A fond farewell to popular James, 48

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Hundreds of people gathered to say a final goodybe to a man who dedicated his life to others.

James Butlin, 48, of Higham Ferrers, worked for Northamptonshire County Council highways and transport department but also found time to work an additional 30 hours a month as a Specials Inspector for Northamptonshire Police.

He had been involved in the scouting movement in Irthlingborough, where he grew up, and was well-known as the expert voice in the commentary box at many steam and vintage car rallies in the country, including Rushden Cavalcade, Hollowell Steam Rally and Earls Barton Steam Rally and events held at Lamport Hall and Duxford.

As a special tribute to Mr Butlin, a 100-year-old William Allchin steam engine led his funeral cortege for the last stage of its journey to St Peter’s Church in Irthlingborough yesterday afternoon, followed by classic bikes, cars, military vehicles and a John Fowler showman’s engine.

Close friend Lisa Halton, who had known him for about 30 years, said: “He was genuinely the most honourable, caring and terrific man. He couldn’t do enough for the people around him.”

Julia Palmer met Mr Butlin at college and her husband Martin had been friends with Mr Butlin since they were pupils at Wellingborough School.

She said: “James had a heart of gold and would always be the first one to offer help. When we had a car accident a few years ago he turned up the next day with a car we could use. He was also fantastic with my daughter who has cystic fibrosis and on her third birthday he bought her a trampoline so she could do her physiotherapy.”

Another friend Therese Driver said: “He was a human Google. If you wanted to find out about something and you asked him, he would either know, or he would know someone that knew.”

Mr Butlin joined the Special Constabulary in 1998 and worked in Wellingborough for eight years before being asked to transfer to Weston Favell and then later to Daventry.

The force opened a condolence book in his memory and about 50 people from Northamptonshire Police were due to attend yesterday’s funeral, many of them taking holiday so they could say goodbye.

Superintendent for the Specials Mike Maywood said: “From the police’s perspective we are really sad to have lost a senior leader in the Special Constabulary. He had this ability of being able to talk any situation around. His reasoning, communications and problem solving skills will be greatly missed. He was more than just a colleague, he was a very close friend.”

Rushden Historical Transport Society member John Longstaff commentated alongside Mr Butlin at the Rushden Cavalcade for many years.

He said: “He knew about every form of transport and I was full of admiration for his knowledge.”

Mr Butlin died at Northampton General Hospital on January 29 after going into hospital with a kidney condition. As well as many friends he leaves behind ex-wife Sarah Butlin, who shared his love of vintage and steam vehicles, his sister Frances and his niece Jeni.