When I was a youngster, I always wanted to go for my summer holidays to Butlin’s Heads of Ayr Holiday Camp on the ‘sunshine’ west coast of Scotland. It was never to be, although I did get a day’s visit there. The camp was built during the Second World War and became a shore training establishment, HMS Scotia for the duration. After decommissioning, it opened to holiday makers in 1946 and survived until 1987 when it was renamed Wonderwest World. Ten years later it closed before reopening as Craig Tara ‘under new management.’
What appealed to me most was the ‘Olympic sized’ outdoor swimming pool with the magnificent fountain, the miniature railway and the amusement park. Added to this, Billy Butlin had acquired a British Railways steam locomotive, The Duchess of Sutherland, No. 6233. It had been built in 1938 by London, Midland and Scottish Railway. It remained at the camp between 1965 and 1971. Fortunately, it has been restored to full working order and regularly runs on rail tours.
Jack Beaver (1900-63) was a London-born composer. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music. During the 1930s and 1940s he was involved with Louis Levy’s team of film composers producing scores for Gaumont British as the resident composer. To his credit was the pre-war blockbuster Alfred Hitchcock film, The Thirty-Nine Steps starring Robert Donut and Madeleine Carroll, also featuring John Laurie (Private Frazer, Dad’s Army and Miles Malleson). Beaver received no credit in the film titles for his score.
The ‘Holiday Camp March' dates back to the early post-war days of the holiday camps. I am not sure which one he had in mind: Ayr, Clacton, Pwllheli, Minehead, Filey, Bognor etc. Or did he imagine his work in a Pontin’s camp instead of Butlins?
The music is a perfect foil for the excitement and fun of a holiday, even if the events and amusements still had something of wartime organisation about them. As the liner notes point out, the march epitomises the time when most British holidaymakers had ‘yet to discover the delights of foreign package holidays.’
Jack Beaver’s Holiday Camp March can be heard on The Golden Age of Light Music: Bright Lights (GLCD 5212) It was recorded in the late 1940s by the New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch.