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Retired star Butler playing the game of life

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Randy Butler remembers the day he got his first cricket bat. He was 14 and packing groceries at the Old Stop and Shop grocery store on Church Street in Hamilton.

“One of the staff members gave it to me because he knew I liked cricket,” the 71-year-old said. “It was the old-fashioned kind that needed linseed oil to keep it supple. I treasured that bat for years.”

Until then, he had mainly played with a tennis ball and a crudely carved plank of wood. Angle Street was his oval.

“My brother Michael and I played a lot of sports in the street,” he said. “Back then you could because there wasn't much traffic and things were slower.”

He was the second youngest of seven children of Myrtle and Vaughn Evans. His father was a painter from Dominica and his mother was a homemaker.

As a teenager, an older friend signed him up for the Western Stars team, where Mr Butler quickly gained a reputation as an all-rounder.

After a few years he added umpiring to his repertoire. He became a member of the West Indies Cricket Umpires' Association and travelled the world, umpiring games for 47 years.

“I enjoyed umpiring on the grounds that you could see where Bermuda cricket was going,” he said. “Sometimes you saw it improving and then you saw it fall off.”

He met his wife, Alfreda, at a Hallowe'en party on Princess Street.

“I wouldn't dance with anyone,” Mrs Butler said, “but when I saw him I danced with him. When he found out where I worked, he would meet me outside at the end of the day and take me home.”

They have been married for 47 years and have two daughters, Angeline Butler and Melissa Butler Griffiths.

“A lot of wives didn't like cricket,” Mrs Butler said. “I got into it to avoid becoming a cricket widow. If you can't beat them, join them. I took the girls to all the games from the time they were babies.

“I helped with tea breaks. Otherwise, what was I going to do while he was at the games all the time?

“We went on many wonderful family trips thanks to cricket. He umpired all over the world. Everyone respected him. I have always been told he is approachable. People would say he is the nicest guy — and he is.”

Mr Butler believes playing cricket may have kept him “steady”, simply because he didn't have much opportunity for mischief.

“We were on the field all day,” he said. “You weren't like a spectator drinking beers and carrying on.”

As a child, his family thought he'd become a soldier.

“It was because I loved drumming,” he said. “I would follow the gombeys as far as Pond Hill in one direction or the Hamilton Princess in the other. My parents wouldn't let me become a gombey, though. They didn't think it was proper.”

He eventually became a soldier, albeit at first unwillingly.

“I was conscripted in 1967,” he said. “It was just a short time after the Bermuda Regiment was formed and I definitely did not want to join.

“I was working for the Bermuda Press at the time, in the circulation department. There was one other boy in my department who was also conscripted, so I went to the manager and suggested he apply for an exemption.”

The manager advised Mr Butler to “just do his time”. He was there for 23 years.

“After three years, the Bermuda Regiment said they wanted me to be a commissioned officer,” Mr Butler said. “In the army you learn obedience, so I did what they told me to do and took the officers' examinations.”

He retired from the regiment in 1990 as a major, having been aide-de-camp and honorary aide-de-camp to several governors including Sir Edwin Leather, and equerry to Princess Margaret.

“I met Queen Elizabeth II at the Southampton Princess,” he said. “She seemed very straightforward. I also met US President George Bush Sr in the 1980s when he was still vice-president.

“I knew Princess Margaret a bit more because I was driving her around. I led parades, and was acting colonel twice.”

He was employed at the Bermuda Post Office for 25 years, working as an express mail manager.

In 2000, while on a postal course in England, he wrote to Princess Margaret to say hello and tell her that it was the Bermuda Regiment's 35th anniversary.

“She wrote back and said she was busy and would have liked to have had me for tea,” he said. “Unfortunately, I was busy with my studies. It was an eight-week course and I wasn't there for long enough.”

He was pleased though, that Princess Margaret remembered him.

“Growing up on Angle Street I never would have imagined I'd one day be meeting queens and presidents,” Mr Butler said.

Over the years he has won a number of awards for his umpiring work including the West Indies Cricket Umpires' Association's 50th anniversary 2013 Appreciation Award for dedicated and committed service as a regional vice-president and in 2014, the Bermuda Cricket Board's Appreciation Award for service to cricket.

He had open-heart surgery a few years ago and these days tries to take it easy.

“I talk to my friends on the phone,” he said. “I like to look up things on the internet. Sometimes I go to the gym.”

Field of endeavour: former cricket player and umpire Randy Butler with the cedar bat he received from the Bermuda Cricket Board in 2014 in honour of his years of service to the game (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Dedicated soldier: Major Butler on parade (Photograph supplied)
Well respected: former cricketer and umpire Randy Butler with the cedar bat he received from the Bermuda Cricket Board in 2014 in honour of his years of service to the game (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 08, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 08, 2015 at 8:38 am)

Retired star Butler playing the game of life

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