Wales rugby and broadcasting legend Eddie Butler has died
Former Wales captain and rugby commentator Eddie Butler has died aged 65, with tributes lamenting the loss of an “iconic” sporting voice.
The 16-cap Wales number eight died in his sleep on a charity trek on the Inca Trail in Peru.
The popular BBC commentator rose to prominence with Pontypool in the 1970s, representing Wales between 1980 and 1984, and his voiceover montages were an integral part of the Six Nations for many years.
His period as a rugby commentator coincided with Wales’ run at successive Grand Slams, meaning that some of the greatest moments in Wales’ rugby history will forever be replayed overlaid with his dulcet tones.
“To put the seal on the win, to put the cream on the Grand Slam cake!”
Nobody could have said it better than Eddie Butler. RIP.
— Jamie Phillips (@JNPhillips4) September 15, 2022
"In the pool of death, they have beaten the host nation. Look what it means to Warren Gatland… Look what it means to Stuart Lancaster…
Wales have won two out of two." pic.twitter.com/5OJ9VuVnu1
— Peter Gillibrand (@GillibrandPeter) September 15, 2022
He was also a keen advocate for Welsh independence, speaking at YesCymru’s march in Merthyr Tydfil in 2019.
Butler toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 1983, before forging a highly respected career as a commentator and broadcaster.
Butler represented Cambridge University from 1976 to 1978 while studying French and Spanish at Fitzwilliam College.
The imposing back-row forward made his Wales debut in the 18-9 win over France in January 1980.
After rugby Butler enjoyed a short stint as a teacher, then with a property development company before finding another niche in broadcasting.
Butler moved on from spells with national newspapers to excel for the BBC in commentary on rugby, but also adding colour to major sporting events, notably Olympic coverage.
Charity Prostate Cymru, for whom Butler served as an ambassador, also shared the news.
“The Prostate Cymru charity is devastated by the passing of its much loved ambassador Eddie Butler,” read a statement.
“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 charity will not be making any immediate further comment. We also ask that the family’s privacy is respected during this difficult time.”
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 on 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.”
Former England hooker Brian Moore paid tribute to his friend and BBC colleague on social media.
“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.”
The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford was also among the first to express his condolences.
“Extremely sad to hear of Eddie’s passing,” he said. “Eddie was an incredible player and a supremely talented broadcaster. Wales will miss him terribly.”
Broadcaster Huw Edwards said: “Such a loss to his family, to his many friends, and to his country. Gŵr bonheddig.”
Stunned at the news and passing of Eddie Butler. 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 🙏 pic.twitter.com/AEMGSXKdhG
— Sam Warburton (@samwarburton_) September 15, 2022
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said: “Eddie Butler was the most special man – a voice whose lyricism and humanity resonated across the nation, the generations, the world.
“We have lost one of the greats. Thinking of Eddie’s family and the many others who loved him. Come October 1st Eddie Mawr we’ll march for you.”
Senedd Member Delyth Jewell said: “Nos da, Eddie. What dreadfully sad news. I had the enormous privilege of sharing a platform with Eddie Butler at the Merthyr independence rally in 2019.
“A gentle giant whose eloquence inspired so many people. His voice will be missed – he will be missed. Colled mawr ar ei ôl.”
YesCymru said: “With great sadness that we hear of the passing of Eddie Butler – former Wales rugby captain, journalist, broadcaster and supporter of independence for Wales – a true legend.
“Our thoughts are with his family.”
Dragons Rugby Chairman David Buttress said: “Terribly sad news, a lovely , bright and hugely knowledgeable man. My thoughts, love and deep condolences to all his family and friends.
“Rugby has lost a great person, who not only became the voice of rugby, but was also respected and much liked by all who knew him. So very sad.”
Irish Rugby said: “Everyone in Irish Rugby is saddened by the news of the death of Eddie Butler. Former WRU captain, legendary broadcaster and always a welcome presence in AVIVA Stadium.
“Our thoughts & prayers are with his family and friends. May he rest in peace.”
London Welsh RFC said: “It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Eddie. Butler Eddie was a great friend to the club and our thoughts are with the Butler family, especially with our squad member Jacob Butler. A legend and an absolute gentleman Eddie, you will be very sadly missed.”
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