The Reverend David Shepherd, who died on March 27, was one of the diminishing number of Scottish clergy to serve their whole ministry in the same diocese.
He served in Dundee from 1968 until 2020, was chaplain to Anglican students at Dundee University and wrote detective novels in his leisure time.
David was born in Bolton-le-Sands, Lancashire, in 1942.
On leaving Abottsholme School, Derbyshire, he spent three years at Saint John’s College, Durham, graduating in 1965.
He later added an M.A., and then an M.Litt. for a thesis on the Yugoslav Royal Family.
After a gap year in the probation service, he joined Edinburgh Theological College.
David arrived in Dundee in the Diocese of Brechin in 1968 to serve as curate of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
Several of his forebears had ministered in the diocese, including a bishop, a dean and a former provost of Saint Paul’s.
He remained at the cathedral for 11 years, during which time he exercised a remarkable ministry among young people both in the cathedral and in his chaplaincy to Anglican students at Dundee University.
In June 1979, he was appointed rector of Saint Mary Magdalene’s in Dundee. This was a large building that had formerly been a Catholic Apostolic Church.
In 1954, an Episcopalian congregation had moved from Hawkhill, at one time reputed to be the most over-crowded area in Europe.
Act of faith
Over the years the building had become rather forlorn and a recommendation was made that it should be closed. David’s appointment was an act of faith.
I remember clearly the evening of his institution. The church was dark and dismal, and many of the lights were not working.
Under David’s guidance, the building was transformed into a place of beauty — including the replacement of the windows with stained glass. But important as that was, the building was not the church, but the people, and it was to their care that he was being instituted.
During his rectorship, the baptismal register showed no less than 850 “lambs” nurtured and in their baptism given grace to live Christian lives.
Ministry to Dundee youth
In the halcyon days of the 1960s at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, his Sixty-Nine Club had to be restricted to 150 members meeting regularly in the halls.
He spent six fruitful years as chaplain to Anglican students at Dundee University, some of whom stayed in contact for the rest of his life.
Four new ministers came from those years. David ministered diligently in the day-to-day care of his flock —visiting, preaching, teaching, comforting and ministering to them to the end. Some 1,300 funerals of people, nearly all of them loved by their shepherd and loving in return.
Beyond Saint Mary Magdalene’s, David’s hospital chaplaincy was exemplary. His 16 years as chairman of Saint Serf’s Retirement Home in Fife saw a major extension completed, the books balanced and a facility of which the church was proud.
He was of great assistance in chaplaincy to the Burma Star Association in Dundee.
David had a particular interest in lists and tables and would have made a good statistician.
The beginning of Advent always saw him producing for the ensuing year a table of lessons, readers, hymns and music.
Although not musical himself, he appreciated good music and loved listening to the Mahler symphonies and classical liturgical music.
His principal recreation was in writing detective novels — 15 of them altogether.
He produced four very interesting and well-illustrated books for the Sunday School. In 2018, he published the first of three volumes of autobiography, entitled Shepherd’s Delight. He left the other two volumes almost ready to go to print.
David’s letters are never likely to be forgotten, and would on occasion have been better written on asbestos paper. The seven bishops under whom he served were not exempt from what he euphemistically described as “constructive criticism”.
In 1986, he married Patricia, who was a constant, yet unobtrusive, support and mainstay throughout his ministry.
Sadly his last few years were dogged by a progressively disabling cancer, through which he was devotedly nursed by Patricia
He retired on Easter Day 2020 after 40 years at Saint Mary Magdalene’s.
He was 78 years old at the time of his death and had been a priest for more than 50 years. He leaves a wide circle of grateful Dundonians.