It is possible that William may have attended school at St. Edmund's Roman Catholic College in Ware, Hertfordshire: in the course of my research into the Hussey family from Kensington (members of which attended St. Edmund's and later married into William's family, I came across information on a William Butler who attended the college from 1880 until 1882 and who was born about 1870 in Brompton, Middlesex; our William above was born about 1870 in Brompton which makes me think they could be the same person.
Our William went on to become a musical instrument maker in the family business, frequently visiting its Dublin branch. Around the time of his marriage in 1906 to Nellie, one of his employees, he moved permanently to Dublin. The Dublin shop was located at that time in Monument House at 34 Bachelor's Walk and business was good, due in part to the fact that in those days every town had its own band (usually fife and drum). Part of William's work involved taking the train to large towns and then cycling to the smaller towns where he would presumably take orders for band instruments. While the company manufactured many of its own instruments (bagpipes, drums, flutes, bugles, etc.) William also travelled to continental Europe to buy violins, accordians and other instruments. About seven people were employed in the workshop, while one person worked solely on gramophone repairs. The shop also had a piano showroom.
The London branch of the business, run by William's brother, George, closed in 1913, apparently owing to financial difficulties; and in 1916 the Dublin business ran into trouble. During the Easter Rising of that year the Dublin shop was taken over by rebels, who emptied the building of its musical instruments, some of which were later found on the bed of the River Liffey at low tide. To oust the rebels, British forces shelled the building from what was then The Red Bank Restaurant on D'Olier St. The shop was badly damaged and the business was relocated the following year to the ground floor of nearby 2 Lower Abbey St. The family home up to this time appears to have been at this address and it seems that the family moved to Howth, Co. Dublin around this time.
By the early 1920s Irish towns no longer had their own bands as the authorities apparently regarded a band at that time as an "unlawful assembly" and band members actually buried their instruments (many of which were brought back to Butlers years later for repair). William's business suffered as a result. Around this time too William's wife, Nellie, died. Further troubles were encountered during the Civil War (1920-1923) when, on 6 February 1923, the IRA targeted the Pathé Frères cinema company which occupied the first and second floors of 2 Lower Abbey St. A number of armed men entered the premises, poured petrol around the Pathé Frères offices and set it alight. It is thought that the men also planted an incendiary bomb as an explosion followed the fire, causing a number of Pathé Frères employees to be thrown off their feet as they fled the burning building. Miraculously, nobody was killed but the building was badly damaged. Although William did receive a small amount of compensation as a result of the Damage to Property Compensation Act of 1923, there was no proper insurance cover because the damage was caused by an act of war.
William's company was by now in severe financial difficulty. It appears William and his children moved back to their old Abbey St. home in 1927 and I have been told that the company closed down in the same year. However, from a newspaper clipping in a family scrapbook, dated 21 November 1933 (publication unknown), we know that "The firm of Messrs. J. Butler...is still being carried on at 2 Lr. Abbey St., although the head of the firm, Mr. W. J. Butler, died a few weeks ago." William had died in Jervis St. Hospital in Dublin on 2 November of pneumonia and cardiac failure.
I have been told by a family source that William had a cousin (type unknown) from Dublin named Kate Lynch (William'a mother's maiden name was Lynch), who worked in Paris in the mid-1910s, possibly as a governess. The story goes that she subsequently moved to St. Petersburg in Russia with the same family she worked for in Paris. Following the departure of this family from St. Petersburg, Kate stayed on as governess to the family of the crown prince, later Czar Nicholas II. It is said that during the Revolution of 1917, she escaped from St. Petersburg in a cattle-truck. A 1901 census record has been located for a Kate Lynch, a 27-year-old Dublin-born governess, who may possibly be our Kate. She is described in the census return as a visitor in the household of Joseph and Henrietta Scott who lived at 9 Synott Place, Inns Quay, Dublin and who had three children aged 10 and under.
William's cousin Kate had a brother, John J. Lynch, an electrician who spent many years in West Africa, including 10 years working for the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation in what is now Ghana. He was also a 'Togoland Volunteer' during the Togoland Campaign of 1914. We also know, from a letter to a newspaper in 1916, that John and Kate returned to Dublin for a holiday in March or April of that year and were caught up in the 1916 Rising. This letter, from a newspaper cutting in a family scrapbook (publication name and exact date unknown), was written by William and states that John "was on leave to meet his sister, who had been in the war area of France for 18 months, and they were to spend a quiet holiday in their peaceful native town. Mr Lynch was prevented from 'phoning from the G.P.O. by a man who pointed a pistol at him. They spent their holiday watching the fighting in many parts of the city." We have other information about John from UK incoming ship passenger lists. A list from March 1916 - when he was on his way to Dublin to meet up with Kate - tells us that he travelled from Seccondee (now Sekondi), Gold Coast (now part of Ghana) to Plymouth and his age was 45, which means he was born about 1870. A list from 1917 (Sekondi to Liverpool) has an address written underneath his details: 5 Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin; and a 1920 list (again Sekondi to Liverpool) gives an address of 59 Edenvale Road, Ranelagh, Dublin. Furthermore, the 1901 census of England lists a 30-year-old Dublin-born apprentice electrical engineer named John Lynch who is boarding in Broadstairs, Kent. I think it likely that this is our John J. Lynch. I would love to establish how exactly John and Kate are related to William. If you can help, please email Helen@HelensFamilyTrees.com.
There are still Butler-made instruments in existence, both privately-owned and in museums. The Kenneth G. Fiske Musical Instrument Museum in Claremont, California, for example, has a Butler keyed bugle made in Dublin c. 1835. The Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments has a Butler flute and cornet (dates of manufacture unknown), and the Horniman Museum in London has a Butler harp acquired pre-1900, bright green in colour with Irish images, including round towers and an Irish wolfhound, painted on the soundboard. And the National Museum of Ireland has a Butler bugle in its Easter Week collection. This bugle, manufactured c. 1915, has an interesting history in that it was awarded to the Irish Citizen Army in 1915 for taking first place in a drill competition; then, following the surrender of Irish forces (which included the Irish Citizen Army) in the 1916 Rising, it ended up in the hands of the British Provost Marshall who subsequently gave it to a Dr. Laurence Moran who in turn gave it to a brother of Fianna Fáil TD (Teachta Dála, meaning member of parliament), John McCann. John McCann's brother later presented it to Éamon de Valera, participant in the Rising and founder of Fianna Fáil, who would, in 1959, be elected President of Ireland. On 4 September 1948, Éamonn de Valera donated the bugle to the National Museum of Ireland.
Note: The Bachelor's Walk shop is mentioned in James Joyce's 'Ulysses':
"From Butler's monument house corner he [Leopold Bloom] glanced along Bachelor's walk." (p. 151 of the Penguin Edition of 1960).