Our History



With thanks to the Grand Order of Water Rats

In 1929, when Fred Russell was King Rat of the Grand Order of Water Rats, Lillian Russell and several other wives of Water Rats decided to form an Order of their own.  Stanley Damerell wrote their Ratling Anthem and Song and they sang it together when they were installed at the Water Rats Lodge meeting on Friday 12th July 1929.  This was the only time that ladies have ever been admitted to a Water Rats meeting or indeed a lady has ever sat in the King Rat’s chair!  This is how the G.O.L.R. started.  It was agreed that membership would be confined to wives, sisters and daughters of Water Rats and recognised performers and each member would make a donation of 10 shillings (50 pence).  Associate members were allowed to join if they were not directly involved in the theatrical profession or related to a Water Rat, but these ladies would be ‘Associate members’ and would not be able to hold the office of either Queen Ratling or her Princesses.  However, this rule changed in 1965 when it was also decided that membership would be restricted to recognised performers, those directly connected with the theatrical profession, wives of Water Rats and Companion Rats.

The first officers installed were:

  • Queen Ratling: Mrs Fred Russell; Lillian
  • Princess Ratling: Mrs Talbot O’Farrell; Minnie
  • Princess Ratling: Mrs Charles Austin; Ruby
  • Chief Guard Ratling: Mrs Stanley Damerell; Noel
  • Chief Guard Ratling: Mrs Morny Cash; Alice
  • Musical Ratling: Mrs Jo Alexandre; Catherine
  • Assistant Musical Ratling: Mrs Ben Osborne; Nellie
  • Mistress of the Regalia: Mrs Alec Dane; Kay
  • Scribe Ratling: Mrs Dave Carter; Cecilia

The G.O.L.R. held its first dinner dance in 1930, but in 1932 the first ‘Annual Ball’ was held at the Savoy Hotel with Geraldo and his Gaucho Tango Band together with Jack Hylton’s Band playing the music.  The Ratlings ‘Go-Floptomists’ performed the cabaret. In 1931, Past Queen Minnie O’Farrell started our ‘Cup of Kindness’ which has since become a registered charity and helped numerous individuals and organisations over the years. Although in 1939, eight Past Queens were chosen who, together with the Scribe would form the A.C. (the ruling body of the Order) it was later decided that all Past Queens should be installed onto the A.C. 

In 1975, The Princess Royal was made a Companion Ratling of the G.O.L.R. at a ceremony performed by Queen Ratling Malka Elvin ( who later became one of our Dames). HRH The Princess Royal has returned to Lodge meetings over the years and enjoyed the friendship we all experience and also being awarded the ‘Jesters Medal’ - twice at one Lodge meeting.

In 1980 Lady Sheila Butlin became Patron of our Order and she continues to support the Order

As Ratlings, we are all grateful to those nine ladies who founded our unique Order together with the Water Rats who made it possible.  When people ask us what the G.O.L.R. means we tell them that the friendship of Sister Ratlings is like being in the Green Room, or the Dressing Room.  Exchanging anecdotes and cheering each other when things go wrong, and always knowing that there are people around who really care.  Then there is the privilege of being able to put something back into a business that has given us all so much pleasure.

With thanks to the Grand Order of Water Rats for use of the following extracts from the history of the G.O.W.R. l889-l947.

Of other events and happenings since the re-organisation of the Grand Order of Water Rats, one of the most important was the formation of the Lady Ratlings. In June 1929 Charlie Austin gave a "Trigo" banquet at the club to celebrate a win he had on a horse of that name in the Derby, his guests including wives, daughters and other female relatives of the members. At that banquet the idea of the ladies section of the order was mooted, and taken up with much enthusiasm. It was generally agreed that some such organisation would serve a very useful purpose in bringing the ladies of the profession together, as it was felt old friends were losing touch, and the younger generation unacquainted, so that when social events took place the ladies were virtual strangers to one another. Names and subscriptions came pouring in, and from the outset success was assured. The growth of the Grand Order of Lady Ratlings has been remarkable, and the pessimistic prognostications that the girls would not stick together entirely falsified. They abide by their motto ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE.

 


In 1965 Roswyn House was purchased for its members with the kind generosity of Sir Billy Butlin. The House is there for any member of the GOLR who may wish, or need to live in it, either short term or long term.


 

1929

1929

1st Queen Ratling and founder member of the GOLR Lillian Russell with King Rat George Elrick

 

1930 & 1932 &1944

1930 & 1932 &1944

Queen Ratling Min O'Farrell Min was the original GOLR's Princess. She went on to become Queen three times.

1931

1931

Queen Ratling Ruby Austin, founder member of the Order and the one of the original Princesses.

1933

1933

Queen Ratling Nelly Perryer

1934 & 1935

1934 & 1935

Queen Ratling Catherine Alexandre, founder member and the first Musical Ratling.

1936

1936

Queen Ratling Annie Jones

1937

Queen Ratling Belle Dillon

1938

1938

Queen Ratling Elsie Marrison with Ratling Ivy Bing.

