Movie star moggie: there’s never been a cat like Angel station’s Bob
‘He almost seemed human,’ says the Tribune reporter who discovered 'lifesaver' feline
19 June, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
James Bowen and Bob outside Angel station, photographed by Tribune reporter Peter Gruner
WITH uncanny foresight, Bob the cat’s fame was predicted when he first appeared in the pages of the Tribune 10 years ago.
Our now-retired colleague, reporter Peter Gruner, spotted Bob and his Big Issue-selling owner James Bowen outside Angel station and wrote that it was “only a matter of time before we get a Hollywood film”.
His story proved to be purr-fectly right.
But a legion of fans, built up by several books and a star-studded film, were left devastated this week when it was announced that Bob had died, aged 14.
It had all started in 2010 when Peter’s story in the Tribune about the best friends was seen by a literary agent living in Islington.
Readers were told how Mr Bowen, who lived off Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park, had fallen on hard times and he was eking out a living busking and selling the Big Issue before he discovered Bob as stray.
The pair formed an inseparable bond and travelled around the capital together with Bob often seen slunk across James’s shoulders.
“He’s a wonderful loyal friend,” James told the Tribune at the time. “While I’m selling the magazine he sits contentedly on my bag until lunchtime. Then I buy him a tin of cat food.”
The piece caught the eye of local literary agent Mary Pachnos, also the mastermind behind the Marley and Me book and film phenomenon.
The first book, A Street Cat Named Bob, sold millions of copies, becoming an international bestseller.
Tribune reporter Peter Gruner
And Mr Bowen was always keen to credit the Tribune with giving him a helping hand.
Speaking on GMTV’s Lorraine in 2014, he said: “When my agent approached me way back in 2010 and she said would you like to write the story of you and Bob because we had been featured in the Islington Tribune by a local journalist called Peter Gruner, I just thought it was another crazy person with a crazy idea.
“The next thing I know I am put in contact with an agent for working and here we are writing a book.”
Mr Bowen and Bob caused a stir when they turned up at the Islington Green Waterstones in 2012, yards from their old stomping ground outside Angel station, to sign books and queues stretched out the door and up the road.
Then the Hollywood execs came knocking in 2016 A Street Cat Named Bob was released in cinemas. It starred Luke Treadaway as James, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head and Rob Jarvis as Peter.
In a statement released by publishers Hodder on Monday, Mr Bowen said: “Bob saved my life. It’s as simple as that. He gave me so much more than companionship. With him at my side, I found a direction and purpose that I’d been missing.
“The success we achieved together through our books and films was miraculous.
“He’s met thousands of people, touched millions of lives. There’s never been a cat like him. And never will again.
“I feel like the light has gone out in my life. I will never forget him.”
Peter, reminiscing on his scoop and the cat that charmed the world, said: “Bob was a lovely old cat. He almost seemed human in the way he cared about James.
“As James played the guitar the cat would sit there for hours and just look at him. Then when he was finished he would jump up onto his neck and sit there.”
Asked what he would be the best way to honour Bob, Peter said: “A statue wouldn’t be a bad idea you know.”