FOR the people of St Andrews, he is a shaggy and affable fixture of the seaside town, roaming from one household to the next in the assurance that a saucer of milk or crunchy treat lies in store whenever he blinks his big green eyes.
Now, the four-legged form of Hamish McHamish, the tomcat who has entered modern folklore, is to be commemorated with a life-size bronze.
The ginger and white feline is to follow in the pawprints of Greyfriars Bobby by having a statue erected in his honour, even though Hamish is still very much alive and kicking.
The cat has prowled St Andrews winding streets for the past 14 years after walking out from the home of his owner, Marianne Baird, at the age of one, never to return.
Ms Baird, a retired BBC producer, ensures Hamish has a yearly check-up with a vet, but inbetween times, he enjoys a nomadic existence as the town’s collective pet, often found in flats, shops, restaurants and university buildings, all places where he is guaranteed a pet and a bite to eat.
In honour of the cat, townsfolk clubbed together to raise £5,000 for the statue, and the project has now been given the go ahead by councillors in Fife. The bronze will be created by Kilmany-based artist David Annand and given pride of place upon a plinth in the town centre.
Flora Selwyn, editor of the St Andrews in Focus magazine, came up with the idea of immortalising the popular cat, launching the successful fundraising drive earlier this year.
After learning that the plans had been backed by Fife Council, she said: “It is lovely that we will have a rival to Greyfriars Bobby, it will be one-up for St Andrews. It has been a very popular idea. Hamish is a wonderful animal.
“He is so clued up. When you watch him cross the road he waits for the lights to change. The legend is if you don’t let him into your home and feed him you will have bad luck.”
Hamish has his own Facebook and Twitter accounts where thousands of his fans follow his every move. Documenting his travels, however, is not easy. He has been known to venture far and wide across the town, even curling up in the lecture halls of the University of St Andrews for a discreet nap.
Hamish is known to be especially fond of Sue Ryder charity shop, where staff have a set aside a chair for him whenever he seeks rest during his daily travels.
Although the generosity of spirit in St Andrews means he is guaranteed a feed by all, it is reputed that the town’s vibrant student population are among Hamish’ most ardent fans. During term time, he is said to be plump, but loses weight over summer when the undergraduates leave.
His fame spread when a book - Hamish McHamish, Cool Cat About Town by Susan McMullan - was published last year. Ever since, tourists lucky enough to spot him on his travels queue to take his photograph.
Mr Annand’s sculpture of Hamish will now be cast in bronze and Ms Selwyn hopes to have it in place before Christmas, throwing - what else - a cat-themed party to celebrate the occasion
The sculpture, will sit atop a stone plinth on, and is envisaged as being similar to that of Greyfriars Bobby, the Edinburgh dog reputed to have sat by his owner’s grave daily for 14 years.
The Skye terrier was not commemorated until a year after his death in 1872, but hopefully Hamish will still be around to join the celebrations in his honour.
As Ms Selwyn points out, he does not belong to the town, the town belongs to him. “Our statue is a way of saying thank you to Hamish for being so purrfectly adorable and to celebrate him and the joy he brings us,” she added.