Butlins Holiday Camps were often regarded as British Escapism at its best! For millions of holidaymakers, it evoked wonderful memories of a special world where it was “a week’s holiday for a week’s pay”. For those who worked there, the memories were also life changing.
In 1982, Frank McGroarty’s from Armadale’s life was transformed when he managed to secure a dream job at the former Butlins Holiday Camp at Ayr as a Redcoat.
As a member of the world famous “Red and White Brigade,” Frank enjoyed three memorable seasons at the company’s Scottish base where he went from being an introverted teenager to that of being confident enough to work as a Compere and as a stage performer.
And most importantly, during his first season, he met the lady who became his wife, Wendy. October 2015 will be the couple’s 30th Wedding Anniversary. Since he last worked at Ayr in 1984, Frank has worked as a stand-up comic, freelance Journalist and Radio Broadcaster.
Now he can add Author to that list with the publication of his first novel “What Time Does Midnight Cabaret Start”a “coming of age” love story, set during the later years of the “Hi De Hi “era at Butlins at Ayr in 1982.
He said: “Having supplied articles to numerous publications and feature desks over the years, this is an exciting new challenge for me. When I took a Creative Writing course as part of my Open University Degree two years ago, it made me fall in love with writing all over again.“I always liked the idea of writing my own book. Now not only have I written it, but I have published it as well.”
“One of the first things they taught me when I did my writing course, was that when you are looking for ideas, the best way to start, is write about something you know.So in the end, my first book became a labour of love, writing a story where the inspiration was my three life changing seasons, working as a Redcoat at Ayr.”
“I worked with fabulous people during that time. Thanks to the internet and social media, I am still in contact with many of them today.”
He added: “If you want any indication of how going to Butlins on holiday or working there was so special, you just have to look at the many reunions that occur around the UK. They can take the form of get-togethers where people just relive the old days or special organised events where former Redcoats come out of retirement to pull on their “Red and Whites” once again. I have done that myself on a number of occasions.”
“Attending those reunions with my wife over the years, I have also made many new wonderful friends that have connections with other Butlins Camps and Hotels as a holiday maker or former members of staff. We have a common bond. We are a Butlins family and both my wife and I are proud to be a part of that family.”
“What Time Does Midnight Cabaret Start”centres on the character of 18 year old Terry McFadden who is stuck on the dole with nowhere to go. Plagued by crippling shyness, he doesn’t have the confidence to do anything, unless it was performing on stage or on the ballroom dance floor. But that wasn’t going to get him a job.
Then his talents set him on the road towards a life changing summer working as a Butlins Redcoat, where under the guidance of ego maniac Entertainments Manager, Ron De Vere, he discovers the person he wanted to be. He also finds true love, with the lovely Angie
Said Frank: “This is a work of fiction based on historical fact I hope that not only will they enjoy the story but it will also bring back those wonderful memories of how Butlins worked in those days as well as of a camp that is no longer there.”