Monday, 27 September 2021

Rev Basil ‘Bob’ Butler-Smith, a priest of the people

THE Reverend Basil Butler-Smith, who died on October 16, was born on April 9, 1930 in London, the only son

THE Reverend Basil Butler-Smith, who died on October 16, was born on April 9, 1930 in London, the only son of an English clergyman and a Greek mother.

His only language until the age of five was Greek. His parents moved to Ipswich, which is where his education began.

At 14, he was sent to Lancing College in West Sussex and from there went on to do his national service in the Royal Artillery.

He then joined the Metropolitan Police in London where he spent a lot of his time as a Greek interpreter at the Old Bailey.

On his marriage to Ann, “Bob” worked for Pan American Airways at Heathrow before establishing his own air courier business.

In 1965, he decided to follow the three generations before him and enter the ministry of the Church of England. He trained at Bishops’ College, Hertfordshire.

In December 1967, he was ordained at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford before taking his first post, a curacy at St Michael’s Church, Bray, near Maidenhead. Having served his initial three years at Bray, he and the family moved to Suffolk to be near his parents where his father had his own parish in Kesgrave, near Ipswich.

Bob was the rector of two parishes, Norton and Tostock, and was also a chaplain at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. In 1976, following the death of his parents, he was fortunate enough to be offered the living of rector of Rotherfield Peppard and that of chaplain of Peppard Hospital, a role which he loved and where he spent many hours with the patients.

In 1979, he also took on the responsibility of rector of Rotherfield Greys.

During the very happy and fulfilled 26 years as rector of the Rotherfield parishes, Bob conducted hundreds of weddings and baptisms, including those of his own children and grandchildren and became a well-loved and much respected figure in the


In 1992 he was diagnosed with cancer which he fought with remarkable stoicism, winning his battle and making a full recovery.

He continued as rector for another 10 years, only retiring in 2002 when he and Ann moved to Sonning Common.

He was well known for his love of donkeys and famously had two, Polly and Lucy, roaming in the garden at the rectory.

Polly attended church on Christmas Eve to the delight of children in the congregation. Indeed, there was a natural and affectionate rapport between Bob and children. Many people remember that the donkeys, having spotted the rectory front door ajar, would make haste up the steps and go straight into the study where they would help with the sermons!

During the 26 years during which Bob was rector of Rotherfield Peppard, three major projects were accomplished which should stand the test of time.

The old parish room was sold and a new one built in 1982, a new organ was installed in 1993 and, in 1999, the chancel was re-roofed.

Bob was a man who gave his time and love to all who knew him and spent many hours visiting the sick and lonely. He was always available to those in need.

He was hugely respected by his parishioners and much loved by his family and friends. He will be greatly missed by his wife Ann, three children, Simon, Chris and Fiona, and six grandchildren.

His funeral will be held at All Saints’ Church, Peppard, on Tuesday (October 29) at 1pm.

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