Cecil Raymond (Butch) James

“I’m still the same person inside, and that’s what counts.”

11 November 1947 – 23 October 2015



With this article we pay our last respects to our dear friend Butch James. Butch was a beacon for many in the sawmilling industry. Individuals and companies looked to him for advice and assistance. Through his expert knowledge of the industry, positive approach and willingness to share he has built many solid friendships during his career.

He inspired many and despite obvious hardship he remained committed to his job, family and friends. We have many valuable lessons to learn from the passing of our lionhearted Butch. Let’s not forget his passion, commitment and bravery and let’s strive to touch more lives in a positive way; just like he did.

Butch leaves behind his wife Barbara, two children Kendall and Bronwyn and two grandchildren.

The Wood Southern Africa and Timber Times team would like to extend our condolences to Butch’s family. Butch was a dear friend of the magazine and contributed many valuable articles over the last 35 years.

Sinette, Mickey and Danielle – Wood Southern Africa and Timber Times


A loving memory from Butch’s wife, Barbara James

Butch was born in East London on 11 November 1947. His family moved around quite a bit and in his younger years they lived in Zambia (when it was still Northern Rhodesia), Queenstown and also in Benoni.

Butch attended school at the Tom Newby Primary school in Benoni and the reputable Queen’s College in Queenstown. He finished his schooling at the Technical High School in Benoni. After school he signed up to do a Fitter and Turner apprenticeship at the East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM) Gold Mine in Boksburg. Butch hated going underground. He used to say that he wasn’t a mole. In those days apprentices at the mine not only did practical training but they also studied for a few months a year at a college.

Butch and I met on a blind date 48 years ago. At the time I was dancing Ballroom and Latin American dancing competitions. Butch had two left feet but he still decided to take up ballroom dancing so we could go dancing together.

After we got married he studied for, and attained, an Engineering Diploma through correspondence.

His favourite time was spent with the kids building dams and trying to persuade the kids to fill them with buckets of water. He also loved scouting and became a Springbok Scout. After 18 years of age, Scouts could become Rover Scouts which is exactly what Butch did, attaining the highest award (BP Rover) in that group as well.

When their son, Kendall, was old enough to join the Scouts, Butch offered his services as Scout Master; a position he held for about 10 years. Another of his interests was field hockey. He always played goalie so most of his game was played on the ground stopping goals. When he stopped playing the sport he became an umpire. He instilled a love of the game into both of his children.

Butch resigned from his position as Scout Master after his first major operation in 2001 when he realised the young scouts could move faster than him and that if any one of them should fall into a river he would probably not be able to get there as quickly as he needed to. Butch also found that running up and down the side of the hockey field was getting more difficult; so hockey also became a memory.

Needless to say he didn’t sit around moping about what had been, but devoted more and more of his time and effort into the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTHs). The MOTHs were still very much part of his life.

Further, his outlook on life was to make the most of everything, and do it to the best of his ability. As a father he supported and encouraged both Kendall and Bronwyn in what they wanted to do. His illness, well there are so many comments made by others, that really I can only agree with them. His favourite comment was, “I’m still the same person inside, and that’s what counts.”

His positive traits were his integrity, honesty and sense of responsibility. Giving up two of his favourite past-times because he realised he was slowing down showed integrity.

Butch led by example, as the big brother, as a father, as a Major in the Army; basically in any sphere of life where he was teaching or leading. He couldn’t bear to see somebody being picked on, be it a child or an adult, especially if they had any sort of disability.

Who knew that one day it would be himself that was stared at. The one trait that used to really exasperate me was his ability to be hard of hearing if he didn’t want to do or discuss something. Butch was once told, a long time ago, that if he stayed in the sawmilling business he would become Mr Sawmilling. I think maybe he did. . .

Barbara James and family


As Butch’s secretary I worked with him for 10 years. There is so much that I can say about this amazing man but his courage and sense of responsibility stands out. He would be at work every day no matter how ill he felt.

His love for the sawmilling industry, his extraordinary knowledge and experience set him apart as a giant in our industry.

He had a great sense of humour and in all the time we worked together I did not hear him complain or raise his voice, not once. He was respected and loved. He is sorely missed.

Darien van der Merwe – Nukor Nelspruit Secretary


It is with much sadness that the management and staff of Nukor mourn the loss of a well-respected and liked gentleman from the timber industry. The passing of Butch James, after a long and valiant battle with cancer, has left an unfillable void in our ranks and he will be sorely missed.

Cecil Raymond James, or Butch to everyone who knew him, was born on 11 November 1947. The fact that his birth date coincided with Armistice Day only makes his affiliation and huge involvement with the moths and tin hats associations more poignant!

Butch began his career with Nukor in 1988. He lead the Nukor Sawmilling Branch in Nelspruit and proved invaluable with his knowledge of the sawmilling industry and related machinery. He was a good friend, a close confidant and truly one of the last gentlemen of a bygone era.

Thank you and farewell old friend!

Nukor management and staff


Butch was an example for many of us! During the last few years, Butch still cheerfully persevered under his circumstances. He would stand in front of his audience and deliver a presentation in an absolutely positive fashion.

With the decease of Butch, a big lacuna was left in the industry. He left us with an incredible amount of knowledge regarding the sawmilling industry.

Our industry will miss him dearly. Especially our two associations SALDEA and SASDEA where he had endlessly contributed.

Fanie Smit, Merensky Hardwoods & SASDEA chairperson


Every encounter with Butch was a pleasant one. Whether it be at the SALDEA convention, a training session he presented or just a simple mill visit.

Here was this great man with all the difficulties he had to face, not showing any signs of weakness, guiding saw millers to become better at what they are doing. Butch always had me eager to hear what he had to say no matter what he talked about. He was a true gentleman with a lot of knowledge and he will surely be missed.

Paul Moolman – Bracken Timbers


Graham Jupp, the owner of Zanogen, and Butch James travelled a long journey together. They met during their school days in the 1950s. Later on Graham and Butch worked closely managing the blade requirements when Butch was at Nukor in Johannesburg.

Butch was a well-respected and learned man. His presence will be missed and we are deeply saddened by his passing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all Butch’s family, colleagues and friends.

Graham, Bruce, Caireen and all at Zanogen


Dear Butch

You will be missed dearly as a friend and work colleague at Weatherboard Sawmills. Your knowledge and willingness to share in the sawmilling industry is going to be greatly missed.

Rest in peace dear friend.

Troy Cooper and the team from Weatherboard


Butch het nie net ‘n maatskappy met wie ek gereel te doen gehad het verteenwoordig nie, hy was ook ‘n vriend. Hy was ‘n baie opregte persoon vir wie ek die grootste respek gehad het. Sy kennis van die produkte wat sy maatskappy verkoop het was ongelooflik. Hy was ‘n baie positiewe persoon wat nooit gekla het.

Kobus Roux – York Driekop Saagmeul


I have known Butch James for the past twenty-odd years; as long as I have worked in the sawmilling industry.

I looked forward to regular visits from Butch, since he had a pragmatic approach to problems, and was always ready with a smile or a joke. His technical skill was unquestionable and he always had value to add.Throughout his illness, I never once heard Butch complain, or even seem to be “out of sorts”; an approach to life that I admired.

He will be sorely missed, and leaves a big gap to be filled.

Farewell, my friend.

Alan Williams – Level 5 Engineering, White River

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