Butch White was a larger than life Hampshire fast bowler who also had two games for England. I became friends with him through the Lord’s Taverners and when he died I wrote this for the Tavs magazine

Butch White

A personal memory

When I first started playing for the Taverners, about 25 years ago, the opening bowlers were often John Price (Middlesex and England) and Butch White (Hampshire and England).

In those days they were, at least in my perception, like twins. They were both first to the bar where copious pints would be drunk and, when we stayed away, first down to breakfast, whatever the events of the previous evening, for a full English.

A highlight of the year would be a trip down into Sussex for the August Bank Holiday week-end. It would start on the Friday in the massive and very old farmhouse where Butch lived with his wife Jane. The many bedrooms would be packed, not that much sleep would be had that week-end.

Friday would start with dinner in a local restaurant. Saturday would see a game against the local village on the private ground of his brother-in-law, Tony Gooda, followed by a seemingly endless party at Butch’s house.

Sunday would be the then traditional Tavs game at Arundel and Monday would see us depart reluctantly for home in very poor but happy condition.

Eventually I came to skipper the Tavs on occasions. My debut was at Bury St Edmunds where the terrible twins (Butch and John Price) referred to me frequently and with heavy irony as “Captain” throughout the pre-match drinks and lunch and in the dressing room as we changed.

Obviously in collusion with the rest of the side they waited until I had led us onto the ground and almost to the wicket when John called out “Captain? Do you think it would be a good idea if we had a wicket-keeper?”

Butch could hardly control himself as Roy Virgin (Northamptonshire and Somerset) returned to the dressing room for his pads and gloves.

I got my own back when I introduced Butch to the crowd by saying he had played once for England. He quickly pointed out that he had actually played twice. I immediately apologised saying that it was a mistake anyone could have made because he doesn’t usually get invited back – anywhere!

Butch was a larger than life character and strong as an ox. I discovered this when I was picked for the trip to Hong Kong at the start of the problems in the Middle East which led, eventually, to the First Gulf War.

Led by manager Caroline Driver, there were three show business – Tim Rice, Bill Wiggins and myself – four then current players – John Emburey, Mark Ramprakash and Mike Roseberry (all then of Middlesex) and Mark Nicholas (Hampshire and England “A”)  - and four ex-players – MJK Smith (Warwickshire and England - Captain), Farouk Engineer (Lancashire and India), Neil Durden-Smith and Butch.

We flew out with Cathay Pacific thanks to their then top man Rod Eddington (eventually to become CEO of British Airways and with whom I remain friends to this day). Tavs Director Tony Swainson told us that we could take a direct flight but that because of the Middle East troubles these were full and we would have to sit up the back.

However, if we took the flight which stopped at Bahrain we would be upgraded. Needless to say we opted for the latter and when we boarded we had the entire first class cabin to ourselves. Both ways!

I sat next to Butch and opposite was Tim. We still chuckle to this day about holding our glass of champagne and, as we took off, saying: “Here’s to Saddam Hussein. I’ve always liked him!”

Butch was also my “roomie”. Not that he was there for much of the seven nights. It was hectic trip. Most days were taken up with cricket or an official function and every evening saw us booked to speak or appear at dinners.

I was a late replacement for Henry Kelly as the cabaret for a ball and Butch much enjoyed a piece about me in the South China Morning Post. I had told the journalist that I had been to Hong Kong several times before. He wrote: “It seems that entertainer Bob “the Cat” Bevan, knows more about Hong Kong than people here know about him.”

Every night Butch would end the evening at a disco called Joe Bananas. He would arrive in our room at about 4 am, rise again at around 8, shake himself, have a scratch, make me a cup of tea, have a shower, moan about me pinching all the shampoos and soaps (something he was still doing the last time we met), head downstairs for a full English and then bowl seven or eight overs in the stiffling heat. That night he would be back in Joe Bananas.

A year or two later he was there when Laura and I met on a Tavs trip to Florida. When I boarded the coach I had a choice of sitting next to Butch or Laura. I told him that Laura was marginally more attractive. Also there was more room.

At Butch’s funeral his son Richard spoke movingly about his Dad with whom he had a good and boisterous relationship, often over a few beers. Richard said that Butch would start some trouble and then sit back and watch it all develop around him.

Jenny Snow recalled how someone he did not take to on a Tavs trip to Portugal ended up in the swimming pool.

This led to another memory when we all went to La Manga. He was billeted with an ex-County cricketer with whom, unbeknown to the organisers, he did not get on. When the aforementioned cricketer returned to his room he found Butch had put his bed on the balcony. They did however survive the trip.

Former England wicket-keeper John Murray also recalled that on Butch’s one and only England tour to India and Pakistan he and the Kent fast bowler Alan Brown went missing for four days! Can you imagine that happening today? Makes the pedalo look ordinary.

In his heyday he must have been some bowler. He took over 1100 first-class wickets at a time when all the good players still played regularly for their counties.
In later years things did not go so well for him. Jane died about 17 years ago and his brother-in-law was part of the fall-out from Lloyd’s of London. Butch had to leave his home and struggled for a bit until he eventually found work at a golf club and although I saw little of him his later years seemed to be back on track.

When we did meet it was always a happy reunion and I’m sad to think it won’t happen again, at least not in this life.

It would be true to say he was no saint but he was also kind and generous and great company. I’m sure he has gone to the great pavilion in the sky where you never run out of soaps and shampoos and Joe Bananas never closes.

Maybe one day – not too soon I hope! – I’ll see you in there?

Order one up for me, Roomie..RIP mate.

Bob “the Cat”Bevan MBE

Grumpy old goalies


Bob 'The Cat' Bevan