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Friday, September 16, 2022

Day Eddie Butler re-opened Chain Bridge is fondly recalled

* Llanblogger's picture of Eddie Butler re-opening the Chain Bridge in May, 2015.

One of the ceremony’s organisers has been recalling the day former Wales rugby union captain and legendary broadcaster Eddie Butler, who has died at the age of 65, officially opened the Chain Bridge at Berwyn.

Mr Butler passed away in his sleep while on a charity trek in Peru, aged 65, and tributes to him have been pouring in from across the country.

On May 28, 2015 he opened up the world-famous bridge after it had been in a state of chronic disrepair for 30 years.

One of those who invited him to perform the ceremony was Maggie Smith, then chair of Llantysilio Community Council which had teamed up with Llangollen Town Council to bring the historic footbridge across the River Dee back to life.

* Eddie Butler was one of the first to walk across the newly-opened footbridge.

Remembering the occasion, she said: “I travelled with Eddie on the train from Llangollen Station to Berwyn Station and then back to Llangollen on a canal boat after the opening ceremony.

“He was lovely to chat to and was interested in the bridge refurbishment and about Llangollen generally. He enjoyed both the train ride and the boat trip.”

In his speech, Mr Butler said it was good to be back in an “absolutely fabulous part of our country”.

“It is not the biggest bridge over the River Dee, and we know it’s not the strongest bridge over the River Dee – but it has been rebuilt,” he said.

“I visited here four years ago and there was just the notion that ‘just one day, wouldn’t it be good if we could get this bridge rebuilt?’

“It is a very special bridge, because it was built in the first place by a man with one of the greatest names of all time – Exuperius Pickering.

“And when your bridge is built by an Exuperius, you know you’ve got something special.”

After opening the entrance to the bridge, Mr Butler was among the first across – along with dignitaries including the Mayor of Llangollen Cllr Bob Lube and Clwyd South representatives Ken Skates AM and Susan Elan-Jones MP.

The project to bring the bridge back in to public use has been ongoing for about five years, after the Llangollen and Llantysilio Community Councils bought it from former owner, the late businesswoman Stephanie Booth, for just £1.

After receiving £350,000 in grants, the councils were able to commence work on rebuilding the bridge with Shemec Ltd – with about two-thirds of the rebuild making use of original materials from the bridge.

After rising to prominence with club side Pontypool, Mr Butler played 16 times for Wales between 1980 and 1984, captaining the side on six occasions and scoring two tries.

The number eight was called up to the British and Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 1983.

After retirement he became a respected rugby broadcaster.

He started his newspaper journalism career with the Sunday Correspondent in 1988 before stints with Observer and the Guardian and returned to BBC Wales in 1990 after being brought back in by new head of sport Gareth Davies.

After McLaren's retirement, he became the BBC rugby lead commentator where he formed a notable partnership with the likes of former England hooker Brian Moore and ex-Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies.

In 2010, Mr Butler joined a host of former Wales captains who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise funds for Velindre Hospital, Cardiff's specialist cancer treatment centre.

Butler presented history series on the BBC including Wales and the History of the World, Hidden Histories, Welsh Towns at War in 2014 and two series of Welsh Towns in 2015.

He was also an author after publishing three novels and two non-fiction books.

Away from rugby and broadcasting, Butler campaigned for Welsh independence in recent years.

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