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Desert Dancer Obit: Bryan Sheppard of Adderbury Morris, 2020 (1) Obit: Bryan Sheppard of Adderbury Morris, 2020 01 Apr 20

Bryan Sheppard, who jointly resurrected the Adderbury Morris tradition, has died, aged 67

Tributes have poured in this week to Bryan Sheppard, one half of the team who restored the Adderbury Morris tradition 45 years ago. He died on Sunday after a short illness.

By Roseanne Edwards
Tuesday, 31st March 2020
Banbury Guardian

Bryan grew up in Adderbury with his sister Anne, attending Christopher Rawlins Primary School. There, he met friends with whom he remained very close. Their love and support over the past two years and at this difficult time have been greatly appreciated by his family.

Bryan Shepherd was renowned for his passion and commitment in reviving the Adderbury Morris tradition and the reformed team in the 1970s., It was a passion he continued to love and participate in with The Adderbury Village Morris Men until his illness prohibited him from doing so.

He made the role of 'The Fool’ his own, with elaborate fancy dress and antics, exciting the crowd and generally causing mayhem. The Adderbury Day of Dance has become a very important date in the north Oxfordshire calendar.

Friend and collaborator in the Adderbury Morris revival, Tim Radford, said: "One evening this tallish, long haired stranger walked into a practice at the college and changed the lives of everyone in the room. Over years we got to know each other and worked together like brothers on this new project to make sure we created something that would last and be a credit to the community we all believed in.

"In 1975 it all came to fruition and burst, fully formed and practised, into the Morris world. Bryan Sheppard was that long haired man. I am sure he still had the wish for the dance in the village to continue and flourish. Without him Adderbury Morris would not be what it is today. I thank Bryan for all my memories."

Tim Plester, actor, film maker and Morris man, said: "Like many who had the good fortune to grow-up in Adderbury during the 1970s and 80s, my impressionable young mind will be forever scarred by the high jinks of Bryan John Sheppard.

"His inflated pig’s bladder always on the prowl; ready to strike out at poor unsuspecting spectators like some kind of motley triffid’s sting on-a-stick! Once regarded as trusted confidants in aristocratic households, the fool is an English institution - easily traceable back through vaudeville and Chaplin to the court jesters of old.

"Bryan’s particular brand of cantankerous buffoonery always struck me as owing a debt of thanks to Rod Hull and Emu and to the irreverence of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Ringleader, ambassador, loose-canon, rabble-rouser, witch-doctor and anarchist, Bryan was one of a kind. A thoroughbred dancer and a passionate keeper of the flame, he was the crown in old

Adderbury’s jewel. The best joker-in-the-pack that any Ironstone village could ever wish for. Mr Sheppard, I believe the last laugh belongs to you."

One of Bryan Sheppard's oldest friends and fellow Morris man, Jim Plester, said: "I met Bryan over 60 years ago when we started primary school together. We became friends when we shared the same desk and have been friends ever since.

"Growing up in Adderbury in the 1950s and 60s we had no idea there was once a thriving Morris tradition in the 19th century. We discovered later that the side had last danced in 1914. Only one of the side returned from the Western Front and the side never danced again.

"When Bryan was working in Northamptonshire in the early 1970s he joined a local Morris side and discovered there were over 20 dances collected in Adderbury, danced by teams all over Britain and the rest of the world.

"Bryan was instrumental in getting a side reestablished in Adderbury and after joining forces with Tim Radford in April 1975 a Morris side, based in Adderbury danced out for the first time in 60 years. Over the next 45 years we have all worked hard to keep the Morris going in Adderbury.

"People have said they were scared of Bryan but when you got to know him you realised he was a energetic one-off character - you were never safe from his sarcastic comments. As a friend he was loyal, generous and kind. With the passing of Bryan there is going to be a huge gap in our lives. He was a true, one-off larger than life character."

Bryan Sheppard also played and called for many years with The Hookey Band. He was an accomplished concertina and melodeon player but was best known for being an exceptional caller for the dances.

He was also an avid supporter of Aston Villa taking his son Jack to many of the matches across the country. His passion was shared with thousands through his book ‘Friendlies, Tours and Testimonials’ in 2012, a feat he was incredibly proud of. He also supported local youth football as assistant coach of Leamington Brakes Juniors in the late 1990s.

Bryan spent much of his working life working with learning disabled people in local authorities and with Mencap. He became Chief Executive of the charity BID in Birmingham, an organisation for deaf people and other vulnerable groups. His most prized achievement was the planning and building of The Deaf Cultural Centre in Birmingham, the first in England.

He was the much loved and cherished husband of Gail, father to Polly and Jack, father in law of Adam and Jenny, grandfather to Austen and Ashton and brother of Anne. Unfortunately, at this difficult and unprecedented time, the funeral will be attended by immediate family only.

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