Brian Buitenhuis (OB 1943 – 50)
Brian Buitenhuis, a big character who lived life to the full, died on 13th May 2022, aged 89. He was a man of many parts: son, husband, family man, friend, scholar, sportsman, serviceman, butcher and sailor. He had a mischievous sense of fun, a generosity of spirit and a big heart.
He was born on 15th September 1932, the fourth of five children of Irene and Jack Buitenhuis. Like Brian, two of his late brothers also attended Brentwood School: Peter, an emeritus professor at Simon Fraser University, Canada (1936-42) and Derek, a successful television producer (1941-47). He is survived by his wife Frances and by their younger sister Mary.
Aged 11, Brian gained an Essex County Scholarship to Brentwood in 1943, travelling there daily from Gidea Park for the next seven years.
He was a member of the West house gymnastics, cricket and football teams, and played for the School 1st X1 at football. Given teachers’ concerns that he was not working hard enough, his mother was summoned to see Headmaster Ralph Allison, After a brief discussion about the need for Brian to concentrate on his lessons, the Head realised that he was playing football for the 1st X1 and changed tack. “That’s good; I will rely on you to make sure he works harder!”
He responded and continued to excel at sport. In December 1950, The Brentwoodian noted: “Buitenhuis at outside left is the last but no means least of the best forward line the School has had since the war; we are sorry that he is to leave, for his dash will be missed”.
Brian did National Service with the RAF at Marham, Norfolk and Coningsby, Lincolnshire. He became a Sergeant, Bomber Air Gunner in Lincolns and B29s but contrived to play plenty of football and cricket.
After a short spell in insurance, he began working in the family wholesale meat business, E H McLaren, in Smithfield Market. When his father retired in 1962, Brian acquired an abattoir in Hatfield Heath and entered into partnership with school friend Derek ‘Beef’ Church, whose family owned butchers’ shops, under the aegis of Church & McLaren Ltd.
The business supplied a widening range of retail shops, catering companies and supermarkets, including shelf-ready fresh meats to Marks and Spencer. Brian started McLaren Meat Processing Ltd. with John Boswell, later acquiring a processing plant in New Cross and two more units in Ashford. The business was very successful and was sold to Northern Foods in 1984.
In 1988, with changing EEC regulations and increasing competition from supermarkets, the partners closed the Hatfield Heath abattoir. Brian helped David Lowe at Stokes Butchers in Dunmow with wholesale meat sales before joining Bob Brayne at B & C Meats in Harlow as sales director.
Bob recalled: “After leaving the Royal Marines, Brian gave me my first real chance with a job at Church & McLaren. I will always be grateful to him. He had so much influence and helped so many people’s lives. He was always a pleasure to work with and a great asset to B & C”.
After National Service, Brian reconnected with the Society of Old Brentwoods and joined the OB football and cricket clubs, based at the Burland Road ground. For many Old Brentwoods and their friends, the OB Clubhouse was the source of much socialising in those years. Although many friendships may have started at school, it was through sport that they often developed to life-long relationships.
Having played with Brian for several years, Mike Pepper recalls a free-hitting batsman. “On one occasion, from the Shenfield Road end of the square, he hit a huge blow, clearing the Burland Road end sight screen by a massive margin---a truly awesome strike.” Brian played in the 1955 Arthur Dunn Cup final against Old Salopians when the trophy was shared. Unfortunately, he broke his leg in a London Hospital FC six-a-side competition. However, he enjoyed a long and happy association with Thorndon Park Golf Club where he was a member for over 50 years, serving as captain in 1988.
At the open air swimming pool in North Road, Brentwood, Brian met Frances Ingram. She was a fine swimmer and diver from the Ursuline School. Their friendship flourished and they were married in 1956 at St Peter’s Church, South Weald. Brian adored Frances and his children, their partners, his five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. The family lived at Shenfield and then Hutton Mount.
In 1968, Brian enlisted the aid of chartered surveyor Colin Finch (OB) in pursuit of a country house in Sheering, called The Hoppet, with a view to moving nearer to his business in Hatfield Heath.
At a tense auction sale, Colin’s valuation was eventually reached. However, Brian was determined not to be outbid and the auctioneer’s gavel finally came down in his favour. He exclaimed: ‘What have I done? Frances will murder me!’ However, she was overjoyed and the champagne was uncorked. It was to become their very happy family home for over 20 years.
Ownership of the house carried with it the presidency of Sheering Village Cricket Club. He continued the tradition of captaining a team for an annual cricket match, followed by a garden party and barbecue. Brian’s team would include OB friends and the matches continued until limbs could no longer respond.
Annual holidays in the South of France gave rise to treasured memories, first with OB Peter Griffiths and his wife Barbara. Thus began a love of boats for Brian and Frances and for La Faviere, Port de Bormes. Annual visits were complemented by regular visits to the Boat Show in London.
A small inflatable was followed by a bigger one and then by the Glastron speedboat, named Live and Let Die, acquired from the film company which made the James Bond film. In 1984, they upgraded to a 32-foot cabin cruiser, which they named Hoppet 2.
John Dixon recalls a “heavy” evening with Brian, which included a session at the Capitainerie. In the morning, Brian had no recollection of buying a mooring but found he had done so. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a great investment. Aged 70, during a visit to the Boat Show, Brian said goodbye to the cabin cruiser and bought a 42-foot sailing yacht, naming it Serenity.
As they grew older, the couple had serious health challenges to contend with.: Brian had a major heart attack during a golfing holiday in South Africa, which necessitated major surgery; Frances suffered a second stroke on her 69th birthday, on the boat in the south of France.
Brian’s unselfish care for Frances enabled them to manage their lives well. Both had strong constitutions and positive attitudes. Coupled with the dedicated loving care and support from Carol, David, Ali and their families, they were able to live relatively independently and comfortably at home. Since the beginning of the Covid Pandemic, Ali chose to live at the Manor House to look after her parents. She continues to be there for Frances.
Colin Finch added: “Brian played a long and full innings before it came to a close in his 90th year. He was a kind, generous, hospitable, and bubbly friend with a love of fun and a dry sense of humour. Many have had their lives enriched by knowing him and sharing his friendship. We shall all miss him greatly.”