Billy Butlin (1899-1980) was as sharp as a tack.
South African-born, raised in Canada, he came to England with £5, of which he invested £4 in a stall at his uncle’s fair. From this humble start as a showman he built his empire of holiday camps.
He was astute. Fred Pontin once told him, “You’ve taught me everything I know about holiday camps.” To which Butlin responded, “Maybe, but not everything I know.”
He had a pragmatic attitude to the finer things of life. To furnish the chapels that he installed in each of his camps, he instructed his staff to source paintings – “religious, big, and not more than fifty quid”.
When British Railways were scrapping steam locomotives in the early 1960s, Billy Butlin bought eight as ornaments for his camps at Ayr, Minehead, Pwllheli and Skegness.
He saved four tank-engines (three LB&SCR Terriers and an L&SWR dock-tank) and four magnificent express locomotives from the LM&SR – all of which are now in serious preservation – purely so that kids could climb on them and be photographed in front of them.
Thanks to Billy Butlin we can still enjoy 6100 Royal Scot, 6203 Princess Margaret Rose and two of the huge ‘Princess Coronation’ class – 6229 Duchess of Hamilton, now in the National Railway Museum restored to its original streamlined shape, and 6233 Duchess of Sutherland, currently earning its keep pulling charter specials on the main lines.
6203 Princess Margaret Rose is one of the jewels in the crown of the Midland Railway Butterley [http://www.midlandrailway-butterley.co.uk/home], where the Princess Royal Class Trust [http://www.prclt.co.uk/index2.html] has its base.
Occasionally, when tour itineraries require it, Princess Margaret Rose is visited by its sister engine 6201 Princess Elizabeth, named after the present Queen.
Then it is possible for the Trust to wheel out its two 21-inch-guage replicas of the two locomotives, which were also built for Butlin’s Camps, alongside.
Two locomotives, in two sizes – all side by side. Unique, as far as I know. All thanks to Billy Butlin.