The curious disappearance of the Old Time Irish marmalade cat

Family Fortunes: Breakfast was never the same after the moggie went away

 

I was one of those kids who loved porridge. I liked when it congealed in a solid lump. It meant I could build a moat around the edges with cold milk. Near where I grew up in Dublin was a farm that formed part of an estate called Airfield. Two sisters ran it and they had prize-winning jersey cows. When the jersey milk bottle arrived it had a green foil cap and if I was very careful, and was the first to open it, the moat that morning would be pure cream.

Porridge was followed by toast. It was the 1970s and we were still eating real butter and coarse cut marmalade. I did everything to avoid getting the peel on the knife. This required a good bit of fishing around to extract the golden jelly prize. I was mesmerised by the cat on the label of the Old Time Irish marmalade jar. I would stare at the label so hard that I could almost feel the heat from the fire.

And then one day it all changed. I had two school uniform jumpers and that morning I had to wear the 100 per cent wool one which was really itchy. There was no jersey milk and then I spotted the jar of marmalade. I stared, blinked, covered my eyes with my hands and peeked through my fingers. The cat was gone. I picked up the jar and checked every inch of the label. There was no escaping the reality that my marmalade cat had left me. Eventually I stopped looking and started reading the back of cereal boxes. Breakfast was never the same.

A few days ago, I found a post online from a man who had worked for Lamb Brothers Dublin who made the Old Time Irish coarse-cut marmalade. Turns out the cat was removed from the label when the marmalade was shipped to the US and, as the labels were printed by the same printer, it was removed for the Irish market labels as well. I thought I was alone in missing the cat but a national campaign was launched to “Bring back the cat.” It took six months to return it to the label but six months is a long time in the life of a 10 year old and I had already moved on to Little Chip marmalade with no peel.

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