STORIES OF OUR FAMILIES
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
John Herbert Sheppard
John Herbert Sheppard was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad on 28 September 1915, the sixth child of Charles and Elsie (Gomez) Sheppard. He grew up in the Sheppard family home at 30 Richmond Street, Port of Spain and went to school at Queens Royal College along with three of his brothers - George, Bertie and Boysie. John had eleven siblings and was just 16 years old when his father died.
When John was 24 years old, he married Juliet Fernandes, a stunning beauty whose sister Elsa had married his older brother Boysie the previous year. The couple lived in the south of Trinidad, first in San Fernando where their eldest child Desmond was born during Christmas week of 1941. Three years later a daughter who they named Suzanne Margaret was born, completing their family unit.
John was employed with Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd. which owned and operated a large oil refinery in Pointe-a-Pierre. During that time, he and his family lived on the company's “Camp” - a village complete with a school, yacht club and a staff club equipped with a pool, tennis courts, squash courts and an 18 hole golf course. The Camp also contained a hospital and a small chapel. There John rose to the important position of Fire Chief. His daughter Suzanne recalls that when he was Fire Chief he bravely saved two lives. Once when he performed mouth to mouth resuscitation on a young boy found at the bottom of the pool and another time when a worker fell into the sea full of oil and couldn’t swim.
John and Juliet's marriage ended in divorce, and they both remarried. Juliet settled in Barbados where she remained close to her family until she passed away at the age of 91.
John and Juliet's handsome son Desmond lost his life in a tragic car accident in Trinidad when he was just 20 years old. This was an enormous tragedy that would be remembered by him and his family with sadness and grief for the rest of their days.
John's second marriage was to Valerie Ludlow, who hailed from Warwickshire, England. Val was a gifted young artist and teacher who who taught at the school in Point-a-Pierre. The couple had four children - Judith, Jason, Jessica and Jill, all born in Pointe-a-Pierre Trinidad where they spent their early childhood living in the Pointe-a-Pierre Camp. When John reached the age of retirement, he emigrated to the UK with Val and their family. John enjoyed life in England, but always returned to the Caribbean to spend special times with his eldest daughter and her family in Barbados. He enjoyed traveling and also loved visits from his overseas family.
I remember my Uncle John as a handsome, unassuming gentleman with a dry sense of humour. He loved to tell a joke. I think of him playing the piano with his own special stylings that reflected his easy-going personality. It is thanks to Uncle John and his friendship and visits with his English cousin Nell Sheppard in Wem that we have been able to learn more about our Sheppard ancestors. After Nell passed away, he inherited from her a large number of old family photos, on the backs of which she had identified everyone. These he passed on to his niece Kathleen who has contributed the collection for our archives. Among them was a letter sent to him by Nell's dear friend after she died revealing John's thoughtfulness and generosity.
John's wife Valerie passed away in 2017 at the age of 89. During recent conversations with their eldest daughter Judith, I learned that he had been an active member of the Masonic Lodge near the village where he lived in Wareham. When he passed away on 7 September 1996, his funeral was attended by a large number of his Masonic Fraternity. I wanted to find out more about his involvement at the local Lodge. Now, for the first time we have become aware of John Sheppard's outstanding contribution as a Freemason, and the high esteem in which he is held, recorded in the history of his Lodge. We realize that Freemasonry played an important role in his life and that he was a part of this fraternity from much earlier days in Trinidad. He lived by the tenets of Freemasonry, displaying brotherly love, charity and good will to everyone.
The research and memories of John provided by his fellow brethren are touching testimonials to his personality and fine character, and a legacy of which we all can be very proud.
Play on, dearest Uncle John.
Your niece Valerie - 27 August, 2021
Worshipful Brother John Herbert Sheppard PPrGSuptWks1
Brother Mark Burstow, PPrSGD, ProvAsstGScrE,
The Provincial Grand Lodge and Royal Arch Chapters of Dorset
John Herbert Sheppard was balloted to join The Lodge of St. Martin No. 7986 at the 18 March 1982 Meeting and joined at the Installation meeting on 15 April 1982. The 1983 Dorset Masonic Calendar tells us that WBro J H Sheppard was Master of St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 3963, Trinidad in 1969 and held the rank of Past District Junior Deacon (Trinidad).
WBro Sheppard never held Office in St. Martin but that isn’t totally surprising as at that time St. Martin had well over 100 members and there were plenty of Brethren anxious to serve in office and well-established Brethren in the non-Progressive roles. I am told that in those days, 12 - 15 years from first becoming a Steward to The Chair was not unusual.
He was appointed, on 27 October 1990, to the Craft Rank of Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works.
WBro Sheppard joined Dorset Masters Lodge No. 3366 in 1992
He was Exalted into the Holy Royal Arch in The Chapter of Unity No. 386, Wareham in 1985. He is not listed as a member in the 1987 Dorset Masonic Calendar but appears as a Joining Member in 386 Chapter in 1988. Again, Companion Sheppard didn’t hold Office in the Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Unity.
He became a Founder of The Chapter of St. Martin No. 7986 on 4 April 1995
WBro Sheppard was Advanced into the Mark Degree in Anglebury Mark No. 763 in 1984. In the Dorset Masonic Calendar entry for the Mark, he is referred to as Jack Sheppard. He progressed through the Offices, becoming a Steward in 1987 and having a slightly accelerated journey to the Chair, serving as Inner Guard in 1988, Senior Deacon in 1989, Senior Overseer in 1990 and 1991, Senior Warden in 1992 and finally Master in 1993.
He was appointed to Past Provincial Grand Deacon in Dorset Mark in 1995.
WBro Sheppard remained a member of all three orders until he passed away on 7 September 1996. I am grateful to WBro Mark Giddings PPrGReg PPrGSwdB, the Worshipful Master of The Lodge of St. Martin 7986, a Past First Principal of the Chapter of St Martin No. 7986 and a Past Master of Anglebury Mark No. 763 for helping me to decide “where to look” for the information above. WBro Giddings recalls WBro Sheppard well; described him to me as having a “Lovely sense of humour”, being “laid back” and “quiet” - “a lovely old fellow”. Dining being ever important to Freemasons, WBro Giddings remembers WBro Sheppard having an aversion to Pork and made sure he didn’t have it at the Festive Board.
Mark recalls that “one of his .. foibles was to put a mint in the collection bag or ballot box you always knew he had done it by the look in his eyes.” WBro Sheppard’s proposer into Lodge of St. Martin was WBro Giddings' late Uncle, WBro Alastair McKechan, who is one of only two initiates in the history of St. Martin to be honoured with Grand Rank.
WBro Sheppard is remembered fondly, and his Trinidad apron badge and collar jewel are still on display in the Committee Room in Wareham Masonic Hall, 25 years after his passing to the Grand Lodge Above.
I attach photos of the regalia and the Summons and Agenda from the meeting when his ballot to join was taken.
Most sincere thanks to David A. Reid for his kindness in requesting this information about Uncle John's masonic service from the United Grand Lodge of England, and to Mark Burstow for his research of all factual information which was extracted manually from Dorset Masonic Calendars (Year Books) 1983 - 1996.
The information was received on 27 August 2021.
David Reid is my brother-in-law, married to my yougest sister Audrey. He is a Freemason and holds the rank of PM 1557, PPGM Renfrewshire East, Proxy DGM Sierra Leone and The Gambia, Grand Architect.