We travelled to honour the memory of one of the great pipe band figures of the modern era, P/M RT Shepherd MBE, ‘Bob’ to everyone. Milling around the entrance we hundreds heard the distant sound of well tuned pipes and there, as the cortege drove towards the entrance, appeared a mini band of some of the grandest names.
Resplendent in Highland dress, pipes tuned to perfection, P/Ms Richard Parkes, Douglas Murray, Ian Duncan, Ross Harvey and Christopher Armstrong helped along by Stuart Samson, the former Director of Army Bagpipe Music, marched into view ably supported by a drum corps some of whom wearing Dysart kilts.
By Robert Wallace
‘My Ain Hoose’ was the tune, a favourite of Bob’s and yes, they were all playing Shepherd chanters. Can I be permitted a little black humour? Did that coffin lid raise a fraction? Did I smell cigar smoke? Did I hear that unmistakeable voice say ‘Just checking’?
In we went, Kirkcaldy Crematorium ultimately packed to bursting. Standing room only at the back for the dozens who missed out on a seat. Who was there? Too many from our world to list but, among all the family and friends, we can add to those named above Alistair Aitken, John Hughes, Ian Embelton, John Wilson, Robert and Anne Mathieson, Malky and Donald MacKenzie, Alan Ronaldson (who like Richard had flown in from Northern Ireland), Jim Semple, Paul Turner, Ronnie MacShannon, Tom Brown, Jim Pender, Jimmy Banks, Dixie Ingram (who flew up from London), Peter Snaddon, Kenny MacLeod, Mick O’Neil, Ross Walker, David Wilton, Jennifer Hutcheon, Arthur Cook, Jim and Fiona Kilpatrick, John MacInnes, Lee Innes, Gordon Lee, Jim Walker, Paul Brown (Tom’s son), George Wilson, Ian Simpson, Duncan Smith, Brian Alexander….and scores more with apologies to those I’ve missed.
The celebrant did a fine job of taking us through Bob’s life and loves. How wife Dorothy kept his cigar consumption to one a day – two on holidays. His charity work for the local Rotary International. His determination always to better himself but never to forget his roots. His devotion to his family, his children and grandchildren.
How he met Dorothy at a church badminton match. Their first date at the pictures. How Bob saved up for the engagement ring only to spend it on a car. But Dorothy wasn’t going to be put off. She got her ring and her man. Had Bob survived his last illness they would have celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary, 60 years, in a few months.
On with tales of his travels, his judging and teaching taking him all over the world, that memorable night in Hong Kong, scrapes and seminars and soirées on every continent but always with a thought for his home in Fife, the factory and family at Cardenden.
We heard of the MBE for services to piping. An unforgettable day for Bob and a ceremony at Buckingham Palace but only close family invited, wife, son, daughter. As ever Bob worked his magic; he knew someone – the Sovereign’s Piper – and the additional invites duly arrived in the post. Shepherd had his full flock there to see him honoured by HRH Prince Charles.
The hymns, chosen by Bob, rang round the hall ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ (or as the Ballingry schoolboys sang, The Lord’s Mr Shepherd) and ‘I Need Thee Every Hour’.
A recording of ‘Nearer, my God, to thee’ played as we were invited to compose ourselves and think of the man who meant so much to us all. Then there was Burns….
An honest man here lies at rest,
As e’er God with his image blest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth;
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so informed;
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.
On with the tribute and Bob’s love of music, church music, he would listen to Songs of Praise on a Sunday, and the future. The business will go on in Bob’s name; he was handing out instructions on who to phone, what to order to his granddaughter Zara the day he was carried off to Victoria Hospital for the last time. Yes the business goes on; he would have wanted nothing less.
We stood for the committal and heard the sad strain of the Floo’ers o’ the Forest. Then out into the autumn sunshine where the brightness and colour belied the sadness of the day.