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Norwich comedian takes over reins of prestigious Grand Order of Water Rats society for showbiz stars

Ian Richards, born Richard Mayhew, who will take over as King Rat of the Order of the Water Rats, an exclusive fraternity for long-standing members of the entertainment industry. Picture: Submitted

Ian Richards, born Richard Mayhew, who will take over as King Rat of the Order of the Water Rats, an exclusive fraternity for long-standing members of the entertainment industry. Picture: Submitted

Archant

It is an exclusive society with a star-studded list of former members that includes the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Peter Sellers.

The Grand Order of Water Rats

The Grand Order of Water Rats is a British entertainment industry fraternity and charitable organisation based in London.

It was founded in 1889 by the music hall comedians Joe Elvin and Jack Lotto.

Its membership is limited to 200 long-serving members of the entertainment world, many who are household names.

Well-known former members include Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers, Laurel and Hardy, Bob Hope and Tommy Cooper.

There have only been 895 water rats.

There is also a small number of companion rats, such as Prince Charles and Prince Phillip, who are not performers but who have achieved recognition for their support of the order.

Members wear a small gold badge shaped as a water rat - and can be fined if they are spotted not wearing theirs.

But a Norwich comedian has taken over the reins of the London-based Grand Order of Water Rats, a fraternity for showbiz stalwarts - and now holds the prestigious title of King Rat.

Following in the footsteps of fellow Norfolk man and former King Rat Rick Wakeman, after-dinner speaker Mr Richards hopes to promote the group’s charity work and recruit new members during 
his tenure. The 54-year-old, a father-of-two, said: “I was delighted to be chosen and it is a great honour. I think there comes a lot more responsibility with the role and a lot of representing the order at events.

“Also, we have always been a very charitable organisation but we are often quiet about our giving, and unfortunately to attract big donors to charities you often need to promote it, so that is something I will be doing.”

His appointment completes a trifecta of Norfolk leaders, before musician Mr Wakeman’s turn, Wroxham man - and The Bill actor - Graham Cole was in charge.

Mr Richards was born Richard Mayhew in Diss, where he lived until he was 10.

After moving to Norwich, he attended the Hewett School and started at City College Norwich.

It was then he decided he wanted to become a DJ, and started playing at the Samson and Hercules, on Waggon and Horses Lane.

In 1982, he became a professional comic and has forged a career spanning more than three decades as a comedian and after-dinner speaker.

He spent many years living in Luton, before moving back to Norwich two years ago.

Mr Richards, who was born in Diss and now lives near the Queen’s Hills estate in Costessey, also organises a comedy charity night at the Royal Norwich Golf Club.

His Water Rats membership has also enabled him to support the complex needs Parkside School on College Road, which he described as 
“the most inspirational place”.

“Members also try and do something in our local community as well as in the main fund which our trustees distribute to various charities,” he added.

In the past, the Water Rats’ charity has benefited the likes of Macmillan Cancer Fund, the Order of St John, Guy’s Hospital and International Spinal Research.

Comedian Ian Richards (pictured) will join former England rugby international and British Lion Gareth Chilcott as a sporting dinner is held in Lowestoft during the Rugby World Cup. Picture: SUPPLIED.Comedian Ian Richards (pictured) will join former England rugby international and British Lion Gareth Chilcott as a sporting dinner is held in Lowestoft during the Rugby World Cup. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Do you have a story about an unusual group in Norfolk? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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