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King Rat Dan Leno

Water Rat number 016 and King Rat in 1891, 1892 and 1897.

Dan Leno was, almost, one of our founder members. He joined in 1890, when the membership was increased from the original twelve to twenty. He was born, in London, George Galvin. His family were all show business and he was onstage at the age of four billed as Little George - the infant Wonder Contortionist. Galvin senior died and his mum married again, another pro called Leno.

His climb to the top was a hard and fascinating one. Suffice to say, before he was twenty eight, he was Britain's most popular comedian billed as The Funniest Man on Earth - follow that! Apart from his bill topping in Music Hall (in America too), he was the great pantomime star and one of it's most famous Dames. He appeared every Christmas, from 1888 to 1903, as the star of Drury Lane.

Alas, at the very height of his fame, his wild comic reasoning and invention started to malfunction and he died, some said of popularity, at just forty four. He was, we have to believe from contemporary reports, a comic genius. Max Beerbohm left us the most vivid summing up of him when he wrote: "Here was a man unlike anyone else we had ever seen. That face so tragic, with all the tragedy that is writ on the face of a baby monkey, yet ever liable to relax it's mouth into a sudden wide grin and to screw up it's eyes to vanishing point over some little triumph wrested from fate."

Oh for a time machine!

Councillor and Past King Rat Roy Hudd OBE, BM, KRA'97

"Here was a man unlike anyone else we had ever seen. That face so tragic, with all the tragedy that is writ on the face of a baby monkey, yet ever liable to relax it's mouth into a sudden wide grin and to screw up it's eyes to vanishing point over some little triumph wrested from fate."

Max Beerbohm

Dan Leno as 'Sister Ann'.