Artist accuses writer of stealing cat story idea from Facebook

Tobermory Cat, as featured on Facebook.
Tobermory Cat, as featured on Facebook.
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THE claws are out and clearly sharpened in a vicious cat-fight over a fictional feline – Tobermory Cat.

Isle of Mull artist Angus Stewart has launched a war of words against Scottish children’s book author and illustrator Debi Gliori and her publishers.

Last year, he launched a Facebook page which follows the trials and tribulations of a stray ginger cat on the Isle of Mull.

He named it Tobermory Cat and posted fictional tales online about the well-known feline which wanders the streets of the picturesque town.

But now a book is to be published later this year, called Tobermory Cat. It is being written and illustrated by Miss Gliori and published by Edinburgh-based firm Birlinn.

Mr Stewart claims the book is a “total rip-off” of his idea.

However, Birlinn managing director Hugh Andrew claims he came up with the storyline during one of his regular visits to Mull and spotted the “characteristic” ginger cat. He then commissioned Miss Gliori, famed for numerous books for children, including the popular Mr Bear and Pure Dead series.

Mr Stewart’s Facebook page, called Tobermory Cat, is full of support for his campaign to have Berlinn change its mind about publishing under the same name.

He said: “I feel a total injustice. My problem is it strays into areas of creativity and intellectual property issues. The ginger, along with other cats, wanders about the streets and I came up with the idea of Tobermory Cat. He is a fictional character.”

The artist, who runs a gallery on the island, said: “I believe she is taking my idea and title. There are half a million cats in Scotland and lots of towns – so their claim to have come up with the same idea and title independently of my existing work seems unlikely.

“Their action means I will have no rights over my creative property, how it is used and deprives me of the right to earn an income from it in the future.

“I have not the means to challenge them in court.”

But the publishers claim they have every right to publish the book, and threatened to seek legal advice over Mr Stewart’s “defamatory comments”.

Mr Andrew said: “The cat is not owned by anybody and is known locally as Tobermory Cat. This was before we came on the scene and before Mr Stewart’s Facebook page. I was not aware of his page when I came up with the idea. Mr Stewart has said he had no intentions of doing a children’s book so there is no commercial exploitation.”

Mr Andrew, who said he was speaking on behalf of Miss Gliori, added: “We have been subjected to a growing campaign on Facebook with insinuations and derogatory remarks.”