BILLY BUTLIN Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Sir William Heygate Edmund Colborne ("Billy") Butlin, (29 September 1899 - 12             
June 1980), was the founder of Butlins Holiday Camps.                                     
Billy Butlin was born in Cape Town, 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 showfolk. Their marriage was considered                 
something of a disgrace in Leonard Stanley, Gloucester, UK, where they lived,             
and they were encouraged to immigrate to South Africa. When the marriage failed,         
Billy’s mother returned to England with her children and rejoined her own               
showfolk family in Bristol.                                                               
For a time Billy joined his mother in travelling around the fair circuit but, in         
1911, his mother remarried and immigrated again, this time to Canada. For a               
couple of years Billy was boarded with a widow in Bristol. Then his mother and           
stepfather asked him to join them in Toronto, Canada.                                     
He was very unhappy at school in Canada and was always being mocked because of           
his English accent, so he left school at fourteen. Eventually he got a job as a           
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 very big part of his life.                                               
The camp was a huge success and soon other Butlins were constructed 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 to 1912 was the             
eminent surgeon, Sir Henry Trentham Butlin. Billy Butlin died on 12 June 1980.