Inductee Hall of Fame 2021
Maxwell Noel Butters, but Noel in the greyhound community, was universally popular and highly respected for his wide-ranging deeds in our Sport; and certainly, one of nature’s gentlemen. The son of Frank and Eileen Butters (nee Brown), Noel was born in Hobart on 23 March 1926. He had two sisters Kieva and Vonnie.
Noel’s introduction to greyhounds was a tad unusual. In 1937, an eleven-year-old Noel, served a schoolboy apprenticeship with greyhounds, and worked as a part-time assistant, to well known “longtails” enthusiast and Funeral Director Mr Alex Clarke. A chaser named Dynamite Dan was his initial association. Humorously, Noel was sacked as Clarke’s assistant, when late for work after a football match. But greyhounds and greyhound racing in all its forms would remain a lifelong passion for the young man.
Until the 1960’s, Noel only dabbled in training greyhounds, always in small numbers, as he juggled family, employment and as an 18-year-old, two years with the Royal Australian Airforce from July 1944 to June 1946. Noel rose to the rank of Leading Aircraftman. Noel and his first wife Margaret had three children, Janine, Susan, and Barry.
Noel remarried Sylvia Doreen Mollross and had a son Brendan and daughter Rachael. Employment wise, Noel worked for the Mercury for many years, with early morning deliveries of Hobart’s prime newspaper throughout the South. He also spent time with Armaguard, before an extended stint with good mate and fellow top greyhound trainer Vic Barrow, at the Hobart Fire Brigade.
It’s no coincidence that Noel Butters became a more serious trainer during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In a 1974 Mercury interview, Noel explained how he trained but rarely owned greyhounds because “my wife Sylvia is so dedicated to them, that we’d end up with a backyard full of dogs”. Along with the kid’s involvement as well, Noel had the perfect backyard environment at 47 Clydesdale Avenue Glenorchy, to successfully train what was always a small team of 3 to 5 dogs. And highly successful he was!
Meticulous attention to detail, and to the care of his charges, saw Noel have huge success for such small numbers. Noel, called “Itchy Feet” in one newspaper article, always travelled his dogs equally to White City and Devonport, as well as his hometown T.C.A. This, and his polite and gentlemanly demeanour saw greyhound followers statewide, warm to Noel so much.
Noel had early career triumphs with top grader Metero (Hobart Show Cup Final 3rd to Single Link) and the useful Nippy Snip, but it was from the mid-1960’s till the late 1970’s that Noel Butters was at his peak of success as a trainer. Noel had 60’s success with smart chasers Baratta Prince and Charming Madam, but he would never have one better than Clayton Princess, a February 1965 daughter of Black Top – Golden Booklet. This prolific all distance bitch started 1967 with a third in the Maiden Thousand to top N.S.W. bitch Mimosa Cliff, after which she rushed through her sprint and distance grades both north and south. She became Tasmania’s champion stayer of her time, culminating in her 22 July 1967 victory in the Northern Distance Championship. In defeating Tasmania’s top stayers Polly’s Peter, Nimble Dancer and Aunt Ann, she also broke the 785-yard track record of the immortal Oak Queen, running 44 1/16th. Clayton Princess was never defeated over the White City staying trip. At stud, she produced the extra smart North Clayton for Noel, with a litter to Billy Vee, and winners in a later litter to Beau Brin, for Victorian breeder Fred Homberg.
Blue Hermes, by a famous mating of Old Berry Hermes – River Star (of Social Dancer fame), was a great sprinter trained by Noel. It was an era of so many elite dogs, evidenced by 29 Heats of the 1970 Tasmanian Gold Cup, and 8 Semi-Finals. Blue Hermes for Noel, and owner Mrs A. Purton, thrashed Royal Aspect and the great Summer Idol in that Final by 6 lengths, recording a brilliant 29.5. Blue Hermes was a star chaser in the golden period. For the same owner, Noel also won the 1969 Devonport Show Cup with the smart Blue Venture.
Noel developed a great training relationship, particularly during the 70’s, with highly successful owner-breeders George Aldridge from Launceston, and Hall of Fame Footballer Don Gale from Elliott in the northwest.
Don Gale, the State’s leading owner in the 1973-74 season, had many classy homebreds trained by Noel Butters. The mighty Blackberry Anne was the greatest. A top-notch sprinter, especially at Devonport and the T.C.A., she won 9 on end at one stage, including a record-equaling 7 in a row at Devonport. Blackberry Ann recorded victories over many of the star chasers of that time, including the likes of Fenton Doll, Summer Idol, Beau Palomino and Grenadier King. Similarly, Bitta Fashion was a high class, all distance star. She won 15 of her first 40 starts with 14 placings and was a Hobart Thousand, Launceston Cup, Gold Collar, and Puppy Championship Heat winner. Bitta Fashion was also the baby of the field in one of the greatest Devonport Cups ever run; Wyoming Willie’s 1973 version. Flying Flanders was another hot chaser that Noel prepared for Done Gale.
