Drinkers raise final glass to Old Hairy Arse – Johnny Butler

Published: July 28, 2011

NOT an ordinary funeral, many of those gathered came to pay their respects in toy policemen’s helmets and T-shirts reading: “RIP Hairy Arse”.

One of the mourners said: “This is a very sad day for geezers in pubs across the borough of Camden.”

They were there to give Johnny “Old Hairy” Butler a final send-off. Known as one of Camden’s most enthusiastic drinkers, the 63-year-old, who lived in the alms­houses in Southampton Road, Gospel Oak, died earlier this month of liver disease.

His brother George said: “Johnny was known to everyone as ‘old hairy arse’. People would stop you in the street and say: ‘How’s old hairy arse getting on then?’

“He was the best laugh you could find. He was nothing without his drink, and he wouldn’t mind me telling you that because he was completely unpretentious. They don’t make them like that any more.

“If he was in the pub all you would hear was laughing and whooping and cheering, and John would have drunk the whole place dry.”

For Mr Butler’s funeral, he requested no black should be worn. His brother said: “Even at our mum’s funeral he was messing around. That was Old Hairy for you. He arrived wearing shorts with a pint, and there were all these old dears there. Suddenly he started swinging them all round in their chairs... they nearly had heart attacks.

“We all said: ‘Oh no, Old Hairy’s at it again. Now’s not the time or place Johnny’, but he wouldn’t stop and then we all joined in and started having a real laugh at our mum’s funeral.”

A former pupil at Rhyl and Acland Burghley schools, Mr Butler spent a lifetime working on building sites. He had two daughters and three stepsons – Karen, 37, Michelle, 36, Colin, 41, Mark, 40, and Phillip, 33.

His partner, Liz Taylor, 57, said:  “Sometimes when I feel myself getting down, I remember what John would have said to me – ‘Oh would you stop being so morbid, you old trout’.”

His sister-in-law, Maree Butler, said:  “He was the best brother-in-law you could possibly have. It was impossible to take life seriously with him around.”

Mr Butler  entertained her while she was recovering from breast cancer in hospital earlier this year. “He managed to break my bed,” she said. “He was messing about with the remote, so it kept going up and down, and then eventually it just gave in and broke.”

George Butler added: “The reason why we called him old hairy arse for so many years was because he had a habit of getting detrousered at any possible oppor­tunity. He would often be drunk, and just take his trousers off no matter who was there – old ­people, young people. I think the whole of Kentish Town saw it when England played Argen­tina at football a few years ago.”

Mourners wore helmets because Mr Butler had a “few run-ins with the Old Bill”, his brother said.

Mr Butler reduced his drinking two years ago when he was treated for cirrhosis but his brother added: “He couldn’t really manage it. Taking drink away from John was like a bird with no wings.”