Person - Arnold Butcher

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ARNOLD JOHN BUTCHER (1925 - 2013)

Born 1 August 1925 at Innisfail, Q, sugar country. On the way to school the kids chewed on stalks which had fallen off the cane trains. His siblings were Don, Alexia and Olive. The local community at South Johnstone was cosmopolitan; neighbouring Yugoslavs had Sunday musical concerts. The Depression affected Arnold’s father, a communist and union organiser who in the 1930s raised money for the International Brigade in Spain. Arnold went to CPA meetings as a child. His mother played piano for silent films and was his first piano teacher but Arnold’s musical education was sporadic. In 1940 the family moved south because of the threat of the Japanese (a slit trench was dug at the back of the house). Arnold was in the public service from ages 15-18. He was desperate to get into the RAAF but his parents refused consent. However he met air crew through playing Fats Waller etc in the officers’ mess. One, Bill Davis, had studied at the Conservatorium. Arnold became a leading aircraftman 150494. Postwar on a repatriation scholarship Arnold went to the Con, then worked as a casual wharfie plus part-time in Kings Cross cafes and clubs such as the California Café which could get a bit rough, but the pianist always keeps going. There were writers and poets on the wharves ~ they liked the freedom and didn’t want to get caught up in the rat race. Arnold was a member of Gang 364 (another was Clem Millward qv) a “Brains Trust” who played chess during smokoes. A good batsman, he captained a NT cricket team which practised near Sydney Boys High. In 1950 he married actress and dancer Loretta Boutmy qv whom he’d met at EYL; they had a son Jason. Arnold composed music for Margaret Barr, then the Butchers sold up and in 1961 went to England where he worked in pantomime, did copying and arranging and got some film work at Shepparton Studios. On return in 1967 he worked for ABC for 17 years, played in clubs, wrote music for television (such as Contrabandits) and orchestrations for Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. For Pot of Message 1949 he wrote “Song of the Beautiful Big Blonde Spy” and played piano for NT revues. He organised a cricket club and said Clive Young was an ASIO mole. He died aged 88 on 13 November 2013 when living at Bondi, funeral at Bondi Junction. At NLA Loretta and Arnold Butcher sound interview by Alex Hood recorded at Bondi in 2006. Arnold Butcher Radio National interview 2011 online.