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The simple story that sums up the lovely man that was Eddie Butler

16 Sep 2022 3 minute read
Eddie Butler speaking on the panel about the Basque refugee children who came to Wales (Credit: Christopher Evans)

Christopher Evans

It’s hard to comprehend the sad news that the great Eddie Butler has passed away.

The former Welsh international rugby legend, renowned journalist, author and broadcaster died in his sleep whilst on a charity trek on the Inca Trail in Peru.

Born in Newport, Wales, on the 8th May 1957, Eddie attended Monmouth School before going on to study French and Spanish at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

It was during his undergraduate studies that he spent a year in Madrid and fell in love with Spain. Eddie was enraptured by the country’s people, language, culture and history.

Following his retirement from rugby, Eddie became a much-loved and respected journalist and broadcaster, working for The Guardian, The Observer and the BBC. His voice defined the Six Nations. It defined a nation.

It was during his time with the BBC that Eddie presented the documentary ‘Wales and the Basque Refugees: The Children’s Stories’ (2012), about the 200 Basque refugee children who fled the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and were given refuge in Wales in 1937.

Just a few months ago I had the huge honour of being in in his presence. In fact, sat right next to him.

Despite being double-booked for another charity event in Abergavenny, Eddie came to Caerleon to speak on a panel about the Basque refugee children arriving in Wales 85 years ago.

What an aura. What a handshake. What a voice. What calves!

Eddie arrived in good spirits, in shorts and shirt. He stood out. He was friendly and convivial and put everyone at ease. I remember being over the moon when Eddie accepted my offer of a pint.

He didn’t want prepared questions, “just ask me anything and I’ll do my best.” His best was brilliant. He had the audience in the palm of his hands. They were captivated. He spoke calmly and with poise, but with authority in that wonderful Welsh lilt of his.

It is not the first time he has helped the Basque Children of ’37 Association. In 2017, he once again gave up his time to attend a screening of his Basque children documentary followed by a Q&A session at The Priory, Caerleon. Due to Eddie’s presence, it was so popular that he agreed to do it twice as there were so many people in attendance. Naturally, Eddie was more than happy to do this.

Unexpectedly, Eddie stayed for the whole day, as he was interested in and proud of Wales’ history of welcoming and hosting refugees.

Stories of his kindness and his willingness to give his time for free for good causes are being shared widely online. It is testament to the man that he was that there are so many memories and anecdotes of his altruism.

It’s such tragic news that Eddie has passed on. He was the voice of rugby, a voice for independence, a voice of the people, the voice of Wales.

He was also someone whose knowledge of Welsh history and culture ran deep.

My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

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Hywel Davies
Hywel Davies
1 year ago

As Chris Evans says in this moving tribute, the death of Eddie Butler has yet to fully sink in. I had the honour of working with Eddie in making the documentary on the Basque refugees. What struck me most during that time was Eddie`s decency. He would be stopped half a dozen times just walking down the street and each encounter was met with good humour and genuine warmth. This kindness was coupled with an impressive grasp of history, particularly the history of the nation he loved. He read widely and thought deeply. The world of rugby is rightly mourning… Read more »

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