In 1912 – five years after the death of his wife – emotionally scarred veterinarian Andrew MacDhui (Patrick McGoohan) moves to the remote Scottish village of Inveranoch with his young daughter, Mary (Karen Dotrice) and housekeeper, Mrs Mackenzie (Jean Anderson)
A marmalade cat – who they originally name “Thomas” – moves in on them a few days after they arrive and forms a close bond with young Mary, who dresses the cat in clothes and takes her on buggy adventures.
It is Thomasina herself (voiced by Elspeth March) who narrates the film.
One day, Thomasina contracts tetanus, becomes sick and appears to have died (even though Dr MacDhui promised to save her), leaving Mary distraught.
On the outskirts of the village lives Lori (Susan Hampshire), who the children believe is a witch. She has a yard full of rescued animals and a magical way of healing the creatures.
When Mary and her friends Hughie (Vincent Winter), Jamie (Denis Gilmore), and Geordie (Dotrice’s future Mary Poppins co-star Matthew Garber) take the box containing Thomasina to bury her, Lori appears and scares them away.
Only she notices that Thomasina is still alive and takes her home to nurse her.
Meanwhile, Mary becomes emotionally withdrawn, falls into a deep depression and will have nothing to do with her cold-hearted father (who she blames for the death of her cat), telling others, “My father’s dead”.
Her young friends form an “anti-McDhui Society” and plot to end his veterinary practice and drive him out of Inveranoch, picketing his surgery and warning intending visitors not to take their pets inside.
Thomasina recovers – but with amnesia – and stays with Lori, aware that something is wrong with her life.
When Mary falls deathly ill with pneumonia, Dr McDhui tries to reconnect with his Christian faith, lamenting, “I’ve forgotten how to pray.”
“The witch” eventually ends up enchanting the father and making him see that love is still possible – not only with her but also between him and his daughter. The pair ultimately marry, Thomasina returns to Mary, and all is right with the world (it is a Disney film, after all).
The film was first broadcast on television in three one-hour instalments over three weeks on The Magical World of Disney.
Dr Andrew McDhui
Reverend Angus Peddie
Francis De Wolff