Weekly Local Biography

  Edward Rose

Most people will never have 108 cats in their entire lifetime. Edward Rose is a man who has had 108 cats at one time! Anyone like that has to be interesting, and he is.

Edward (not Eddie, Ted or Ed) was born in Philadelphia in the US, the elder son of two doctors of medicine. When he finished his high school he felt that he should go into the career of medicine, like his parents, though he denies that there was any pressure to follow in the family footsteps. Initially he had toyed with the idea of electrical engineering, but medicine he described as his ‘default’ career.

He completed his four years of ‘pre-med’ and then went into medical school proper, but dropped out after 12 months. “The realization came when I began (the course), that I wasn’t well enough motivated to continue, but the only way to settle it was to give it a try.” As an after-thought, he said, “If I did it all over again, I’d probably go into veterinary medicine.”

His studies thus far did take him into biology labs, in which he worked for three years, but this was also not his real ‘calling’. He moved into the field of materials and metallurgical research, while at the same time going to night school to do a Masters in mathematics. This was a man who was floating in the sea of careers, but had still not come across the right lifeboat!

He moved across to the new subject of computer programming and then became a systems engineer in the air defense business in the US. But this was not him either. He enrolled at Stanford University to go on to a Ph.D. in mathematics, but like his foray into medicine, did not complete the degree.

However, he did begin to find something that was firing his imagination - the mystic Orient. He undertook the study of Mandarin as an introduction to Asian languages, and this, in turn, led him to Vietnam. It was 1967 and he accepted a posting - not wearing Army greens, but as a civilian teaching applied mathematics.

His civilian life in Vietnam lasted three years, but then he took a position as a government monitor for the US in the USAID land reform program. Unfortunately the North Vietnamese had other ideas on land reform, and Edward had to join the queue of people leaving Saigon in a hurry. “I was in the fourth last helicopter to leave the embassy roof,” he reminisced.

He had been to Bangkok on R&R whilst in Vietnam, so rather than return to America, he decided to throw in his lot with the mystic Orient. “I was single, no dependents or responsibilities, so I went to Bangkok and studied Thai for 12 months.” During this time he also assisted the American Embassy processing Vietnamese refugees, as he could speak Vietnamese fluently by that stage.

Now with the Thai language under his belt too, he started work teaching English at the Thai Military Academy and then moved across to the Language Institute at Chulalongkorn University for three years.

After this, his previous experience in land reform programmes in Vietnam led him to Chiang Mai as a consultant for a rural development programme. By this stage he was married and they came to the north, together with their 11 cats.

We will return to the cats, but for now continue with Edward’s career in Chiang Mai. After the rural programme he began teaching English at Chiang Mai University. By this time it was 1984, but there were no Orwellian significances for Edward, and he happily spent the next 17 years at CMU, theoretically finishing in 2001; however, he is still there as an instructor and English language consultant for the CMU Faculty of Medicine. He has now become involved with the study of medicine both at the beginning, and towards the end, of his working life.

And so to the cats. Having just lost my family Korat, we had something in common, and in this arena, Edward became expansive, opening a well used leather folder to display several laminated cat photographs. His introduction to the feline world came after his house was taken over by a stray (those who have cats will know that you do not take a cat into your home, the cat allows you live in its home). In turn, the cat had a litter and the previously childless couple now had a surrogate family.

However, it did not end there. A friend of his wife had a cattery, but she died and suddenly Edward had Korat cats as well. He became interested in the breeds, and suddenly Siamese, Burmese and Korats were part of his life. He began selective breeding and his Chiang Mai Cattery became well known, not just in Thailand, but throughout the world. He has placed kittens all through Asia, Europe and America and been involved in programmes to maintain the genetic strengths of various breeds, mating a Thai Copper with a Burmese, for example. “A glorious adventure,” said Edward.

When the Thai Post Office decided to release a group of stamps featuring cats, where did they go to photograph the breeds? Chiang Mai Cattery. Edward has a set of the stamps laminated, and they too are in his leather folder. There is also a publication, “The Legend of Siamese Cats” and the author came to Chiang Mai to photograph some of Edward’s cats for his book. He has these laminated as well. Edward is proud of his cats, and what they (and he and his wife) have achieved. “The high water mark was 108 cats,” said Edward, “but we’re now down to 40.” The principal reason for this was the decision they took two years ago to stop actively breeding.

When not tending to cats, Edward likes to cycle and does 20 km every day as part of a fitness campaign. Keep cycling Edward, we want you around a lot longer yet!