Noel had remarkable success for George Aldridge. Iva White Face, with her stunning markings, was the finest. She was a little ripper wherever she travelled, from any box and over any distance. Her longevity and consistency were amazing, and she posted 24 wins and 33 placings at the highest level. He greatest performance was 2nd behind Hall of Famer Mountain Rock in the famed 1973 Launceston Cup in race record time. After winning her Heat and semi-Final, Iva White Face had the likes of Della Son, Sue’s A Credit and Galtee Chief chasing her home. At one stage Iva White Face ran first, second or third 33 times in succession. This pretty miss also ran 2nd in Kazanlik’s 1973 Devonport Show Cup after winning her Heat, won Heats of a Devonport Cup and Easter Plate, and proved her versatility by scoring a Heat and Final win in the Division Two, 722 metre Winter Stakes at White City.
Her sister Shannon View was also a winning machine of a different ilk. Known for her “Bernborough” finishes, her lack of early speed was not conducive to winning Finals, but she did win her way into an Anniversary Sprint, Easter Cup and Ken Thomson Cup, and was in the top shelf of stayers of her time. Pupil’s Ticket was another cracking chaser for this owner-trainer combination. Like so many Butters’ trained chasers she was equal to the task over all trips. A Miss Tasmania Stakes winner, she scored Invitation wins over both the short and long distances at her beloved T.C.A and was named leading Hobart dog for 1974-75 win 10 wins and 5 seconds. She also reduced Blue Stream’s Devonport track record for 573 metres from 33.75 to 33.65 seconds and competed over 722 at Wentworth Park in Sydney. Tartan Khan and Amaroo Express were another smart Butters – Aldridge pair.
Many other dogs carrying the Noel Butters’ stamp performed at a high level. Joy Day was a top classer, owned by Noel’s wife Sylvia. She beat top notchers Count Mine and
Le Rosinor in her 1971 Gold Cup Semi-Final victory, before failing in the Final behind Stardust Melody. Blue Talker placed 3rd in the Lucky Dog Juvenile Championship at Devonport after his Heat and semi victories. He also won a Gold Cup Heat. The blue blood North Clayton was a regular winner, including a Devonport Cup Heat. The Angus Evans owned Mallee Rebel hit the ground running, and won many races for Noel, as did Val McCool, Zinalda Rev, Mickey Pedro, Jenny of Granton, Ima Chopper, Grand Dollfen, Yarrabee Prince and Martindale.
Despite modest training numbers at any one time, Noel Butters was always prominent in Trainers Premierships, especially at Hobart and Devonport during this halcyon period for him of 1967 to 1975. His most prolific season was 43 wins in 1972-73 and Noel was the Leading Hobart Trainer for 1973-74 with 11 -11 -1.
Whilst still training, Noel was appointed the Southern ear branding and marking official for Southern Tasmania in 1974. As the 1970’s progressed Noel wound down his training interest and eventually stopped altogether. But his interest in our sport never wavered; it simply took a different turn in the road. He continued his new ear branding–marking role till well into the 1990’s, but also took up a position on race nights at Hobart. Initially a kennel steward, he became H.G.R.C Kennel Supervisor for many years prior to 1983.
Noel Butters left his kennel duties and was elected to the Hobart Greyhound Racing Club’s committee for 1983-84. At this time, Noel was also the Southern Representative on the Tasmanian Greyhound Racing Board as well. On 26 September 1984 Noel applied for and was appointed the eighth Secretary – Manager of his beloved H.G.R.C., following a succession of four short term appointments (for various reasons) in just a few years.
Noel’s predecessor Ken Harvey was a professional accountant and had turned the Club from deficit to profit in his short eleven-month stay. However, he had no background in greyhounds and moved on to another opportunity. Despite the H.G.R.C. also appointing an assistant to the new manager, to handle the accounting side of the business, the late eighties and early nineties was a tumultuous period for the Hobart Club. Whilst Noel was warmly received by the greyhound participants and gave the job his all, he was not geared to handle the “politics and invisible in fighting” which saw him leave the position in the late eighties.
On the 1993 evening of the grand final of the National Sprint Championship at the Royal Showgrounds, Noel Butters was rewarded by the Tasmanian Greyhound Racing Board for his grand service to all aspects of the greyhound industry. His Certificate of Merit, providing free entry to all Tasmanian greyhound meetings, was justly deserved. Noel’s “hands-on” association with greyhound racing ceased in the late nineties, but his interest and connection with its participants never waned.
Sylvia succumbed to breast cancer on 7 April 2004, after years of ill health, with Noel caring for her till the end. Noel too suffered declining health in his later years. A quintuple heart bypass, and gradual progression to dementia, saw Noel spend his last four months at Glenview Nursing Home, where a stroke ended the life of this wonderful man on 1 April 2011.
Noel Butters, this gentle and genial man, joins the Tasmanian Greyhound Hall of Fame for his essentially lifelong connection with greyhound racing in the State. He excelled as a mentor of dogs, gave freely of his time to anyone wanting his assistance or advice, served his beloved Hobart Greyhound Racing Club in so many roles, and was a true friend and colleague to greyhound people statewide.
By Greg Fahey