Farewell to the Butlers

ALSO retiring from the Queen’s College staff after acting as “parents” to thousands of boys since 1995 are Eldred and Petro Butler, who will settle in Sedgefield, two doors away from Ian and Ilona McEwan.
Housemaster Eldred was educated at Queen’s and later became very involved with the Old Boys’ Association. Petro came from Burgersdorp to train as a nurse at the Frontier, married Eldred and they had three children. Megan teaches in Fort Beaufort, Angela and her husband live in Ladybrand – and are expecting little Mia in February – while William has just completed his practical year in nature conservation and game management with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
When they came, Chris Harker was headmaster and Athlone was home to all ages of high school boys, but changes since then have included David Lovatt, followed by Brendan Grant and the hostel now only accommodates Grade 8 boys in cubicles, so there are fewer.
Their own children grew up in the hostel and loved it. Says Petro, “They learnt skills like how to interact with other children and share.”
They sometimes asked the senior boys to babysit when they attended functions, and they recalled the drama when William once choked on a coin – a boy eventually pushed it down. (Later it had to be surgically removed by Old Queenian Stan Weakley.)
On another occasion, Angela got her arm stuck in the pool table and doctors Theo Kriek and Michael Mokawem had to turn her and the table upside down to extricate her, much to the amusement of the boys.
They laughingly remember boys bunking out and say the drain pipe did overtime, while some climbed out of windows to smoke on the ledge. With Petro’s nursing experience, she was often called upon to attend to broken limbs and staff going into labour and, when the matrons used to do duty at Bisset, feeding 200 people when one of the caterers had a bereavement.
William used to keep chickens in the Athlone garden and they remember one going over into the White House while the Harkers were entertaining! Needless to say, he had to get rid of them.
Petro started helping with first aid at sports events 18 years ago and has been a regular ever since, not only at rugby matches but at all sports events – and at many other events in the community.
She has also been training first aiders at GHS and Maria Louw, and says she is most grateful to the doctors and ambulance personnel who have been of so much help over the years, often providing services at no charge. Petro has propagated many plants, as can be seen from the gardens at the hostel and in the school grounds.
But now it’s time to call it a day.
Both say they are grateful to the successive hostel committees who have done so much to benefit the hostel. Eldred says he looks forward to playing bowls again, fly fishing and will join a birding group, while Petro says she will have to learn to relax after being on call 24/7 for so many years.
“It will be nice to have time and learn to relax although I would like to get involved – there are two Alzheimer’s homes, a hospice and an old age home,” she says.
“Komani and the Queen’s College family have been great. When the chips are down the community is there for you and there is no other place in the world where you can walk into someone’s kitchen and make yourself a cup of tea. We will really miss it,” they agree.
Happy landings!

ON THEIR WAY: Eldred and Petro Butler are retiring from Queen’s College and plan to settle at Sedgefield Picture: CHUX FOURIE

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