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John Shephard, a Chronicle stalwart, dies at 81

One of Gibraltar’s most respected sports journalists, the doyen of the local sports community, John Shephard Snr has died at the age of 81.

A veteran in his field and a long serving member and stalwart of this newspaper, John – who wrote under the pen-name JES - was still writing his column just a few months ago despite is ill health.

With his always watchful eye on the sports pages, he was never far from the phone, making sure we were covering a certain event – or, if he could, still cover it himself.

In 2015 he was the recipient of a Medallion of Distinction for his services to sports journalism.

In August this year, the Gibraltar Football Association, recognising his contribution to football and sports generally, dedicated a veteran’s football trophy in his honour - the John Shephard Snr Trophy, which will be an annual event in the Veteran’s Football Calendar. At the time the Gibraltar FA Grassroots Department said that the trophy was in “recognition of the dedication of the past 50 years to coverage of local football”.

He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 presented by the GBC Sports Award team.

But John Shephard was knowledgeable on many subjects not just football. He loved music, especially jazz, his musicals and crooners. He was widely read and was someone we could always rely on to set the record straight on local, historical and cultural matters.

The Gibraltar Football Association yesterday was quick to pay tribute to him, stating: “Everyone connected with the Gibraltar FA, and the Gibraltarian football family as a whole, has been deeply saddened this morning to learn of the passing of John Shephard Snr.”

The GFA described him as a staunch supporter of football in Gibraltar.

“John faithfully covered football for the Gibraltar Chronicle for decades – even before the days of World Cup Qualifiers and the Champions League. He would take up residence at the Victoria Stadium over a whole weekend come rain, hail or shine, never missing a moment, never shirking at the opportunity to put players, coaches, officials and administrators on the spot with hard-hitting questions – with the best interests of the game always firmly in his heart and mind,” it said.

The GFA added his passing represented a huge loss to the Association and to the sport.

“We have lost more than just a reporter – we have lost a true friend of football.”

Twitter also saw a stream of messages paying tribute to him throughout the day from the local football clubs, to sporting associations and individual messages to “a man who dedicated his life to reporting and covering local football and all other sports”.

John Shephard, then Corporal Shephard in the RAF, arrived in Gibraltar June 6, 1966.

He was a member of a photo section of nine in the 224 Squadron Shackletons and came to Rock with a sporting CV.

“… a very keen and successful sports- photographer with a special love of athletics,” he wrote back in June this year.

It would not take long before he knew he would make the Rock his home and by the time the Squadron was disbanded in the late sixties JES was already involved in local affairs and the local media scene and had met his future wife Cpl Nicky Dibden. They were married in 1970.

Taking the decision to remain in Gibraltar, he set up Shephard Photos at 227 Main Street and Mednews Press Agency, which would serve The Gibraltar Evening Post. Later JES would be known as their sports photographer and then writer.

In the early seventies he joined the Chronicle sports team as photographer but also wrote, and would eventually take up the role of proof reader.

The seventies also saw him join Tich Olivero on Geof Dunn's weekly GBC TV Sports Scene as a sports reporter.

At the time too he became an official registered Gibraltarian.

JES eventually became an integral part of the Chronicle team with the Sports section growing to two pages.

He filled those pages daily and never tired.

He will greatly be missed in the Chronicle office for his abounding energy, strong convictions and enormous sense of responsibility, dedication and commitment.

Our condolences to his family, his wife Nicky and his songs John Jnr and Stephen.