Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Ain't gonna ride that Whiskery Train

Was there really a cat called 'Procol Harum'? asks Sam Cameron


The Life And Times Of The Four-Legged Harums
"If Procol Harum have been dogged by anything it isn't coincidence ... it's not coincidence that hurt us ... except our little cat turning out to mean 'beyond these things'." [Gary Brooker, preamble to Robert's Box, Redhill 30th Anniversary Concert]

The actual name of the cat giving rise to the band-name is still unknown. The usual cat reference is that the original breeder name, on the pedigree registration, was spelt 'Procul Harum' although Keith Reid, who registered legal ownership of the name, later claimed that it might have been spelt as 'Procul Harun'.

The identity of the owner is likewise obscure. Most frequently it has been claimed to be founding influence Guy Stevens but at other times the elusive McGreggor [roadie and / or drug dealer]. The All Music Guide biography muddies the water further by claiming that it was actually Keith Reid's cat. This is most unlikely, as I presume he has never ever owned a cat, being hostile to felines. It seems unlikely that Guy Stevens was the owner of the cat as I have been informed [thanks Claes] that former Mott singer Steve Hyams, a frequent visitor to Stevens' house, never saw any cats there.

At present (January 1999) living cats with the breeder name 'Procol Harum' as forebears in their recent ancestry are listed here. [If this link doesn't work for you, try here and then go to the second item on the menu, then The Devon Rex, then Veidals]. The spelling there is given with an 'o' before the 'l', in the first part of the name, rather than the 'u' which would be the 'correct' Latin for the word [meaning outside, beyond or at a distance] allegedly misheard, by Keith Reid, on the telephone.

All cats that can be tracked to the name Procol Harum, as the breeder registration of origin, seem to be of the Devon Rex breed. Hence, it is hard to substantiate the claim given in interviews, since 1967, that the cat from which the band took its name was a Burmese Blue. The picture, shown in the Mojo magazine 1995 history of the band, of the alleged original cat is neither a Burmese Blue or a Devon Rex. It is merely a domestic shorthaired tabby. Perhaps we have been hoaxed by somebody who just photographed the nearest cat to hand as a stand-in, though Mojo certainly used the same picture that featured on the Deram press-release about AWSoP in 1967.

The Devon Rex breed originated in the late 1950s from feral sources, in the UK, and it was originally unclear whether it was distinct from the Cornish Rex. It was first officially registered in 1960 and by 1967 it was recognised as a distinct breed from the Cornish Rex. A 1991 magazine history of the breed can be found here, which corrects the misconception that there was a problem of bald patches with the breed which was taken account of through subsequent selective breeding, when the true problem is apparently just one of poor quality coats.

There was a proliferation of cats from a Procol Harum cattery over the period 1980-1992 from a breeder called Sylvia Verhagen. Sylvia Verhagen is still breeding cats but appears to have ceased using the Procol Harum name after 1992. The search results, in the appendix at the foot of this page, concern her cats and their descendants, and are taken from here.

There also appears to be a cat called Procol Harum Silken Hero which does not show up on these lists. Further clicking on the search result page, when compiled using 'proc%' as the search string at the above site, gives some of the genealogy for each of the names shown there. It seems that these cats are the ancestors of the current cats of Procol Harum lineage. A transcription error seems to have arisen on the Veidals page as 'Procol Harum Nicknack Paddywack' is now rendered as 'Daddywack'.

By a curious coincidence one of the cats is given the name 'Tyrannosaurus Rex', the same as chosen by Marc Bolan, Keith Reid's friend of adolescence, for his band. At present I can find no record of any cats with any variant of spelling of the name Procol Harum, in their registration, being bred between 1967 and 1980; this has been confirmed (in personal e-mails) by Devon Rex pedigree researcher Ross Stevens. In the present state of knowledge it seems that no cats with the name Procol Harum, however spelt, have been born in the same year as an album has been released.

The thought occurs to me that the Sylvia Verhagen broods were based on a mis-remembering of the alleged 1967 registration in terms of the band's mis-spelt version of the original breeding name. That is, assuming that the 1967 breeding name was in fact the correct Latin, normally rendered as 'beyond these things' in music circles, and not the same mis-spelling registered by Keith Reid. This is all supposition, as there is still no evidence of there ever being any cat bred, with any spelling variant of the name, whatsoever back in 1967 after all!

To further cloud the picture there is currently a cattery, in New York (how near Keith Reid's house I do not know!), with a website, but this supplies a newer breed of cat called an American 'curl' which bears no relationship to the Devon Rex. It originated in 1981 in California and is so called because of its curled ears. The name was Proculharem Cattery until recently but the 'cute' curl pun was added when the website moved to its present address. For lovers of excess cuteness there is a treat in store at the above address in the form of moving ears graphics.

I do not know whether this particular name origin is :

All in all there seems to be a wondrous coincidence that the production of procol cats and Procol music albums have never coincided. Like a shooting star of unknown portent some new animal information has fallen into my hands. A dog called 'Paudell Procul Harem of Dunblair', bred by Mr & Mrs Hickinbottom, took fifth prize in Class 1666 PGD at the 1998 Leeds Show for Golden Retrievers. In symbolism the cat, like the moon, represents the feminine principle and the dog, like the sun, the masculine principle. So does this new breeding signify that Brooker and Reid will soon be at it like 'cat and dog' in a basement room from which new compositions will arise?

Although I have been owned by cats since 1967, I have never bought a pedigree one and hence have no specialist knowledge to help clear up the above. I am sorry if the above is confusing and ultimately inconclusive, but I can't make it much more clear. It is not easy to get further clarification as the cat owners' documents do not go back very far in the breeding history. Hence, their internet discussion groups are full of lineage-seeking threads. I have written to various people who seem to be knowledgeable, in these circles, explaining the nature of my inquiry and have been grateful to receive assistance and enlightenment from Devon Rex pedigree historian Ross Taylor.

None of the commercial breeders chose to reply to me.

For anyone who is still with me I suppose a recap might be helpful. The existing evidence seems to show that :


Appendix: the names of Procol cats, all true, not one of them invented in a fit of British whimsy. Click on the cat name to view the pedigree or go straight to the search-engine where you can use wild-cards (eg '%proc%') to search fields for 'sire' and 'dam' too..

Procol Harum
Bennie Babbelaar

Procol Harum
Beunhaasje

Procol Harum
Bizarro

Procol Harum
Cincherinchee

Procol Harum
Clandestientje

Procol Harum
Drunken Sailor

Procol Harum
Gourmandia

Procol Harum
Illegaaltje

Procol Harum
Keesje Kwekkebek

Procol Harum
Kleptomania

Procol Harum
Koosje Kletsmajoo

Procol Harum
Ma Yonaise van Plezier

Procol Harum
Mac Aroni

Procol Harum
Maple Leaf

Procol Harum
Mathilde

Procol Harum
Michelin ZX

Procol Harum
Mon Chipolata

Procol Harum
Nicknack Paddywack

Procol Harum
Obladi

Procol Harum
Patozipantlei

Procol Harum
Pirelli

Procol Harum
Pitzilopotchli

Procol Harum
Pucicattipetli

Procol Harum
Quickstep

Procol Harum
Rexpecting Link

Procol Harum
Rumboon

Procol Harum
Space Cowboy

Procol Harum
Turks Fruit

Procol Harum Obladi , which would seem to hint at a Procol / Beatle link, turns out to be bafflingly unhelpful. Something's going on here, but we don't know what it is.


Thanks to Sam Cameron for sending this astonishing stuff to BtP. More Procol writings from Sam at BtP

The Name of the Cat 


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