Show. A prize of a cats-eye ring was presented by her to the owner of the cat which the judges considered the prize cat the Palace Show,
From "Dog Shows And Doggy People", by Charles H. Lane: “If any-one had any doubts about this lady being a keen and enthusiastic fancier and lover of animals, they would be dispelled by the fact that, although her kennels are situated at Kepwick Park, far from a railway station, in the neighbourhood of the Yorkshire Moors, near Thirsk, she has been represented, even during her frequent visits to India with her husband, who has held an appointment there, at many of the shows in other parts of England. Mrs. Morrison has not confined her attention to dogs alone, but has for many years kept a considerable number of both longhaired and short-haired cats, with which she has won numerous prizes at the best shows at the Crystal Palace and other places. I think she has chiefly kept Blues and Whites in the former, and Tortoiseshells, Tortoiseshell and Whites, Blacks, and Pure Whites in the latter, and she has been one of the most spirited buyers at the shows, frequently claiming some of the high-class specimens which took her fancy.”
An article in “The Sketch” of June 10th, 1896 gives this description of her: “The gentle mistress of this fair and most interesting domain, the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison herself, is one of the most attractive and fascinating women on the day – one who adds to great personal beauty all the charms of mental culture and much travel. She has made Kepwick Park a veritable House Beautiful with the rare, curious and art treasures collected with her perfect taste in the many lands she has visited and it is as interesting and enjoyable to a virtuoso as it is to an animal lover.” Another comment in that piece, “The numberless kittens sporting all day long,” perhaps hints at her later animal hoarding. She collected rare cats in the same way she collected foreign curios. From a cat fancier viewpoint, it is a pity she didn’t breed those rarities; the Chinese cats were early Black Oriental Shorthairs and the Japanese cats were white “tailless” cats that would have been a type of Japanese Bobtail. She was also in a position to save the Mexican Hairless had she bred Jesuit and back-crossed the kittens.
In Concerning Cats, Helen Winslow describes her thus: “among the most devoted of Pussy's English admirers is the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, who is the happy possessor of some of the most perfect dogs and cats that have graced the bench. She lives at Kepwick Park, in her stately home in Yorkshire—a lovely spot, commanding a delightful view of picturesque Westmoreland on one side and on the other three surrounded and sheltered by hills and moors. Some of her pets go with her, however, to her flat in Queen Anne's Mansions, and even to her residence in Calcutta [. . .] the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison herself, is one of the most attractive and fascinating women of the day — one who adds to great personal beauty all the charm of mental culture and much travel. She has made Kepwick Park a veritable House Beautiful with the rare curios and art treasures collected with her perfect taste in the many lands she has visited, and it is as interesting and enjoyable to a virtuoso as it is to an animal lover. “
She seems to have been particularly interested in collecting unusual and previously unknown varieties. She imported or otherwise acquired shorthaired cats described as “black Chinese” and “white Japanese,” neither of which were perpetuated at the time, and “Bhuteer [Bhutanese] Terriers,” an Indian breed. She also acquired the surviving Mexican Hairless Cat, Nellie, which she exhibited under the name “Jesuit.” Mrs Mclaren Morrison could have saved that breed by breeding Nellie to a shorthair cat and backcrossing a male kitten back to Nellie/Jesuit - such "scientific" methods were already used in improving farm livestock. Her "collecting” of animals was to have serious repercussions in her later life.
According to The New Zealand Herald, April 20, 1901 (Fashions in Dogs): “The Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, Lord Pirbright's handsome daughter [. . .] her frequent trips to India, which are necessitated by her husband's business there, prove a drawback to her showing frequently in England. “ The couple had a daughter, Theodora “Topsy” McLaren-Morrison (b 1900). At the age of 23 Theodora married the 71 year old lifelong bachelor Herbert Joseph Weld (b 1852). Theodora is described as “a lively character.” In December 1928, after just 5 years of marriage, Theodora fell suddenly ill, dying from peritonitis on Christmas Eve.
