Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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The recent one-day Dutch Billy conference was hugely enjoyable and very useful in many ways, but it was a pity there wasn’t a bit more time for discussion.

The irrepressible Kevin B Nowlan, in top form after a recent trip to northern Poland, dominated what discussion there was with a typically strident assertion that the gabled tradition here was definitively a branch of the pan-Northern-European gabled tradition, an assertion which would be wonderful, if it were true.

It was clear from the tone of several speakers that ‘Billy’ himself, despite the fact that he was observing proceedings from tapestries on both sides of the room, wasn’t getting a look in. In fact I think it would be fair to say that a certain amount of scorn was poured on the very notion that the primary subject matter of the conference, the ‘Dutch Billy’, owed anything at all to King Billy, in its origins as a architectural tradition. I think even Peter Walsh confessed to a slight embarrassment at having perpetuated the use of the term Dutch Billy in his writings on the subject which remain the authoritative texts. The problem of course arises because nobody knows for sure how Maurice Craig came up with the term, whether he rescued it from impending oblivion as an authentic piece of folk-memory, or whether it was just a witty invention.

If it was the prevailing view of the conference; that William of Orange is a red herring in all of this, which it did appear to be, then I suspect that we may be re-visiting this issue next year, provided the Civic Trust do the decent thing and turn this into an annual event.

Personally, I think the King-Billy-factor is absolutely critical to the popularity of the curvilinear gabled tradition here. In my opinion, the gabled tradition cannot be satisfactorily explained by any combination of the other factors at play; trade links, immigration, continuance of antique forms etc. etc. any one of which almost everyone present at the conference seemed to be infinitely more comfortable with as explanation enough.

I didn’t want to let this issue pass without comment.

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