RCB Archive of the Month May 2012Tuesday 1 May 2012
The poignant life story of a former Representative Church Body (RCB) staff member, Leslie Booker Butler (1916–41), and associated history of the staff golf outing – one of the oldest Irish golf society outings in existence having been held continuously since 1926 – is featured as May’s Archive of the Month at the RCB Library.
Leslie Butler was the younger son of George Booker Butler, Secretary (later Chief Officer and Secretary) of the RCB (the Church of Ireland’s civil service) from 1935 to his retirement in 1949, and his wife Annie Maud née Hamilton. The family lived in Ranelagh, Dublin, and were parishioners of Sandford and later Milltown parishes. The older son Arthur (1912–91) was to have a distinguished clerical career, as a military chaplain during the Second World War, and then successively as rector of Monkstown, Dublin, 1945–58, bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, 1958–69, and finally bishop of Connor, 1969–81.
At the age of 17 his younger brother Leslie, would follow their father into the service of the RCB, entering Church House at 52 St Stephen’s Green – the then headquarters of the organization – as a junior clerk on the 14 March 1934, just a month before his 18th birthday. Three years later life would take a more serious turn, when he made the decision to sign up for service in the Royal Air Force on the 12 August 1940 following the outbreak of the War. Initially he served as a wireless operator, then as an air gunner, also progressing to the rank of sergeant.
From the RAF base at Killfrana, Malta, Leslie kept in touch with his RCB colleagues at home, wishing them well in the 15th annual golf outing (initiated by his father some years before as a team–building effort) held in May 1941. His hopes that ‘1942 will see me in your midst once again’ were sadly not to be realised. Less than ten months after signing up, aged just 25 years, Butler was killed in a tragic air crash, on the 16 June 1941, within the context of fierce fighting and counter–offensive in the air war over the Mediterranean. After the accident, his body was recovered: a metal plate fixed to the wall at the entrance of Kalkara Naval Cemetery in Malta records that he was one of 1,500 servicemen from the Second World War to be buried there.
In his memory, colleagues on the staff of the RCB chose to remember him by presenting the Leslie Butler Trophy: ‘in proud and happy memory … for annual competition’ at the annual golf outing held every year at Delgany Golf Club since its inception in 1926. Fondly referred to in Church House as “Delgany Day”, to which staff members make monthly contributions from their salaries, it is normally timed in May at Ascension–tide in and around the time of General Synod as just reward for the additional staff hours incurred in preparation for the Church’s general AGM. The Butler trophy is poignantly inscribed with the key dates of Leslie’s life, as well as the names of all the winning golfers of the trophy in the 70 years since it was first presented in his memory in 1942.
To view the trophy with related archival material, and read the full story, click here.