Bert Shepherd

Date: 08 July 2015

The club regret to announce the death of long-time Life Member, ex-First Team Captain, and ex Committee Man in many capacities Bert Shepherd. Bert’s wife Kath who was also a massive contributor to the Hoppers died seven years ago and we extend our condolences on Bert’s death to their daughter Jill.

Bert’s funeral will take place on Thursday 16th July at 11am at St John’s Broughton followed by a wake back at the club.

Bert’s long time friend Duncan Turner has penned an Appreciation of Bert which is set out below followed by an extract by Bob Satchwell from the Strollers’ History setting out his role in setting up the Strollers.

A Rupert made of flowers that was laid on Bert's coffin on Thursday.

A Rupert made of flowers that was laid on Bert’s coffin on Thursday.

Appreciation by Duncan Turner

From many conversions over the years I have gleaned quite a lot about Bert’s membership of the Hoppers. I do know that living on Blackpool Road near to our Lea Ground he occasionally played for junior teams on a Saturday, when not playing at King Edward’s School. So he probably played at the Hoppers as early as 1951 and joined as a full-time playing member when he left school in 1952. During his National Service 1954-56 he volunteered for the Parachute Regiment because the money was a lot better than the normal pay. I seem to recall him telling me it was £2 & 2 shillings, as opposed to the usual £1 & 1 shilling and of course he played a lot of rugby. He returned to the club and was appointed Captain for two seasons 1960-62 and by that time I was acquainted with him and was amazed that despite his diminutive size he was a real tiger of a scrum half. I played my first game in the 1st team when he was at scrum half and witnessed his tenacity and fearsome tackling, not to mention his spectacular dive pass, from my position at blind side. He managed to break a leg during his career and then succumbed to a vicious attack at Kendal, I think in 1962, by the Kendal open side wing forward, when his jaw was badly broken in two places. I can’t remember the player’s name but he was a County Player and was renowned for his ‘over vigorous’ approach. Hoppers called off further games with Kendal after that and only resumed fixtures when the unofficial Northern League was started in the early ’90s. This broken jaw saw the end of his career but then resumed again when the 6th team started in 197? and played his last game in the second of two fixtures against the Cayman Islands in 1978.

He was proud of his service with the Parachute Regiment and delighted in demonstrating his ‘chuff chuffs’ – jumping off a chair or table and rolling to the floor with both legs close together as when landing with a parachute. He was especially good at that after a few beers and even more especially on a weekend away watching an International match. Bert was also of course famous for his devotion to Rupert Bear and never ventured out during his last twenty years without some article of clothing emblazoned with Rupert.

Bert sporting his Rupert jumper at Les Anson's 90th Birthday Party

Bert sporting his Rupert jumper at Les Anson’s 90th Birthday Party

One of my recent memories of him was in York earlier this year when we were returning home to our hotel late at night when a young lady stopped to admire his Rupert sweater. It was just one of many he had and a long conversation ensued since the one he was wearing had been especially knitted for him. At our regular Tuesday night gatherings – started in 1969 and then at the club in 1973 – others at the bar would always check to see he was properly dressed. He was never caught out. Bert was a real rugby man and as many know served the club in many capacities mainly as Treasurer and was elected a Life Member a few years ago and no one in my estimation earned that accolade more than Bert.

Bob Satchwell’s explanation of how Bert inspired the Strollers

The Strollers all started with the multi-talented Bert Shepherd. I first met him when he was in charge of the bar at the old Lea Gate ground. Arriving behind the pumps for my first night on duty at a monthly dance I found a note with a fiver pinned to it. “Nip up to the off-licence and get a bottle of Dry Martini in case any women turn up”, it read.

But I digress. Some years later in the spanking new clubhouse at Lightfoot Green, Bert was to come up with another attractive incentive, not to women but to me, to come out of an extraordinarily early retirement, brought on by injury, a demanding job, and lack of talent.

The precise nature of the bribe to turn out again in a shirt of blue and white hoops and navy blue nickers (as the fixture card always used to describe the club colours) is long forgotten but I think the nickers may have swung it.

Bert had extended the Hopper’s repertoire to a sixth team. Two-thirds of them had played together in the first team back in 1960. Their particular style of Saturday afternoon exertion was now dedicated to a leisurely run out followed by lashings of bonhomie. They also tended to win rather a lot.

Bert with fellow stroller Ennis O'Donnell

Bert with fellow stroller Ennis O’Donnell

It was impossible to resist, but time was against Bert. When his boots fell apart he decided to hang them up for good. Someone had to carry on the team. Six was too big a number for some of us , so a plan was hatched to invent the Strollers. Well it must have been a plan, because it worked.

Back to Club News