The Silent-footed Butler

About the Book

Cathy Giles

The Silent-footed Butler is a substantial hardback book of 644 pages, 110 of which are photo pages, some in colour. Throughout the book are beautiful illustrations by Chris Giles, many of which he drew before the age of twelve.



“Life is bottled sunshine and Death the silent-footed butler who draws out the cork.”

The Martyrdom of Man – Winwood Reade


“When brilliant teenage musician Christopher Giles died, he left a family frozen by grief, emotionally suspended, with everything meaningful unspoken. His sister, Cathy, now courageously visits the past. Whilst bringing the life of her exceptional brother into vivid focus, she introduces us to a family marked by tragedy, deceit, courage, inspiring talent, and secretive mystery. The process of cathartic rediscovery is the key to the unique character and strength of this work’s eloquent story telling. Throughout, the author writes with meticulous detail and acute, honest observation. The reward is that we share in her pain, her remorse, her triumph of spirit and ultimate restoration.”

Justin Pearson: musician, playwright

“This remarkable book, inspired by the search for a brother who died tragically young, is told with such directness and unflinching engagement with a life, time and place, that the reader is drawn in effortlessly. The author recalls vividly original scenes and places and it is her particular voice, loving and attentive to these memories and unafraid of past grief and tragedy, that gives the narrative such vitality.” 

Judy Gahagan: poet, writer, translator

“This is a moving, deeply personal, exquisitely detailed biography/autobiography, which captures the essence of the times and the emotion of the occasions. The prose is magical, and the memory of events, so many involving sadness and tragedy, impressive. The whole book is a work of beauty;  it reads like a long, finely-crafted love story.”

Steve Cladingboel: social care trainer, writer

“I grew up in the knowledge that my cousin was a brilliant musician, a great beauty and a wonderful human being, and now it turns out that she writes like an angel as well, with an enviable gift for characterisation, a masterly grasp of form and structure and a wicked way with a killer punch line.”

David Fraser: early music editor, writer, proofreader

“Cathy has lovingly recounted a cherished period in the lives of many of her professional colleagues. Weaving a fascinating social history with a personal memoir of tragedies and triumphs, Cathy’s book is relevant and important on many levels. Inspired by her love for her brother Chris, the story spreads its net wide, to touch and inspire not only those who shared that history, but also a much wider audience.”

Cindy Foster: musician

“In this exploration of the life of her remarkable brother, Cathy uncovers truths about her family that have lain hidden for generations. The Silent-footed Butler is a fascinating story that is both shocking and moving, written with a precision and clarity that perfectly captures every different era the author takes us through. It is hard to forget the people whose voices and experiences she brings to life in this rich, haunting book.”

Natalie Baron Shaw: copy editor, author

“When Cathy first spoke of her interest in embodying the life of her fantastically talented horn playing brother Chris, little did she realise that the thread of his short life would wind her into the elaborate embroidery of a family history covering several generations. Starting from immediate anecdotes and exploring further into the genealogy of her family, Cathy spent many years in the detail of these pages. The historical atmospheres created around each generation give insight and interest beyond just the particulars of this family. The period of the Giles children growing up in London in the fifties, sixties and seventies brings into focus the professional music world and its mores of that time, and reads as an authentic voice giving witness to a creative family living in the United Kingdom. It is also a demonstration of Cathy’s dedication to give life to her brother’s memory from within a family who spoke nothing of it at the time of his tragic death.”

Maggie Baron: sandplay therapist

“I have always known that Chris was, but never who Chris was. Ever since I can remember, my “uncle” (in an impossibly parallel sense of the term), has fascinated me, his eerily familiar gaze forming question after question in my mind. But, as with so many significant points in space and time, no third-person description will do: you just have to be there. As I leaf through the pages of this book, I am there. And, whilst I cannot affect him, though I cannot touch him, teach him or warn him, Chris’s holographic existence affects me: touching me, teaching me and warning me as if he knew it himself.”

Emily-Rose Eastop: the author’s daughter 

Link above to Old Buckwellians News - a magazine edited by Graham Frankel about Buckhurst Hill County High School, the school where Chris Giles was a pupil from 1969 to 1975

The Silent-footed Butler by Cathy Giles