AT a meeting of the Bridgwater Carnival Committee held on Friday 10 October 1924, the chairman, Mr H.M.B. Ker, announced that he extremely regretted having to hand in his resignation as he had accepted the office of Chief Magistrate of the Borough for the ensuing year - writes Chris Hocking, Life Member, Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival.

However, he wished to leave a memento of himself for the benefit of the carnival and kindly presented a silver challenge cup which was to be competed for each year.

Furthermore, the Gang or Group of Masqueraders successful in winning this trophy would have a silver shield bearing their name fixed to the cup which they would be entitled to hold for 12 months. 

The cup was to remain the property of the Carnival Committee for all time.

This was the first of many cups to be presented to the committee and, 100 years later, the Ker Cup remains the most prestigious trophy in the committee’s possession. 

It is the award that every local gang or feature club seeks to win at the annual parade.

Harry Munro Brackenbury Ker was born in Clerkenwell, Middlesex and whilst it is not clear when he came to live in Bridgwater we do know that in 1890 he was working for a local auctioneer and later became a partner in the firm of Stiling, Ker & Duckworth.

His first stint as chairman of the Bridgwater Carnival committee was to last for only a year as his civic duties, including a period as Mayor of Bridgwater, kept him well and truly occupied.

However, he was passionate about carnival and returned to the committee in 1926. 

Just two years later he was elected President and Chairman, performing both roles until his death in 1933.

The first recipients of the Ker Cup were the Eastenders Carnival Club with their entry ‘Rupert, Emperor of Estonia’

Since then, no fewer than twenty-six different clubs have had their hands on the trophy and, no doubt, enjoyed a drink or two from its silver bowl to celebrate their success.

The Gremlins Carnival Club dominate the long list of award winners having received the Ker Cup on an amazing, record-breaking 23 occasions. 

The first was in 1971 with ‘Carnival Tijuana Style‘ although, somewhat surprisingly, they had to wait another 20 years before they repeated their success with ‘Star Fighters’ (1991).

Since then, of course, the award has gone their way with remarkable regularity with just Ramblers (five times), Wills (three times) and Marketeers (once) breaking Gremlins’ winning sequence at odd intervals along the way.

The current holders of the Ker Cup are the Ramblers Carnival Club whose stunning 2023 entry ‘Trawlermen’ saw them retain the trophy for the second year in succession.

Will 2024 deliver three-in-a-row for the Ramblers?  Well we will all have to wait until Saturday, November 2, to find the answer to that question. 

The only certainty is that there will be eleven other local clubs trying desperately to remove it from their clutches.

What a memento Mr Ker has given us and I am sure he would be proud to know that his generosity and thoughtfulness continues to be so highly regarded at the home of carnival.