Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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MARTYN WILLIAMS: Eddie Butler was a master commentator, but he was also like a father figure

Very, very few people can transcend a generation – but Eddie Butler was one. The sudden death of a good friend at the age of 65 is still difficult for me to process.

You’ve seen the impact Eddie has had on the world by the tributes paid to him by people from all eras. The current Wales players have taken to social media to express their condolences. As Wales team manager, I can tell you that today’s team has not once been critical of Eddie.

They raved about him and his montages and felt comfortable in his company.

And those from the 1970s and 1980s who played with him and worked with him later in life were also united in sorrow.

That’s what I mean when I say Eddie has crossed a generation.

He touched the lives of so many people, first as a player and then through his work in the media, where he will always be remembered for his outstanding television commentary.

Eddie spoke about some of the greatest moments of my playing career, like the 2005 and 2008 Six Nations Grand Slams. Obviously, when you play in big games, you don’t watch or listen to TV commentary. But you always look back on it right afterwards and in the years to come. You realize how special these moments are.

During Covid much of the old Welsh Grand Slams footage was re-released and the memories came flooding back for me.

Eddie voiced them all.

He hit every big moment, be it Gavin Henson’s kick against England in 2005, Kevin Morgan’s try against Ireland (also in 2005) or the England v Wales game in 2008.

Eddie was the voice of a golden generation of Welsh rugby.

He will be sorely missed but will never be forgotten. I was at the house with my family on Thursday night when I checked online and saw the headline that Eddie had died.

It was the kind of moment that slaps you in the face. It was devastating.

TV work and commentating is so, so difficult – as I found when I moved into media after my playing career. The television world can be very cutthroat and you can naturally encounter some egos. Eddie had no ego. He helped me a lot when I started.

It’s pretty scary walking into a Six Nations commentary and you know there are millions watching! But Eddie would make you feel so comfortable. He would explain it to you, but not in a condescending way. He would make you feel like he’s commentating on a Six Nations game when the two of you are chatting, which is an art in itself.

The thing that comes to mind about working with Eddie as a commentator is that maybe during a game you’re talking and then out of nowhere you have a big hand in front of you. That was his way of telling you to shut up! He knew exactly what was needed at any moment. He was an absolute genius and a gentleman too, just a brilliant guy to get to know.

I was in awe when I first met him, but he couldn’t have been more helpful to me. He made my transition into the media a lot easier.

The best memory I have of the time with Eddie is the summer of 2018. We had a small team playing Wales and South Africa in Washington before going to Argentina.

That month I really got to know Eddie. In a minute I walked him through Arlington Cemetery and he told me the whole story of the American Civil War and Vietnam. Next time we were in Argentina and we talked about Buenos Aires and Welsh history in Patagonia. He spoke fluent Spanish.

I remember him sitting in front of a taxi and talking to the driver. I was behind and silent!

Eddie was a guy who knew everything but didn’t brag about it. It was an absolute privilege to tour with him.

I’ve been fortunate to travel the world on so many different trips with Rugby, but those four weeks with Eddie were absolutely priceless.

He loved a glass of red wine and we had a night out in Argentina that I will never forget. He was like a father figure holding the room together.

It goes without saying how well Eddie did his job, but the most important thing to me is that other than that, no one had anything bad to say about him. Anyone who spent time in his company would be able to tell that he was such a gentle, humble and intelligent guy.

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