1939

1939

Queen Ratling Lil O'Gorman

1942 &1943

1942 &1943

Queen Ratling Noel Damerell Founder member, and the GOLR's first Chief Guard Ratling.

1945

1945

Queen Ratling Curly Flannagan. Curly and Bud Flannagan were the second married couple to be Queen Ratling and King Rat in the same year.

1946

1946

Queen Ratling Sophie Brown

1947

1947

Queen Ratling Clair Romaine

1948

1948

Queen Ratling Marjorie Ristori

1949

1949

Queen Ratling Hylda Barty

1950

Queen Ratling Katie Kay

1951

1951

Queen Ratling Wyn Hearn

1952

1952

Queen Ratling Renee Roberts

1953

1953

Queen Ratling Bertha Wilmot

1954

1954

Queen Ratling Ivy Bing

1955

1955

Queen Ratling Vie Riscoe

1956

1956

Queen Ratling Margorie Pointer

1957

1957

Queen Ratling Vie Riscoe

1958 &1962

1958 &1962

Queen Ratling Joan Hurley

1959

1959

Queen Ratling Dorita Chester, whose husband Charlie Chester was King Rat in 1952.

1960

1960

Queen Ratling Betty Foster

1961

1961

Queen Ratling Joy Ganjou

1963

1963

Queen Ratling Marie Jackley

1964

1964

Queen Ratling Rosalind Brown with King Rat David Berglas

1965

Queen Ratling Anne Rendall

1966

1966

Queen Ratling Jessie Burnett

1967

1967

Queen Ratling Mary Sullivan.
 

1968

1968

Queen Ratling Sylvia Dennis Sylvia

1969

1969

Queen Ratling Adele Cantor

1970

1970

Queen Ratling Joan Rohan

1971

1971

Queen Ratling Renee Beck Renee

1972

1972

Queen Ratling Hetty Brayne

1973

1973

Queen Ratling Audrey Maye

1974

1974

Queen Ratling Polly Ward

1975

1975

Queen Ratling Malka Elvin

1976

1976

Queen Ratling Sunny Rogers

1977

1977

Queen Ratling Claudia Boss

1978

1978

Queen Ratling Ceridwen Roberts with HRH The Princess Royal

1979

1979

Queen Ratling Rosalind Brown with King Rat David Berglas

1980

1980

Queen Ratling Valerie Garland

1981

1981

Queen Ratling Iris Villiers husband Jerry Bourne

1981&1987

1981&1987

Queen Ratling Iris Villiers with husband Jerry Bourne.

1982

1982

Queen Ratling Cheryl Garland

1983

1983

Queen Ratling Maree Authie with husband Bill

1984

1984

Queen Ratling Miriam Ginnett

1985

1985

Queen Ratling Peggy Ashby

1986

1986

Queen Ratling Ann Emery

1986 & 1999

1986 & 1999

Queen Ratling Ann Emery

1988

1988

Queen Ratling Joan Hall

1989

1989

Queen Ratling Sheila Lawrence

1990

1990

Queen Ratling Anna Karen.

1991

1991

Queen Ratling Marie Calores

1992

1992

Queen Ratling Brownie Dene with guest of honour June Brown

1993

1993

Queen Ratling Ruth Madoc with husband John and PO Barbara Windsor.

1994

1994

Queen Ratling Kathy Maxim with WR Howard Keel

1995

1995

Queen Ratling Margaret Weedon with husband PK Rat Bert Weedon, Stephen Way & Gloria Hunniford

1996

1996

Queen Ratling Debbie Flitcroft with Betty Boothroyd

1997

1997

Queen Ratling Carmen Silvera with Sacha Distel and Angela Rippon

1998

1998

Queen Ratling Carole Collins with Lady Ratling June & Clive and Phil Collins

2000

2000

Queen Ratling Hilda Durante with husband Ted and guest of honour Katie Durham and John Vincent.

2001

2001

Queen Ratling Sharon Maxim with husband Bruce Graham and Jean Fergusson

2002 & 2010

2002 & 2010

Queen Ratling Babs Bruce with Lady Ratling Barbara Windsor

2003 & 2008

2003 & 2008

Queen Ratling Doreen Hermitage with HRH Prince Charles

2004

2004

Queen Ratling Marsha Rae Ratcliff and husband CR John Ratlciff with Brian May and Anita Dobson

2005

2005

Queen Ratling Val Fontaine

2007

2007

Queen Ratling Beryl Plummer

2008

2008

Queen Ratling Doreen Hermitage

2009

2009

Queen Ratling Susannah Levene

2010

2010

Queen Ratling Babs Bruce

2011

2011

Queen Ratling Merian Ganjou

2012

2012

Queen Ratling Jenny Maynard

2013

2013

Queen Ratling Shirley Hale

2014

2014

Queen Ratling Rosalie Kirkman

2015

2015

Queen Ratling Melody Kaye

2016

2016

Queen Ratling Bella Emberg