Neath RFC is mourning the loss of one of its finest back row forwards – Alan Butler.
Alan Butler graduated to Neath after captaining Neath Athletic in 1958/59 and, after appearing in half the games in 1961/62 usually alongside Welsh international John Davies, Alan Dix and David Richards, he became a regular figure in the back row, making 200 appearances for the Club before retiring at the end of the 1967/68 season.
A scrupulously fair player, he was mentioned as being a candidate for Welsh trial selection which unfortunately eluded him but he was an integral member of the Neath pack which was a dominant force in Welsh rugby throughout the Sixties.
On November 2nd, 1963, Alan appeared alongside Dave Morris and Peter Jones (Lyn’s father) in the back row for the Neath-Aberavon combined side which took Wilson Whineray’s New Zealanders mighty close before losing 6-11 at the Talbot Athletic Ground. In an earlier warm-up game, the combined side had beaten London Counties 10-3 with two tries – one scored by Alan, the other by Aberavon’s Cyril Jones.
Alan also featured in two major events for Neath – the 15-6 win over Glamorgan County when the new grandstand was opened in 1962 and the 8-8 draw against an International XV when The Gnoll floodlights were illuminated for the first time in 1964.
December 12, 1964 was a red-letter day for Alan as as he broke the Club points record by bagging 19 points in the home game against Bridgend. He scored three tries, two penalties and two conversions to go alongside tries by Martyn Davies and Brian Thomas as the Blacks blew away the visitors, 25-nil.
That season 1964/65, he scored a career-best 117 points – a feat made all the more remarkable given that he shared goal-kicking duties with Grahame Hodgson who was Wales’ full back and goal-kicker at the time.
In 1966/67, Alan was a member of the Neath pack which dismembered all others on their way to winning the Welsh championship and the Anglo-Welsh title, sharing back row rota duties with Randall Davies, Dave Morris and Meirion Prosser.
Former Neath captain and coach Ron Waldron played alongside Alan throughout his Neath career and said, “Alan was very much his own man and a model clubman – he always took great pride in his fitness and was a wonderfully consistent player for us. Utterly reliable and a real gentleman, I remember him for the many games we played alongside each other and especially for kicking the penalties that helped us win the 1966/67 championship at Pontypridd.”
That game was played at verdant Ynysanghard Park where Pontypridd played before moving to Sardis Road and it was three Alan Butler penalties and a rare Martyn Davies dropped goal which clinched Neath’s nervy 12-9 win – and their first title for 20 years !
Neath secretary Mike Price said, “Alan will long be remembered for his top contribution to the great Neath RFC sides of the 1960’s, teams full of character, great determination and real achivement. He was always modest about his own input and it was always a pleasure to talk to him – not only about rugby because he enjoyed all sports and was always fair and measured in his judgements. He kept in touch as a regular member of the Neath Former Players and will be missed by all his friends at The Gnoll.”