Even before the death of her husband and her daughter, Mrs. MacLaren Morrison had begun hoarding animals. The Times, 18th June 1920 reports her out-of-control menagerie in London. “A LADY’S PRIVATE ‘ZOO.’ 21 DOGS, 19 CATS, 29 BIRDS, AND A LEMUR. At the Marylebone Police Court yesterday, before Mr. d’Eyncourt, the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, president of the Japanese Chin Club and a member of the Ladies Kennel Club, residing at Westboume-gardens, W., was summoned by the Paddington Borough Council for permitting a nuisance in improperly keeping dogs and birds and failing to comply with a notice to remove the animals and cleanse the premises. Mr. E. .T. Polten. the chief sanitary inspector for Paddington, said that when he visited Mrs. Morrison’s house on May 5 he found animals and birds in every room except the front dining room and two bed rooms. There were 10 dogs, 14 cats and kittens, 17 birds, and a lemur. On June 1 he found six more dogs and four puppies, another cat, three more kittens, and 11 more birds. On a third visit he discovered another dog, cat, and a bird. The animals and birds were kept dean, but the smell was very bad.Dr. R. O. Dudfield, the Medical Officer of Health, stated that the house reeked and stank and the smell nauseated him. Asked if he objected to dogs being kept in a London house, he replied, ‘No, not in reasonable numbers; but 50 animals kept in an ordinary dwelling house occupied by human beings is far too many.’ The Hon. Mrs, Morrison, giving evidence, said that she herself cleaned every cage every day and kept a kennel woman to groom the dogs and keep them in perfect condition. When she took the house three years ago it was infested with mice, that was why she kept the cats. The dogs, she explained, were pedigree animals; several of the cats had won prizes; the birds, too, were prize birds and very old pets. She had brought some of them from India. Mr d’Eyncourt ordered Mrs. Morrison to abate the nuisance within 14 days and to pay three guineas costs.“
At this time, she was still exhibiting dogs with the Ladies Kennel Association. Her husband was still alive at this time, but evidently not living under the same roof. Perhaps they were estranged from each other.
The Indianapolis Star, Saturday, March 16, 1935 (11 years after her husband’s death) tells us: “HUNDREDS OF PETS KEPT IN HOME BY DAUGHTER OF PEER BROMLEY, Kent, England, March 15. UP) The story of a "surprising menagerie," including dogs "as bald as billiard balls," which was kept in a mansion by the daughter of a peer, was disclosed today In Police Court. Mrs. Alice McLaren Morrison, elderly daughter of the late Baron Pirbright, was convicted on a summons alleging she caused unnecessary suffering to forty-eight dogs, seventeen monkeys, twenty-seven cats and 100 birds and was fined £IO (about $50) and costs. The prosecutor for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which brought the case, said Inspectors found the animals, including goats, guinea pigs and rabbits, living in bedrooms of Mrs. Morrison's house. “ The house in question was Kemnel Warren, Chislehurst, Kent.
The Salt Lake Tribune of the same date reported: ANIMALS DWELL IN LONDON MANSION. .(By Tribune Lease Wire) , LONDON, March 15 - Forty eight dogs, 27 cats, hundreds of birds, 17 monkeys, a goat, numerous- guinea pigs and rabbits and a few other animals have occupied the bedrooms and living-rooms of a fine home in Kent. Their owner, Mrs. Alice McLaren Morrison, daughter of the late Baron Pirbright, was fined $50 in court today at Bromley Kent, on a charge of cruelty to animals.”
STRANGE MENAGERIE OF PEER'S DAUGHTER - Western Daily Press - Saturday 16 March 1935 - "Dogs, Cats and Monkeys in Rooms. The Hon. Mrs Alice Mclaren Morrison, of Chislehurst, Kent, was fined £10 with five guineas costs at Bromley yesterday for causing unnecessary suffering to 48 dogs, 27 cats, 17 monkeys and 100 birds by neglecting to provide them with proper care and attention. Mr Gordon Jones (prosecuting on behalf the R.S.P.C A.) said he was not suggesting that she was a woman who had cruel instincts or was deliberately cruel, but she was a woman of extraordinary views regarding the treatment of animals and had very fixed self opinion. She had deliberately flouted the attempts of the R.S.PC.A. to advise her in the way these animals should kept. On January 4 a visit was paid to the house by inspectors of the Society in consequence of complaints made by a kennel maid employed at the house. in various rooms of the house they found 50 dogs, 27 cats, 100 foreign birds. 17 monkeys, a goat, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits and other animals.
