P.H. Butter on Midnight Oil

P.H. Butter on Midnight Oil

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Queen's University Belfast










1 inch

black and white


Digitised as part of the UTV Archive Partnership Project (ITV, Northern Ireland Screen and PRONI)


Department for Communities, ITV, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

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The introduction of P.H. Butter's lecture on literature aired on Ulster Television's adult education series 'Midnight Oil'. 


Peter Butter was born in Coldstream in 1921, of a distinguished Borders family. His father, Archie, had served in the First World War, and Peter was in the Second, being promoted captain in the Royal Artillery in 1945. He then returned to Balliol College, Oxford, where he completed his degree in English and started an academic career.

From 1948 until 1958 he was first an assistant and then a lecturer under W L Renwick at Edinburgh University. In 1958 he was elected Professor of English at Queen's University, Belfast. A sincere Episcopalian himself, he was noted for his ecumenicalism in a Province already troubled by sectarian conflict. He expanded the English Department, bringing in such scholars as Laurence Lerner, Peter Dixon, and Gamini Salgado, all of whom had distinguished careers thereafter. Among his pupils were the writers Seamus Heaney, Seamus Deane, and the late Stewart Parker, all of whom he knew well and encouraged. 

Beginning in the summer of 1962 (July) and continuing until August 1963, Ulster Television produced 73 late-night televised lectures on medicine, science, literature, law, history, music and economics, in association with Queen's University Belfast. 

UTV's initial effort, Midnight Oil (1962), was the first ever adult education series on UK television, while its sequel, The Inquiring Mind (1963), explored the medium's potential as an illustrative educational tool.


An Ulster TeTelevision prproduction.



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