Butler, Eric Boyce (1896-1969)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

ERIC BOYCE BUTLER: born in Chatham, Kent, in 1897. After apprenticeship in Chatham dockyard and service in the R.A.F. in the First World War, he was accepted for the Primitive Methodist ministry. In 1920 he was sent to Banbury, for a pre-collegiate year, and then, after training in Hartley College, he travelled in the following circuits: Hereford, Northampton III, Worthing, Peel, Shooters Hill (Eglington Hill), London (Herbert Rd.), Richmond, Kineton, Brownhills, Taunton. His ministry at Richmond was broken by four years service in H.M. Forces. 

On his retirement in 1962 he moved to Watchet where he worked as an active supernumerary, and three years later settled at Brailes in the Banbury Circuit. He delighted in preaching and gladly continued this service throughout his retirement. His careful preparation, sensitivity and deep sincerity enabled him effectively to set forth the truth of the Gospel and to open to his hearers the wealth of that all-sufficient grace in which his own life was so securely founded. His care for people expressed itself in many ways. The Youth Groups he sustained wherever he ministered brought many to a life-long love and service of the Church. His systematic arrangement for private interviews, his hospital visitation and his devoted pastoral work were places of encounter where many in need beheld the Saviour. He never spared or shielded himself. 

A deep undertone to his life for many years was the revulsion he knew at the sight of Belsen, and it was only through a deepened trust in the Gospel of grace that he transfigured his natural reaction. His home was a joy to all who knew it. He and his wife faced and conquered bitter grief in the sudden death of their second son just as he had embarked on his work as a doctor. He died on 1 November 1969, in the seventy-third year of his age and the forty-seventh of his ministry.


Eric was born on 20 December 1896 at Chatham, Kent, to parents George Boyce Butler, a general dealer, and Blanche Lacey Pearson. He was baptised on 7 March 1897 at Luton, Kent.

He married Emily Catherine Bishop (1905-1985) on 3 July 1926 at Mills Terrace PM Chapel, Chatham, Kent. The obituary above infers they had two sons.

Eric died on 1 November 1969 at Brailes, nr Shipston on Stour, Warwickshire.


  • 1920 Banbury
  • 1921 Hartley
  • 1923 Hereford
  • 1926 Northampton III
  • 1929 Worthing
  • 1930 Peel
  • 1933 Shooter’s Hill
  • 1935 London Herbert Rd
  • 1939 Richmond &c
  • 1942 Chaplain H.M. Forces
  • 1946 Richmond &c
  • 1948 Kineton
  • 1952 Brownhills &c
  • 1956 Taunton
  • 1962 Williton (S)


Methodist Minutes 1970/178

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Note: Eric was born in calendar year 1896, not 1897 as stated in the obituary.

Comments about this page

  • Stephen,
    Thank you for providing further information about the family of Eric Butler.

    By Geoff Dickinson (28/10/2019)
  • Eric Boyce Butler’s older son was my father David Boyce Butler (1927 – 2010), who became an Anglican worshipper and a librarian. His younger brother Malcolm Boyce Butler was the GP who died (of influenza) mentioned above.
    Eric Butler in his latter years suffered from dementia. His wife (Emily) Catherine cared for him devotedly and outlived him for several years. She died at Dovercourt, Essex.
    Unfortunately I have to tell you that both Eric Boyce Butler and David Boyce Butler were guilty of, to put it mildly, inappropriate behaviour toward children in their own family. I’m sorry if this information distresses you.
    I believe it is best to disabuse (interesting choice of word there) people of the impressions that such an uncritical biography may give. I may be wrong.
    Eric Butler was in many ways a lovely man. He radiated a warmth and kindliness which were genuine and which made a deep impression on me as a child. Therein lies the paradox.
    I know that my father was deeply traumatised by many aspects of his childhood, not just by abuse at home. His tragedy was a common one – he had nowhere to ‘put’ his sadness, rage and guilt. It could not be confessed or confronted, perhaps – who knows? – even in prayer.
    All of David’s 6 children have suffered from depression, and one was a suicide. Late in life, at least, he began to confront his own wrong-doing. I am sure he was tortured by what he had done, and I suppose that Eric must have been too.
    Clearly both were deeply troubled and damaged men but I loved both my father and grandfather despite their terrible failings, a love strong enough to survive some terrible memories and revelations. It is not just ‘evil’ which is passed down through the generations. I believe it is essential to remember that love and compassion too are part of Eric’s legacy.

    By Stephen Boyce Butler (27/10/2019)

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