"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese

Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

6 Brits to Throw a Gong at: #2 Billy Butlin

The Canadian Connection
Billy Butlin? Yes, Billy of Butlins Holiday Camps; he who brought pleasure to many thousands of British people. But he wasn't British. In fact our Billy was born in South Africa and lived in Toronto for a few years. Billy Butlin even served in the Canadian military.

Sir William Heygate Edmund Colborne Butlin was born in South Africa in 1899 and passed away in England in June 1980.

The Great Escape

He is best remembered as the founder of Butlins Holiday Camps. These somewhat infamous holiday resorts appealed to thousands of people who sought an all-inclusive vacation in a resort that catered to their every need.

The Redcoats Are Coming
Perhaps the clearest memory many Butlin customers have is of the famous "Redcoats". The Redcoats were the camp entertainers. Several Redcoats (e.g. Des O'Connor, Charlie Drake, Dave Allen, Moira Anderson) went on to become famous entertainers.

Have You Got a Girl in There?
Butlins also acquired a slightly tawdry reputation among young people. The comedian Jasper Carrot used a sketch in which a young man smuggles a female guest into his cabin. There is a sudden loud knock at the door from a Redcoat who shouts:

"Have you got a girl in there?"
"Er no, no sir" the young man stutters nervously.

"Hang on a minute we'll get you one" replies the Redcoat.

The Legend Lives On
"Billy" became "Sir William" when he was knighted by the Queen in 1964 and retired in 1968. Butlins Holiday Camps were sold in 1972. Some of the camps remain open under new ownership and with a different identity but the legend lives on.

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