Memories of a Butlins Redcoat in Ayr

16 May 2013
imports_CESC_0-e5aexh6u-100000_04953.jpg Memories of a Butlins Redcoat in Ayr
Frank McGroarty recalls his years as a Redcoat at Butlins in Ayr in the 1980s.

Frank McGroarty recalls his years as a Redcoat at Butlins in Ayr in the 1980s.

For many holidaymakers, one of the best parts of a holiday at Butlins was the entertainment provided by the Redcoats. As a Redcoat, you were the host, the person who made sure that each holiday was an unforgettable one.


You instantly became a friend and by the end of the week, you were elevated to celebrity status and targeted by autograph hunters. But to bring you back down to earth, you were also the first point of contact when it came to questions about the camp such as: ‘When do you check into Reception? ‘ or ‘How do you get to the ballroom?’ And my favourites: ‘Can we leave any time we want?’ or ‘What time does the Midnight Cabaret start?’ Behind that celebrity status you had to work hard – very hard. Anyone who became a Redcoat certainly didn’t do it for the money.


During my first season at Ayr, I had to be up at 8 in the morning to get ready and say hi to the campers at breakfast, as well as eating with them. Then we wouldn’t stop until 1 in the morning, sometimes even later if we were involved in a show or on duty at the Midnight Cabaret. And the reward for all our hard work? The sum of £38 per week.


The Stuart Ballroom at Ayr was special to both holidaymakers and Redcoats. It had an atmosphere that was second to none. And looking out the window you had the added bonus of a backdrop of a sensational sunset over the Isle of Arran. And then there were the competitions – an integral part of any Butlins holiday. For many holidaymakers, these involved a lot of money and prestige. For contests like the Glamorous Granny, Miss She, and Holiday Princess, we had to behave in a regimental fashion, but the other contests were a different matter. For some of them we got involved just as much as the contestants themselves.


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For competitions like the Knobbly Knees, a guaranteed crowd pleaser, we pulled out the stops to get people to volunteer, including a gentleman who refused to get off his seat and was carried onto the floor still in his seat with rolled-up trouser legs.


My biggest Redcoat memory has to be meeting my wife, who worked in the kitchens at Ayr in my first year. In 1983, we were both in Reds and got engaged whilst on duty welcoming campers at Ayr train station. Doing the honourable thing getting down on one knee with the ring in hand, I was surrounded by a very large crowd of holidaymakers who brought the station platform to a temporary standstill. I not only got the girl, but we got our first engagement present, a large box of chocolates from some campers.


The Redcoats of today are a different model from years past, but we do have one thing in common – pride. I am proud to have been a Butlins Redcoat, it was the best job in the world, and it changed me as a person, provided me with the best job experiences, great friends and I also found the love of my life. How many jobs can give you all that?

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