OBITUARY:  Mrs Doreen Tovey

President of the Siamese Cat Club

Died: 13th January 2008

Doreen was born in Bristol on 24th October 1918. At this time a flu epidemic was raging and her mother unfortunately died from this leaving her two week old daughter to be brought up by her Grandmother, as her father, being an engineer, was away from home for long periods of time.

It was this upbringing that introduced Doreen to a variety of pets, as Grandmother was an inveterate rescuer of anything in need.

Together with her Aunt Louisa they shared a house with cats, dogs and an owl called Gladstone whose perch on the bathroom door dictated that the use of this room was a swift one as no heat could be kept inside with the continually open door.

Doreen went to Grammar School and passed her matric (as it was called then), she would have loved to go to university but knew her grandmother could never have afforded it.

After a couple of boring jobs she joined Imperial Tobacco and was with them for many years. Starting as a typist, then a secretary and, when they discovered that she could write, in their public relations department.

It was here that she met Rene, who was in the Accountants Department. They met on the staircase one day and six months later Rene went to war in the Royal Navy.

Rene came home on leave and they were married in Bristol by special licence on a Monday afternoon and spent a two-day honeymoon on a farm and Rene went back to war.

She spent most of the time Rene was away with her Aunt Louisa who made life quite fun for Doreen after the austerity of her Victorian grandmother, who loved her dearly but had set ideas how a young lady should be brought up.

Two and a half years later Rene was on his way home. His convoy coming via the Cape to avoid the still roaming enemy submarines, the war was still on and he was sent to London where Doreen was transferred to be with him. He was then posted to a shore station in the West Country and Doreen and Rene set about to find their dream cottage. They rented a very dilapidated ex public house with an earth closet, the dream cottage put on hold, both back working in Bristol for their old firm, Doreen now as their statistical librarian, writing reports that were read by the Board. A job normally only considered for a man.

After a couple of further moves, a Georgian relic and a happy period in a farm, they found the perfect place at Rowberrow, Somerset. They had also found a baby squirrel, which had fallen from its drey and Rene refused to climb the thirty feet necessary to return the little bedraggled mite to its nest. So Blondin became part of the Tovey family and unwittingly the reason Doreen and Rene got their first Siamese cat, Sugieh.

Blondin was a hoarder and  the cottage soon became infested with mice looking for Blondin’s nuts and pieces of bread that he had stuffed under cushions and carpets for his rainy day. Whilst the mice had plenty to eat they did not cause too many problems but when Blondin caught a chill and died, their supply died too and they took to eating anything and everything. Doreen decided to get a cat and having seen a neighbour’s Siamese out for a stroll one day on a rather fetching collar and lead, decided that a Siamese would be the answer, she could also have a litter and maybe raise the Tovey finances.

Sugieh produced a litter of four kittens. Doreen decided that one’s fortune was not going to be made that way and when Sugeih died whilst being spayed (a far less straightforward procedure in the mid 1950s than it is today), decided to keep a sealpointed boy called Solomon and his bluepointed sister Sheba.

The antics of these kittens, a donkey called Annabel and the following Siamese inmates of The White Cottage were to bring Doreen world wide recognition of her books and writings, starting with ‘Cats In The Belfry’ published in 1957. The Canadian Government sponsored her and Rene on a trip to the Rockies to write about the Canadian Wildlife, with special focus on Grizzly bears. This trip can be read about in ‘The Coming of Saska’. When they finally saw their first Grizzly they discovered they had locked themselves out of their motor home. But Doreen and Rene survived to recount their adventures.

After Rene’s death Doreen continued to write and her first book after his death was ‘Waiting in the Wings’ in which she describes that she still felt his presence and that he was guiding her in what she did.

Her writing stopped with the onset of arthritis and because so many of the people the she had based her characters on were no longer in the valley.

She was President of the Siamese Cat Club,  a position she was very proud to hold  and attended as many of the Club’s shows as she could was also President of the RSPCA for North Somerset.

Thanks to Doreen, people the World over were introduced to some of the most hilarious writing from a sweet lady who loved her animals and who wanted nothing more than to live out her life in her picturesque cottage with her two cats.

She loved her two Siamese cats and I could not imagine a time when she may have to live without them, as life for Doreen without them wouldn’t be life. 

Pauline Furber


Doreen’s funeral service will be held on Thursday, 31st January 2008 at Rowberrow Church, Rowberrow, Somerset at 12 Noon.

Following the funeral, there will be a private cremation at Weston-Super-Mare Crematorium.

Mourners are welcome to attend the wake afterwards at the Swan Inn, Rowberrow.

No flowers have been requested, but people are invited to make a donation to the

Royal National Lifeboat Institution.For further details, please contact Arthur Davey Funeral Directors on: 01275 852307