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Bute - The town, surveyed by H. Jacob in September 1883, was proclaimed on 13 March 1884, deriving its name from ‘Bute Island’ in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland, and probably coming from either an Old Irish word bot - ‘beacon fire’ or the Swedish bod - ‘hut’; there is a ‘Buteland’ in Northumberland, England.

The Bute School opened in 1886 and, in 1927, ‘a crowd assembled at the power house of the Border Electric Company, Bute, to take part in the opening ceremony of electric light for the town. Just after eight o’clock the light was switched on by the Chairman of the Ninnes District Council, W.H. Sharman...’

Place Names of South Australia


125 Bute years

1 April, 2009 1:53PM ACDT

By Tom Henderson

Saturday the 13th of March 1884 is a date that lives long in the memory of the tiny town of Bute which is situated in the hinterland north of the Copper Coast.

That is the date of the inception of Bute as a town in South Australia.

And having just turned 125 years old, the town of about 250 people has seen its fair share of droughts but has always pulled through and is known for being home to some of the richest farming land in South Australia.

Hundreds of people turned up for the celebrations in the town that included a school reunion.

The town, situated at the foot of the Barunga Range was planned by surveyor Jacobs who named it after the Scottish isle of Bute.

Initially the land around Bute was allocated to people running stock but as copper mining around Kadina, Moonta and Wallaroo expanded, the demand for local produce grew.

"All this land was very poor pasture land," says Bute history author Roslyn Paterson, "it was allocated to people who used it for running stock sort of like a sheep stations but there were no actual houses in our district council area.

"There was a lot of pressure put on the South Australian government to open up this land for farming."

Over the years the town grew to around 1800 people at its peak and was home to the Bute District council which was set up in the old bank building.

That building has now been turned into the headquarters of the Bute History Group which was set by Judyth Bettess.

Mrs Bettess has lived in Bute for 60 years and says she loves the town.

"We have a farm and children here, there's nothing I dislike about it.

"The best thing about it is it's never been known to have a total drought.

"Because of it not being in total drought which is quite different to other areas, we've always been able to survive."

Organising over 100 years of history is no easy task and Mrs Bettess decided to start her history society in 2002.

She worked with Mrs Paterson who is the co-author of the Bute history book "From stumps to stubble" written in 1984 for the centenary of Bute.

And with help from the South Australian history trust they are working out the best way to store historical documents and photographs of Bute.

"I just saw the need for it to be here and no better place than a bank vault," says Judyth Bettess.

The catalogue of history was shown off to the crowds who came to Bute to celebrate 125 years.

A school reunion and cabaret show were just a couple of events that took place and over 200 meals were served on the night as Mrs Paterson explains.

"There were people that came from all over Australia and it was just amazing.

"One man flew over from the Pilbara to Perth to Adelaide, he was the former captain of the Bute cricket team.

"We closed our display here at 5 o'clock and they were still standing around at quarter to 6."

So what does the future hold for this small farming community?

In the last three years, fourteen new houses have been built which is encouraging.
Judyth Bettess is optimistic and says the town is still welcoming new families into the community.

"I'm always optimistic because of the land here and I'm optimistic that things will keep going as long as we get some rain.

"New families do come with small children, we've got a local primary school...perhaps not anywhere near the numbers it used to be...but we also have a very good preschool kindergarten and rural care."

But as new families move in to create their own history in the town, if it wasn't for the actions of an ex-clerk of the Bute District council, there might not be any history to record.

Jack Gibson was the Clerk from 1948 to 1996.

"He was the one who really started collecting the history of Bute from people," says Mrs Bettess.

"He encouraged people to tell him and let him write it down, it's made it a lot easier for us because of Jack Gibson.

"He was such a fountain of knowledge and we did enjoy working with him.

"We would never have done as much in this district if it wasn't for Jack."

Here's hoping the spirit of people like Judyth, Roslyn and Jack will pass on to the next generation so that the people of Bute might be able to celebrate another 125 years.