We all know that Captain Matthew Flinders mapped the coast of South Australia and encountered Nicolas Baudin off the mouth of the River Murray and then they moored together in what was consequently named Encounter Bay. They compared maps and findings even though their home countries were at war, and then went on their ways. Thanks to their findings, pioneers and settlers then migrated to South Australia and the colony was born.
But did you know that a very special companion of Matthew Flinders was also on board and may have been a part of their conversations? His name was Trim!!
And he was no ordinary cat. He was an extraordinary crew member, fond of sailing the seas. According to Flinders, Trim was born on the ship “Reliance” somewhere on the Indian ocean in 1799.
It was common practice in that day for ships to have cats on board to keep the mice and rats to a minimum. If these rodents were not kept under control, they could cause a lot of damage both to the ship’s food, but also to the stored supplies and canvas, rope, cloth, paper etc. not to mention spreading disease to the crew. Trim was born to this task and sailed with Flinders for four years.
Trim was a cat with exceptional obedience. He was an asset to the crew members and never failed to obey commands. He was able to live happily in a confined space, provided he had food and shelter and a loving environment, which there was never a lack of for Trim from any of the crew and especially from Matthew Flinders.
Flinders could see that Trim was a gentle and kindhearted kitten and called him Trim after a favourite cat his uncle had owned. Trim grew up to be Matthew Flinders most adored and faithful friend.
In 1801 when Flinders began his circumnavigation of Australia Trim was at his side.
Trim was said to be a cheeky cat, who would join the captain at his table and try to swipe food off his fork, which I’m sure Flinders would have encouraged!
Trim was more than just a crew member to Matthew Flinders. He was a beloved companion, who was there in times of need and through thick and thin. Flinders mentions in letters to his wife, of how precious Trim was to him and that he often slept on his bed at night. Trim had many adventures on his voyages pushing his nine lives to the limit. There is one recorded event where he fell overboard but managed to swim to the boat and climb up the anchor rope to safety.
In 1804, Flinders had stopped at the French island of Mauritius to refresh supplies on their voyage home. Unfortunately, because England and France were still at war they were jailed as prisoners of war. There, according to Flinders, Trim was taken by the natives of the island and eaten. Sadly, Trim’s adventurous career came to an end.
Flinders was devasted and wrote:
“…Thus perished my faithful intelligent Trim! The sporting, affectionate and useful companion of many voyages during our four years. Never my Trim to take thee all in all, shall I see thy like again, but never wilt thou cease to be regretted by all who had the pleasure of knowing thee!” ….
Trim continues to live on in monuments that have been erected in his memory and the books that have been written about him including the one written by Matthew Flinders.
If you would like to know more about this amazing cat and his adventures, you can:
- Google Matthew Flinders and his Cat
- or find the books, “Trim, being the true story of a brave seafaring cat” by Matthew Flinders, “A cat called Trim’ by Corinne Fenton and “Matthew Flinders Cat” by Bryce Courtenay.
If you would like to see Trim and learn more, then you must visit The National Trust Museum at Victor Harbor and see the statue and display, that we have on show.