Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

Butlins

Gwilym Tudur

When Sir Billy Butlin died the other day, I'm sure some people would have been surprised to learn that I felt a small pang, not of grief, since I never met the man, but of botheration, as on losing some very familiar object, such as an old penknife. Surprised, because I don't have all that much to say to any sir, still less to any Welsh sir, and especially to a poet who sells his soul for a knighthood. The little man with the moustache and expensive suntan was a typical Englishman, yet the Gorsedd of Bards 1 might well have honoured him if only they had known about his achievement, his creation of something that's pure poetry. For that's what Butlins, or Bucklings as it's known to local people, is.

When a war-time navy camp was foisted on the tranquillity of the Penychain headland, not far from Afon-wen, and later turned into a holiday-camp, it was only to be expected that some of the proud inhabitants of Lly+̂n and Eifionydd would feel anxious. Not everyone; some saw an opportunity for making a living, and who's to say that they weren't right? I would go so far as to claim that the old Camp — which is a quite awful sight for the unsuspecting traveller — has turned out to be almost as crucial as the Rhyd-y-gwystl Creamery in keeping people at home for two more generations, thus keeping a community going on a far, unremarkable peninsula, thanks to Sir Billy's genius.

His first inspiration was to realize before anyone else that the worker needs a holiday just as we all do; that if only a large, paternalistic operation were to be created to take care of everything, a whole family could have the time of their lives for a week or two, far from the tyranny of kitchen and factory — and the organizer would make a fortune as well. Mind you, as a child I didn't take such a philanthropic view of the place. There would be twelve thousand of the poor souls there in mid-August. A not insubstantial number would manage to lose their way about the district every Saturday morning, and I fear that naughty children like me were responsible for some of their confusion. If a car stopped to enquire the way to 'Chillywog', 'Penny Chain', or 'Pulley Welly', rather than to Chwilog, Penychain, or Pwllheli, it was in danger of being sent in the direction of Nefyn, that way. The children of 'Betsy Code' very

-172-

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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • The Village School 1
  • Fear of the Sea 7
  • A Windy Night 9
  • The Late Lemuel Parry, Esq., J.P., O.B.E. 12
  • On Drowning a Cat 18
  • The House Across the Way 21
  • Weobley and St. Emilion 25
  • The Man in the Street 28
  • Old Dent 31
  • On Collecting Roads 34
  • 'their Land They Shall Lose' 42
  • The Red Flag 46
  • Strolling Players 50
  • One Sunday Afternoon 57
  • Salem 61
  • A Trip to the Circus 63
  • Thoughts on Coronation Day, 1953 68
  • From the Pulpit 72
  • How to Choose and Treat a Wife 77
  • To the Mountain 83
  • The Imperative Upon Me 88
  • Disenchantment 92
  • The Hiring Fair 94
  • The Man at Chapel House 97
  • Question and Answer 102
  • The Little Llandeilo Boots 105
  • My Last Day in Prison 108
  • A Discovery 118
  • A Land of Romance 121
  • Hi-Ho! 129
  • Ancestors 133
  • While Shaving 138
  • Of Time and Distance 141
  • A Methodist Deacon's Advice 146
  • Of Violets and Bells 148
  • Remembering Mrs Newbould 151
  • Good Morning, Lloyd 156
  • In Modesty and Trembling 162
  • Christmasn in the Valley 166
  • On Stammering 169
  • Butlins 172
  • A Millionaire 176
  • A Scene from Military Life 178
  • An Exile 180
  • The Fox Under Glass 183
  • A Doctor's Medicine 186
  • The Little Huts 189
  • Three Heads 191
  • On Memory 198
  • Uncle John's Boots 202
  • The Fur Coat 207
  • An Holy Kiss 214
  • Notes on Authors and Texts 217
  • Acknowledgements 238
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