"This is a somewhat surprising menagerie find in a private house," continued Mr Jones. " The animals were occupying bedrooms and living rooms and were apparently in a grossly neglected condition. Some the dogs were almost hairless and had inflamed patcheson their body. The cats appeared to be thoroughly miserable and the same applied to the monkey The doors and windows of the rooms were closed and some hermetically sealed. Coal and electric fires were kept lighted night and day, and the atmosphere of the house was almost unbearable. The stench was abominable and almost indescribable. There was no suggestion of underfeeding, in fact many the animals were overfed, and in one case a roast chicken was provided for some of the cats. The condition under which the animals were kept were unnatural and not conducive to good health. "
Chief Inspector Finn, of the R.S.PC.A., said the majority of the dogs were Japanese Spaniels, and there were a few Pekingese. In a statement to him, Mrs Morrison said: "The great trouble is, I cannot get these rooms warm enough. These animals are all from warm climates and if they went out at this time of the year it would kill them.” Mrs Morrison, giving evidence, said she had 40 years' experience with animals, was the original exhibitor in this country of Japanese Spaniels, and was club judge. She founded the Ladies' Kennel Association, and had been working with the Dumb Friends League. She denied that conditions were such described by the prosecution and said the majority of the animals were kept healthy. She agreed that some of the rooms were dirty, but said that was because she had been unable to obtain assistance.2
RELUCTANT DECISION TO DISMISS CASE- Derby Daily Telegraph, 9 November 1938 – “ALLEGED NEGLECT OF DOGS. The discovery of eight dogs and two monkeys in an "indescribable state of filth" was alleged at Hailsham, Sussex, to-day, when the Hon. Alice McLaren Morrison, of Aberdare-gardens, London, N.W., and Stanley Hattersley, alleged to be accused. Mrs. Morrison was summoned as the owner of the dogs for permitting them to be caused unnecessary suffering by omitting to provide necessary carw and attention, and Hattersley was accused of causing unnecessary suffering to the animals. There were also summonses against Mrs. Morrison alleging that she kept dogs without licences.
The summonses with regard to cruelty against both Mrs. Morrison and Hattersley were dismissed. The chairman said that the magistrates had reluctantly come to the conclusion to dismiss them, as a deplorable state of affairs had been revealed. Mrs. Morrison was fined £20 on the summonses for having unlicensed dogs. Inspector Edward Winn, of the R.S.P.C.A., spoke of a visit to the Old Brewhouse, Hurstmonceaux, Sussex, and said that he found four Japanese spaniels in a very nervous condition. One was dirty and unbalanced, and was going round in circles.
In another room a spaniel bitch was almost hairless. When taken out of a tea chest, it reeled and fell about like a drunken person. He found in another room a brown Pekingese poor condition, and a black and white Japanese dog with skin disease and bad eyes. In the garden were 31 dogs "in stables, runs, pens and all sorts of places.” The dogs' condition was fair and good. On a table in a separate room were two cages with a monkey each. They were in good condition, but there was filth in the cages, and there was no room for the monkeys to exercise with their legs and arms outstretched.
Inspector Winn said that Hattersley stated that he took no responsibility apart from finding food. Miss Margaret Doyle said that she was employed to look after the animals. Hattersley had had a serious operation, and she had to manage the dogs herself. She crould not do this adequately, and she wrote to Mrs. Morrison. Inspector Charles Boyle, of the R.S.P.C.A., London, said that Mrs. Morrison stated that Mr. Hattersley had acted as her agent for some time, and she had employed Miss Doyle for about 11 years. “I have not been down to see the dogs lately, because I have been looking after the dogs in London and have not been well lam old lady now," she was alleged to have added.”
When she moved from London to Chislehurst, Kent. Her retinue included more than 100 pets (according to the Brownsville Herald, Feb 20, 1944), including seven dogs, 30 cats, 50 birds, several monkeys, and “a large number of pet mice which had to be trapped on moving day.”
Thirteen years later, aged 83, she was again hoarding animals, as we can read in the Reuters report published in The Singapore Free Press of 5 May, 1948: “MENAGERIE IN 20-ROOMED HOUSE. London, Monday. Because she kept a menagerie" in her 20-roomed house, in which mice ran freely among cats and fed in the birds' cages, the Hon. Mrs. A. McLaren Morrison, 83-year-old daughter of the late Baron Pirbright, was summoned In a London police court today. Stated to be the possessor of 25 birds, 16 cats, eight dogs and 13 guinea pigs, Mrs. McLaren Morrison was charged under a Public Health Act ‘for keeping animals and birds in such state as to cause serious infestation of mice and nuisance from flies.’" An Inspector of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Quoted to the court Mrs. Morrison’s repeated statement: ‘If you take my animals away. I will commit suicide.’ The court ordered Mrs Morrison to remove the causes of complaint within 14 days.”
The Associate Press version (Ottowa Journal and others) read: “Ordered to Dispose Of Domestic Menagerie. LONDON, May 4. - (AP) - A court today gave Hon. Mrs. A. McLaren Morrison, daughter of the late Baron Pirbright, 14 days to dispose of a domestic menagerie including 62 birds and animals. Investigators said that the 83-year-old woman lives alone in three of her dwelling's 20 rooms. The other 17 contain: Eight dogs, 16 cats, 25 birds, 13 hamsters (cousin to the guinea pig) and so many friendly mice that it is ‘difficult to distinguish between the so-called pets and the mice.’ Neighbors complained the menagerie violated the Public Health Act.”