If anyone deserved the title of Ich Bin Kentishtowner, it was Irene Butland, probably Kentish Town’s oldest and longest resident. Irene lived in the same house in Lawford Road for 72 years, and passed away on September 30. She was 99.
Better known as Renee, Irene Margaret Butland was born in Highgate in 1913. She left school at 14 and trained to be a telegraphist for two years before becoming a shorthand typist.
Renee and her husband Arthur had two daughters, Eileen born in 1942 and Janet in 1944 (who between them produced three grandchildren and two great grandchildren).
They all lived in Lawford Road through the Second World War except for a brief evacuation to Stockport.Renee would tell a story of coming home one day to find the front door and most front windows of their house gone, and so were numbers 9 and 11 across the road. They also found an unexploded bomb in the back garden.
Her husband Arthur passed away a little over two years ago at 96 years of age but Renee continued to live in Lawford Road, such was her love for Kentish Town. She had a great support group of neighbours who never tired of visiting her because of her great chat and thirst to learn more. When Amy Winehouse died last year, she wanted to hear her music to determine what genre she thought she was. And she always had a bottle of wine at the ready for any visitor; the Times Wine club will be sad to see one of their best clients now departed.
After Arthur’s death Renee started to visit the local St Silas the Martyr Church on Prince of Wales Road. And it was through getting to know Father Graham that she received a visit from Prince Charles in February this year. The Prince came to her home, after walking along Prince of Wales Road of course, and after a thirty min chat invited Renee to Highgrove. She went there in April and described it as one of her best days ever.
Renee never had any thought of leaving her home and her neighbours, even at 99. In the last few months she enjoyed her day out at the Bartholomew Villas Jubilee Party and her beloved Chelsea winning the Champions League. She also had a wonderful afternoon watching Andy Murray winning Gold at the Olympics. Renee had a great sense of humour and was in good form just before she passed away, as well as still possessing her insatiable thirst to keep learning. Renee was admired by people of all ages and she will be sadly missed.
Words: Mark Pittman