Obituary: Major Sir David Butter KCVO MC

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Holder of the Military Cross, friend of the Queen and Lord Lieutenant of Perthshire

Born: 18 March, 1920, in Pitlochry.

Died: 29 May, 2010 in Pitlochry, aged 90.

MAJOR Sir David Butter was an influential and charismatic presence in Pitlochry and Perthshire throughout a long and distinguished life. He was not only a most dedicated Lord Lieutenant for the county but he was also involved in many aspects of everyday life. He took delight in encouraging and supporting individuals and events with a very personal fervour.

As Lord Lieutenant, he carried out his duties with a refined and genial informality: always smart in his uniform and, in keeping with his military background, ensuring everything was perfectly organised.

Major Butter had a way to put at their ease those who were being presented or had some official duty. If he spotted someone who was slightly on edge, he had a way of saying a few words that calmed them down and ensured the day's events proceeded without a hitch.

Colonel Jake Hensman, who is secretary of the Highland Division of the Territorial Army – of which Major Butter was president from 1979-84 – confirms that "David was always supportive of the TA. He backed you up enthusiastically in any undertaking and supported a new scheme. He was a gently spoken and delightfully unassuming man and a magnificent public servant."

David Henry Butter was a member of an ancient Scottish family that had owned land in Perthshire around Fascally near Pitlochry since the 12th century.

The origin of the surname is somewhat obscure. When the crest of a drawn bow was adopted by the family in the 17th century, it was assumed that the name had been given to the official who had charge of the Bow Butts. The theory, however, has never been convincingly proved.

Major Butter attended Eton and Oxford University but on the outbreak of war in 1939 he joined the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards and served with much distinction throughout the war. In the Western Desert campaign in North Africa, Major Butter commanded an anti-tank platoon and was wounded in action in June 1942.

It was during this campaign that he was awarded the Military Cross. The citation spoke of his "exceptional zeal and ability" from August 1941 to July 1942.

The citation continued: "He raised the platoon to a very high standard of efficiency. On June 13th his platoon, along with one motor platoon, was the only intact fighting unit. Lt Butter fought most gallantly in delaying actions against large numbers of enemy tanks despite having been wounded in the knee."

Also mentioned was Major Butter's action that July during an attack near El Alamein. "It was largely due to his cheerful courage, enthusiasm and skill" that his platoon was able to provide continuous and valuable support.

Thereafter Major Butter was promoted to act as a staff officer at the invasion of Sicily and was then ADC to the General Officer Commanding the 8th Army (General Sir Oliver Reese) during the advance through Italy.

Major Butter returned to Pitlochry where his father had been a prominent member of the community for many years. He followed his example and fulfilled many posts and acted firstly as a Deputy Lieutenant from 1956 and Lord Lieutenant of Perthshire ((1971–75) and of the County of Kinross (1974–75). He also served a county councillor for Perth (1955–74).

Nothing typifies Major Butter's dedication to the town of Pitlochry more than his work on behalf of the Pitlochry Highland Games. From 1946 until his death he was the Games Chieftain which, it is thought, is the longest any one person has been chieftain of a Highland Games.

He did much to promote and broaden the scope of the event. "The Pitlochry Games is something of an institution," one long-serving member of the committee recalled. "Major Butter was a most enthusiastic chairman – indeed he was in the chair for virtually every meeting throughout those 60 years. He ensured the preparations were all in place on the night before the games and then attended for the day and gave away the prizes. He was a charming, courteous man with a delightful sense of humour."

Blair Macnaughton, a long-time resident of Pitlochry, confirmed Major Butter's "quiet and determined manner and ability to get things done".

"He did much behind the scenes and preferred not to make things public. David never courted publicity or the limelight. He and his wife helped local causes and charities and were highly respected throughout the area. They are a splendid family."

Major Butter had married, in 1946, at St Margaret's Church in Westminster. His bride was Myra Alice, younger daughter of Sir Harold Wernher and his wife, Lady Zia Wernher, daughter of Grand Duke Michael of Russia. The wedding was a grand social event with Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra acting as train bearers and the young Princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret), along with their mother Queen Elizabeth, guests.

Major Butter, it is thought, retained a close contact with the Royal Family and the Queen is godmother to their eldest daughter. He was always totally loyal, supportive and discreet.

Major Sir David Butter is survived by his wife Lady Myra, their son and four daughters.