Eddie Butler, former Wales rugby union captain and journalist, dies aged 65
Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a broadcasting giant following the death of Eddie Butler, aged 65.
The former Wales captain who, after retirement on the field became a much-loved, iconic voice for the BBC and also graced the pages of the Guardian and Observer, died in his sleep on a charity trek on the Inca Trail in Peru.
The ex-England hooker and Butler’s BBC colleague Brian Moore offered a touching social media farewell. “I am devastated by this news,” Moore tweeted. “Ed, I’m sorry I never told you how much I admired you as a broadcaster and as a man. Well, it wasn’t like that between us, was it. Condolences to Sue and your family. Sport has lost an iconic voice. I have lost a very dear friend. Goodbye Edward.”
Butler was a key part of the Pontypool side which dominated Welsh club rugby in the late 1970s and early 1980s, captaining the side between 1982-85. The imposing back-row forward made his Wales debut in the 18-9 victory over France in January 1980 and went on to win 16 caps between 1980-84.
After rugby, Butler had a stint as a teacher, then with a property development company before finding another niche in journalism, becoming a much-respected figure with the Guardian and Observer and joining up with the BBC. He would excel for the broadcaster in commentary on rugby, but also added colour, wit and knowledge to other major sporting events, notably the Olympic coverage.
“The Prostate Cymru charity is devastated by the passing of its much loved ambassador Eddie Butler,” read a statement announcing the news. “Eddie was the voice of Wales and we were honoured to have him as part of our charity. We will cherish the many memories we have of him.
“Over the last week Eddie once again showed his generosity and steadfast commitment to good causes by joining 25 Prostate Cymru fundraisers, including his daughter Nell, on the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. In the early hours of Thursday, September 15, Ed passed away peacefully in his sleep at Ecoinka base camp in the Peruvian Andes.
“He leaves behind his wife Susan and six children, who are very much in our thoughts.”
The Welsh Rugby Union chairman Rob Butcher insisted his country owed Butler a sizeable debt for his contribution to the sport. “For many, Eddie was the voice of Welsh rugby and he will be sorely missed by supporters around the globe as well as his friends throughout the game and here at the WRU,” said Butcher.
“He proudly represented his country as a player, was a mainstay in press boxes around the world long after he retired from the game and has been prolific in the way in which he has served Welsh rugby in both the written and spoken word over decades.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to his family, who we also know well and cherish, and his close friends and colleagues at this incredibly difficult time. He was a unique individual and the game in Wales owes him a debt of gratitude for his contributions both on and off the pitch.”
The BBC director general Tim Davie also paid tribute to a “wonderful wordsmith” who voiced some of rugby’s most vital moments. “Everyone at BBC Sport is shocked and saddened by this very sad news,” said Davie. “Eddie was a brilliantly gifted commentator, writer and reporter whose passion for the game of rugby union shone through every broadcast.
“A wonderful wordsmith with a rich, iconic voice, he provided the definitive soundtrack to some of the greatest moments in rugby’s history. He will be much missed by all of us, our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
The Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price praised Butler’s “lyricism and humanity” and said people would be marching for the former British and Irish Lion at a forthcoming independence rally in Cardiff.
“Eddie Butler was the most special man – a voice whose lyricism and humanity resonated across the nation, the generations, the world,” tweeted Price. “We have lost one of the greats. Thinking of Eddie’s family and the many others who loved him. Come October 1 Eddie Mawr (Big Eddie) we’ll march for you.”
The former Wales captain Sam Warburton paid tribute to Butler’s “amazing contribution” to sport and journalism. “Stunned at the news and passing of Eddie Butler,” said Warburton. “Thoughts with his family. What an amazing contribution to rugby and broadcasting. A privilege to have played and co-commentated with his voice. RIP Eddie.”