Former Wales rugby union captain and legendary broadcaster and commentator Eddie Butler has died aged 65.
After rising to prominence with the Pontypool club, Butler played 16 times for Wales between 1980 and 1984, captaining the side six times and scoring two tries.
Number eight was called up to the British and Irish Lions squad which toured New Zealand in 1983.
After his retirement, he became a respected rugby broadcaster.
Butler died in his sleep while on a charity hike in Peru.
He was a central part of the Pontypool side which was set up by Ray Prosser and dominated Welsh club rugby in the late 1970s and early 1980s, captaining the side between 1982 and 1985.
Butler had also played for Cambridge University from 1976 to 1978 while studying French and Spanish at Fitzwilliam College.
Butler’s first cap came in Wales’ 18-9 Five Nations win over France in January 1980.
He retired from international rugby in 1985 aged 27 and after working as a teacher at Cheltenham for three years, Butler then joined Radio Wales as head of press and publicity in 1984.
While playing for his beloved Pontypool, Butler later worked for a property development company.
He began his journalism career with the Sunday Correspondent in 1988 before working with the Observer and the Guardian and returned to BBC Wales in 1990 after being brought back by new sporting director Gareth Davies.
Current BBC director-general Tim Davie has paid tribute to “a wonderful wordsmith” who has shaped much of the organization’s output.
“Everyone at the BBC is shocked and saddened by this very sad news,” Davie said. “Eddie was a brilliantly gifted commentator, writer and journalist whose passion for rugby union shone through on every broadcast.
“A wonderful blacksmith with a rich and iconic voice, he provided the definitive soundtrack to some of the greatest moments in rugby history. He will be greatly missed by all of us and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time. “
BBC Cymru Wales director Rhuanedd Richards said: “The world of rugby and broadcasting has lost one of its greats today. A giant in his sport as well as in stature, knowledge of rugby – the ins and outs, weaknesses and triumphs – didn’t know bounds.
“One of Eddie’s greatest talents has been his ability to capture and convey the meaning and emotion of our great sporting moments with an authenticity and brilliant wit that has taken his audience on a journey.
“He understood his audience, he understood Wales and he understood our passion for the game. Eddie’s voice will be synonymous with so many great sporting memories, and it’s really hard to imagine those future moments in the world of rugby without him.
“I speak on behalf of all my colleagues at BBC Wales when I say he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his wife Sue and the children at this incredibly sad time and we send them our thoughts and deepest condolences.”
Welsh Rugby Union chairman Rob Butcher said of Butler: “He proudly represented his country as a player, was a mainstay in the press galleries around the world long after his retirement from playing and was prolific in the way he has served Welsh rugby both in writing and orally for decades.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, whom we also know well and cherish, and his close friends and colleagues at this incredibly difficult time.
“He was a unique individual and the game in Wales owes him a debt of gratitude for his contributions both on and off the pitch.”
Butler began his commentating career alongside the great Bill McLaren.
After McLaren’s retirement, Butler became the BBC’s senior rugby commentator where he formed a notable partnership with former England hooker Brian Moore and former Welsh fly-half Jonathan Davies.
Butler will be remembered for his brilliant prose that accompanied montages of major sporting and political events, the last marking the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
He has also commentated on Olympic sports and the Invictus Games, while lending his voice to moving edits for the BBC’s flagship NFL programmes.
In 2010 Butler joined a host of former Wales captains who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for Velindre Hospital, Cardiff’s specialist cancer treatment centre.
Butler has presented historical 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 having published three novels and two non-fiction books.
Away from rugby and broadcasting, Butler has campaigned for Welsh independence in recent years.
His passing prompted tributes and condolences from inside and outside rugby union.