I have been a member of the Grand Order of Water Rats(GOWR) for over twenty years and I’m just as proud today as I ever was to belong to this most wonderful of show business institutions.
It was while working with the great Roy Hudd, my friend and mentor, that I first became interested in the Water Rats. I had been playing Alan-a-Dale in Babes in the Wood, a pantomime which had been written and directed by Roy. I was lucky to appear for 5 straight years in this panto which also starred the late Geoffrey Hughes (Onslow in Keeping up Appearances and Eddie Yeats in Coronation St) and legendary Dame Jack Tripp.
I noticed Roy’s Water Rat emblem on the lapel of his jacket one day and asked him what it was. He then told me all about it…a showbiz brotherhood which does a lot of good through charity work whilst also having great fun at lodge nights and on various activities such as boat trips on the Thames and the famous Water Rats annual Ball etc. A new ‘King Rat’ is elected every year and when I told Roy that I wanted to join he, being a Past King, put my name forward and the Water Rats voted me in! The late John Inman of ‘Are you being Served’ fame was King Rat when I was initiated into the order and it’s still one of the most memorable times of my showbiz life.
Another most memorable time happened very recently when, on 13th November 2014, my wife Emma and I were invited to Buckingham Palace by none other than Brother Companion (non performing)Water Rat, The Duke of Edinburgh. This was for a reception with him and Her Majesty the Queen to celebrate the GOWR’s 125 year anniversary!
As you can imagine this was one of the most memorable nights in the order’s history and after being ushered to the famous Royal Gallery with the Rembrandts and other priceless paintings, we met and chatted with brother Rats over a Royal cocktail! Soon after The Queen and Prince Phillip joined us all and began to chat to various Rats and their partners. Emma and I were so thrilled as we got to speak to both Phillip AND The Queen….wonderful!! Phillip was charming and asked about my career and whether Emma and our children (Louis & Ellie) ever got to join me on the cruise ships! He seemed genuinely interested to hear about us and as I had always thought, he was a great bloke!
The Queen was just wonderful and we chatted to her for quite a while. After telling her all about what I did for a living we told her that a couple of months previous we had been at the palace for the official tour with our kids. She seemed very interested in what we thought of it and asked us many questions about it. ‘I hope your children weren’t too tired after the tour?’ She told us and asked if we had enjoyed the palace gardens etc. All in all it was a once in a lifetime experience which we will remember forever.
Long live The Queen and long live our wonderful GOWR.
To read more about the Grand Order of Water Rats visit their website at www.gowr.net