The Grand order of Water RatsMike Martin talks to UK Cabaret about this legendary show business brotherhood and the charitable work its illustrious members are involved in.
Victorian music hall comedian Joe Elvin was a passenger in a horse drawn cart in London, while deluged in rain. The animal doing the work had been dubbed ‘The Magpie’. The driver than remarked that, in the rain, this hard-working and wet creature,’ looks more like a bleedin’ water rat’.
In an article on the web-site of this charitable show business group, journalist, musician and water rat Mike Martin wrote about the origins of the group and their 21st century work. Mike was kind enough to allow us to publish segments of the excellent article he penned.
Wal pink was a well-known music hall performer of the day. Mike Martin wrote:’ Wal went on to explain how it all came together. Rats backwards spelt ‘star’, and was a form of vole, which was an anagram of ‘love’. They could become brothers in love and friendship, with a motto which boasted ‘Philanthropy, conviviality and social intercourse’. The Water Rats. It had a fine, unique ring to it, but why not go the whole hog and call it a Grand Order too?
The Water Rats became a reality in 1889. The first Kind Rat was Harry Freeman and their numbers soon mushroomed, as they soon become the most famous and well respected show business charity Brotherhood in the world.
Today the Water Rats operate out of their headquarters on the Gray’s Inn Road, close to Kings Cross Station. There are never more than 200 Water Rats at any one time and to become accepted into the brotherhood is described by Martin as, ’a complicated business’. A candidate needs a proposer and seconder and then has to undergo a long and involved process before their name is put to the vote. If successful, the Baby Rat, as he is known until another takes his place, is expected to embrace the Order’s principles, supporting and becoming actively involved in activities which include fund-raising shows and events, the proceeds of which now benefit a far wider ranging field then just struggling music hall artistes.
Water Rat’s are all required to display their small Water Rat emblem pinned to their clothing at all times, or risk being fined by a fellow Rat who may spot them.
Legendary show business luminaries who have proudly work the badge include Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Sir John Mills, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Paul Daniels, Sir John Mills and Peter Sellars, as well as rock stars such as Queen guitarist Brian May and Iron Maiden drummer Nicko Mc Brian.
Often accused of elitism, Mike Martin is quick to point out that the Order is not a secret society, but is in fact a Brotherhood. Martin counters the elitism claims by pointing out that the spirit of The Water Rat’s is essentially one of good-hearted-ness, companionship and open handed benevolence.
For further information on the GOWR go to www.gowr.net