Rugby royalty turn out to remember Eddie 'The Voice' Butler
THE great and the good of British rugby converged on the land of the giants in a market town in Monmouthshire today, where probably the biggest giant of them all - Eddie ‘The Voice’ Butler - was remembered.
More than 700 people turned up at the town’s Market Hall for a memorial service to Mr Butler that was attended by his family, including wife Sue who thanked the community for its support.
You probably already have an idea of Mr Butler's influence, but in case you don’t here’s just some of the names who attended - Jon Inverdale, Gabby Logan, Jonathan Davies, Sonja McLaughlan, Brian Moore, Jeremy Guscott, Andrew Cotter, Tom Shankland and Robert Jones.
For those who couldn’t sit in the market and watch as Clare Balding MC’d the service – often in tears – the memorial was being live streamed at local pubs in the area.
Then the great and the good of rugby converged on Abergavenny Rugby Club where the real outpouring of emotion for 'The Voice' came.
Jonathan Davies had said during the ceremony that Mr Butler was his own man, and broke down as he described the moment he found out he would no longer hear The Voice.
At the rugby club, Mr Davies seemed more relaxed and was able to sum up Mr Butler with a clarity that comes from being in familiar surrounds.
“To me he was just a really good friend,” said Mr Davies speaking to the Argus. “It was a privilege to be there and a great send off to a great man.”
This was echoed by Colin Evans, secretary of Abergavenny Rugby Club – where all three of Mr Butler's boys played – who said the town will never see anything like it.
Mr Evans still seemed in shock at the rugby royalty that came to celebrate Mr Butler – but he wasn’t surprised. Mr Evans said Mr Butler’s ability to speak to anyone was the reason he was so loved.
“The great thing about Eddie was he always had time for people,” said Mr Evans. “He was always interested in the people who worked in the background, the people that go unnoticed, he would recognise them and talk to them.”
(Wales legend Jonathan Davies broke down as he spoke at the memorial in Abergavenny)
(Abergavanney Rugby Club secretary Colin Evans said the club could always rely on Mr Butler)
(A memorial for Eddie Butler was held at Abergavenny Market Hall)
(Rugby and broadcast royalty were there including Gabby Logan and Brian Moore)
BBC broadcaster Andrew Cotter waxed lyrical, not about Mr Butler's rugby skills, but his skills in his next life as a journalist.
“I admired him for his skill and craft,” said Mr Cotter. “He never entered into the low-brow side of sports broadcasting. He was a writer and he wrote these beautiful pieces. His use of words was second to none. I looked up to him as a broadcaster.”
One of the fondest conversations was with Andy Gray, who was one of the first scrum-halfs Mr Butler played with in a Pontypool side that would garner fame in the 80s.
For Mr Gray – who now runs a pub in Pembrokeshire – he said people couldn’t believe a Cambridge graduate was coming to what he described as the “hard edge” of Welsh rugby and think he’d survive.
“He was so out of place,” said Mr Gray, “but his character was such that he would get a hell of a battering from these Valleys boys, but he took it and that is where he got his respect.”
(Former teammates of Eddie Butler at Pontypool Andy Gray (left) with ex Wales internationals Alun Carter and Steve Sutton)
(Andy Gray with Graham Price)
(Former teammates and friends of Eddie Butler, Bleddyn Taylor, Goff Davies and Mike Crowley)
While a sad day in some respects it was also a joyous day, which was something you could see in Andy Gray's grin as he and his Pontypool teammates reunited properly for the first time since that cup win of 83 – only Eddie Butler could make that happen.
Mr Gray summed up why there was such a love for the man.
“Every time he was in Pembrokeshire he always came to see me," he said. “He wanted to know about you and that was the empathy of the man. He cared about people.”
Rest in peace Eddie 'The Voice' Butler.