Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Billy Butlin

Sir William Heygate Edmund Colborne ("Billy") Butlin, (29 September 1899 - 12 June 1980), was the founder of Butlins Holiday Camp.

Billy Butlin was born in South Africa. His father, also called William Butlin, was the son of a clergyman but his mother, Bertha Hill, was a member of a family of travelling showmen. They lived in Stanley, Gloucestershire, before emigrating to South Africa.The marriage failed, Billy's mother returned to England with her children and rejoined her own family in Bristol.

For a time Billy joined his mother in travelling around the fair circuit but, in 1911 his mother remarried and emigrated to Canada. Billy was boarded with a widow in Bristol. Later Billy joined his mother and step-father in Toronto, Canada. At school in Canada Billy was mocked for his English accent and left at the age of 14. His first job was messenger boy at Eatons, Toronto's largest department store. One of the best aspects of working for the company was that he was able to visit their summer camp, which gave him his first taste of a real holiday, indeed a taste of what was to become a vet big part of his life.

After a spell in the Canadian Army, Butlin returned to England and for a while ran a hoopla stall for his mother's family. He moved to London and set up a very successful stall in Olympia outside the Christmas Circus run by Bertram Mills. By the end of the season Billy had made enough money to bring his mother (now widowed) from Canada.

After a few years touring with Hills Travelling fair, leaving his mother to run the stall at Olympia. In 1927 he leased a piece of land from the earl of Scarborough at the seaside town of Skegness. He set up a holiday fun park with hoopla stalls,a tower slide,a haunted house ride and, in 1928, a scenic railway and dodgem cars - the first in Britain.

Later on he rented disused bus garages in Whitechapel, Brixton, Tooting, Putney, Hammersmith and Marble Arch in London and turned them all into funfairs. His mother, Berta, died in 1933 and so never saw his first holiday camp.

For some time Butlin had nurtured the idea of a holiday camp. He had seen landladies (sometimes literally) push families out of their lodgings between meal, irrespective of the weather. Butlin toyed with the idea of providing holiday accommodation that encouraged holiday-makers to stay in the premises and even provide entertainment for them between meals. He opened his first Butlins camp at Ingoldmells, adjoining Skegness on 11 April 1936 (Easter Eve). It was officially opened by Amy Johnson from Hull, who was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. An advertisement in the Daily Express invited people to book for a week, enclosing ten shillings as a registration fee. The holidays offered three meals a day and free entertainment. A week's full board cost between 35 shillings and three pounds according to the time of the year.

The camp was a huge success and other camps soon followed at Clacton (1938) and Filey (1945), Pwllheli and Ayr (both in 1947), and still more at Mosney(1948), Bognor Regis (1960). Minehead (1962) and Barry Island (1966). The growth of his business was spurred by World War II when a number of camps were requisitioned for use as military training camps, generating revenues for a post-war boom.

In the 1950s Butlin began acquiring hotels in Brighton, Blackpool, and several in Cliftonville. In later years they were joined by further hotels in Scarborough, Llandudno, London and Spain. The camps at Ayr and Skegness also had separate self-contained hotels within the grounds.

In 1972 the company was sold to the Rank Organisation for £43 million. Butlin was knighted in 1964 and retired in 1968. Billy Butlin was not the first Butlin to have been knighted as his great uncle, who lived from (1845-1912) was the eminent surgeon , Sir Henry Trentham Butlin.
Billy Butlin died on 12 June 1980, aged 80.

The Wailing Wall

Israel - Jerusalem: Wailing Wall/Western Wall
A female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time.
So she went to check it out, she went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.
She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.
"Pardon me, sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. What's your name?"
"Morris Fishbien," he replied.
"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"
"For about 60 years"
"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"
"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and Muslims."
"I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop."
"I pray for all our children to grow up safely, as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man." "How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"
"Like I am talking to a brick wall."

Poem - John Betjeman

John Betjeman's existence really became alive from the moment he started at Oxford. Today's extract from Summoned By Bells reveals his elation at finally being free from the restrictions imposed by public school, free to enjoy his longed for independence. (Written as Blank Verse, to be read as prose, by following the punctuation).

Balkan Sobranies in a wooden box
The college arms upon the lid; Tokay
And sherry in the cupboard; on the shelves
The University Statutes bound in blue
Crome Yellow, Prancing Nigger, Blunden, Keats.
My walls were painted Bursar's apple-green;
My wide-sashed windows looked across the grass
To tower and hall and lines of pinnacles.
The wind among the elms, the echoing stairs,
The quarters, chimed across the quiet quad
From Magdalen tower and neighbouring turret clocks,
Gave eighteenth-century splendour to my state.
Privacy after years of public school;
Dignity after years of none at all-
First college rooms, a kingdom of my own:
What words of mine can tell my gratitude?
No wonder, looking back, I never worked.
Too pleased with life, swept in a social round,
I soon left Old Marlburians behind.
(As one more solemn of our number said:
"Spiritually I was at Eton, John.")
I cut tutorials with wild excuse,
For life was luncheons, luncheons all the way-
And evenings dining with with the Georgeoisie.
Open, swing doors, upon the lighted 'George'
And whiff of vol-au-vent! Behold the band
Sawing away at gems from Chu Chin Chow,
As Harold Acton and the punkahs wave:
"My dears, I want to rush into the fields
And slap raw meat with lilies."
But as the laughter grew long and loud I heard
The more insistent inner voice of guilt:
"Stop!" cried my mother from her bed of pain.
I heard my father in his factory say:
"Fourth generation, John, they look up to you."
"Harry Strathspey is coming if he can
After he's dined at Blenheim. Hamish says
That Ben has got twelve dozen Bollinger."
"And Sandy's going as matelot."
"I will not have that Mr. Mackworth Price;
Graham will be so furious if he's asked-
We do not want another ghastly brawl" ....
"Well, don't ask Graham then." "I simply must."
"The hearties say they're going to break it up."
"Oh no. they're not. I've settled them all right,
I've bribed the Boat Club with a cask of beer."
Moon after parties: moon on Magdalen Tower,
And shadow on the place for climbing in .....
Noise, then the great, deep silence again.

Extract from Summoned By Bells (Chapter IX)
John Betjeman

Hyphenated Faux Pas

Why Do We Say That?

In Greek mythology Thetis dipped her son in the mythical river Styx. Anyone who was immersed in the river became invulnerable. However, Thetis held Achilles by his heel. Since her hand covered this part of his body the water did not touch it and so it remained vulnerable. Achilles was eventually killed when an arrow hit his heel.

This comes from the days when brewers estimated the temperature of a brew by dipping their thumb in it.

Poachers and other unsavoury characters would drag a herring across the ground where they had just walked to throw dogs off their scent. (Herrings were made red by the process of curing).

Originally a shamble was a bench. Butchers used to set up benches to sell meat from. In time the street where meat was sold often became known as the Shambles. (This street name survives in many towns today). However, because butchers used to throw offal into the street shambles came to mean a mess or something very untidy or disorganised.

This is from Jeremiah 31:30 'Every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge'.

Who Am I? - Tuesday's Answer

Yesterday's answer to the
Who Am I puzzle
Alan Carr
To watch a video clip of Alan Carr at the Appollo click on the link below (Warning: Adult humour and strong language).

Feline Bath Time