A Christmas fundraiser which raises more than £1,000 to re-home unwanted moggies had to be cancelled. . . because East Lothian Council couldn't find the keys to the venue.

Lothian Cat Rescue organisers arriving at council-run Musselburgh Town Hall to set up Saturday's festive bazaar found the High Street building locked. But as the usual caretaker was on holiday, they thought the person covering must just be running late.

About 30 minutes later, the worried charity phoned the council's call centre but efforts to find the keys or track down someone who knew where they were proved unsuccessful. 

Nicola Zelent, manager at the cat rescue, said a locksmith sent by the council to open the Town Hall could not get in so it was decided to cancel the event as members of the public had started to arrive for its 1pm opening.

It later transpired the keys were in a safe at The Brunton.

Ms Zelent said: "It was disappointing as dedicated supporters come to the bazaar from far and wide - including older people who travelled to Musselburgh. They don't have a computer so wouldn't see our cancellation message on Facebook or our website.

"We rely on the funds these events raise to help us meet the costs of looking after the almost 1,000 cats and kittens we re-home each year. Typically our Christmas bazaar is our biggest and we would reasonably expect to make in excess of £1,250."

Lothian Cat Rescue has been holding regular bazaars in Musselburgh for the past 20 years.

The charity was formed to help cats and kittens that have been abandoned, ill-treated, neglected or are unwanted for whatever reason. Re-homing the cats that are brought to its shelter is its number one priority and its policy is to never have a healthy cat put to sleep.

Ms Zelent said they could not rearrange the bazaar as the main source of sales was cakes and the event would also have to be re-advertised.

She added that volunteers would now also have to travel round supporters collecting donations and the cats' Christmas food parcels.

She said: "Even if we could find another venue we feel it is not feasible or reasonable to ask our amazing volunteers to give up more of their time, particularly at this time of year where there are so many other commitments being juggled.

"So, sadly, we will not be rescheduling. Our next event will be our February bazaar."

A council spokesperson said: "We apologise for the issues which led to the cancellation of this event.

"We are still investigating the matter but we understand that, in the absence of the usual caretaker at Musselburgh Town Hall, alternative arrangements were made to open the building but unfortunately the building keys could not be located by staff on duty that morning. 

"We offered the organisers a room at The Brunton in Musselburgh as an alternative venue. A joiner was called, but due to the time required to open what is an old door, the decision was taken by the event organiser not to go ahead with the event. 

"We offer our sincere apologies to Lothian Cat Rescue for the inconvenience and disappointment caused by our mistake, and would like to offer them a refund on their booking fee as well as a further booking at no charge.

"We are continuing to look into the circumstances around this incident and will put the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that this type of issue does not happen again."