The Right Rev Lord Sheppard of Liverpool

England cricket captain who became Bishop of Liverpool

David Sheppard, the England cricket captain in 1954, was ordained in 1955 to the evangelical church of St Mary's in Islington, north London. He then spent 18 years in the East End followed by 22 years devoted to Liverpool. He experienced remarkable "conversions": from a quiet, rather shy schoolboy to being a handsome sporting icon, from being a conventional believer to being a born-again evangelical, then to become a radical activist over derelict urban areas and finally to enter a deep friendship with the Roman Catholic Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool, with whom he wrote three books and took great risks in city riots.

David Stuart Sheppard, cricketer and priest: born Reigate, Surrey 6 March 1929; played cricket for Sussex 1947-62 (Captain 1953), England 1950-63 (Captain 1954); ordained deacon 1955, priest 1956; Assistant Curate, St Mary's, Islington 1955-57; Warden, Mayflower Centre, Canning Town 1957-69; Chairman, Evangelical Urban Training Project 1968-75; Bishop Suffragan of Woolwich 1969-75; Chairman, Peckham Settlement 1969-75; Chairman, Martin Luther King Foundation 1970-75; Chairman, Urban Ministry Project 1970-75; Bishop of Liverpool 1975-97; Vice-Chairman, Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Urban Priority Areas 1983-85; Chairman, Central Religious Advisory Committee for BBC and IBA 1989-93; Chairman, General Synod Board for Social Responsibility 1991-96; Chairman, Churches' Enquiry into Unemployment and the Future of Work 1995-97; created 1998 Baron Sheppard of Liverpool; President, Sussex County Cricket Club 2001-02; married 1957 Grace Isaac (one daughter); died West Kirby, Merseyside 5 March 2005.

David Sheppard, the England cricket captain in 1954, was ordained in 1955 to the evangelical church of St Mary's in Islington, north London. He then spent 18 years in the East End followed by 22 years devoted to Liverpool. He experienced remarkable "conversions": from a quiet, rather shy schoolboy to being a handsome sporting icon, from being a conventional believer to being a born-again evangelical, then to become a radical activist over derelict urban areas and finally to enter a deep friendship with the Roman Catholic Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool, with whom he wrote three books and took great risks in city riots.

Worlock and Sheppard liked to recount how in the 1985 riots the black leaders sent a message to the two bishops begging for megaphones so that they could appeal to their followers to go home. At that time of night in all the chaos and noise the police seemed the only source. The police demurred. Could the black leaders be trusted?

Finally they handed two megaphones over to the bishops, who carried them under their coats towards the centre of the trouble, evading some Manchester folk who had come to Liverpool for the chance of a good riot. Then the bishops found a boy to carry the megaphones to the black leaders, who succeeded in persuading everyone to return to their homes.

It was typical of the trust won by the two bishops, whether they were at the centre of Liverpool's troubles or speaking out for the city in London to sceptical Conservative ministers. Nicholas Ridley rebuffed them by saying that as Minister for the Environment he was "responsible for every butterfly and dog licence and I don't see why that should not include Merseyside as well". Only later did Michael Heseltine take seriously Liverpool's problems.

David Sheppard was born in Reigate, Surrey, in 1929 and grew up in a family proud of Tubby Clayton, a cousin who had founded TocH, the First World War Christian movement. After his father's early death, in 1937, Sheppard and his family moved to Sussex, where his passion for cricket began.

He was educated at Sherborne, Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and Ridley Hall, and then joined the ranks of the impressive post-war ordinands who were greatly strengthening the ministry of the churches in the UK, France and the United States. In England these included Robert Runcie, Simon Phipps, Stephen Verney, Hugh Montefiore, David Jenkins and many others who had all seen war service and became notable church leaders.

Sheppard married Grace Isaac, daughter of the Rev Bryan Isaac, in 1957 and together they committed themselves to the demanding life in Canning Town of the Mayflower Family Settlement. In the East End Sheppard was personally close to poor whites and poor blacks. The blacks resented the lack of trust by white churches; it was not until 1985 that the Church of England had its first black bishop, in Wilfred Wood as Bishop of Croydon.

David Sheppard's long innings at Liverpool, from 1975 to 1997, after six years as Suffragan Bishop of Woolwich, threw him into the whirlpool of Derek Hatton's Militant Tendency local politics and harsh problems of housing and growing unemployment. He accepted the chairmanship of the Liverpool Manpower Services Commission, the Central Religious Advisory Committee for the BBC and IBA and the General Synod Board for Social Responsibility, and, most important of all, the vice-chairmanship of the brilliant group of men and women who produced the 1985 report Faith in the City.

Subtitled "A Call for Action by Church and Nation", this was the most influential message to the nation issued by the Church of England in the 20th century. Eventually Margaret Thatcher and succeeding governments, Tory and Labour, saw the inner cities and the riots as a British disability which must be faced. More than any other bishop - perhaps more than any other public figure - Sheppard, by persistent prophetic protests in Parliament, the press and his diocese helped to change public opinion. His charisma was so powerful that he drew others to serve in the inner city.

David Sheppard's wife Grace was often with him in public and was one of his wisest advisers. Her searingly honest, personal confessions of suffering and extreme nervousness on public occasions - in her book An Aspect of Fear (1989) - enabled many others to live with the disabling effects of fear. Sheppard was also strongly supported by his Dean, Edward Patey, who created many great occasions.

The Queen came for the final completion of the cathedral, after 74 years' building. Bishop and Dean together, before the Pope's visit to Liverpool, had to confront the brash American Roman Catholic archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who said to them: "What would you do, Dean, if I were to tell you the Pope would not visit your cathedral at all?" "Quite frankly," said the Dean, standing beside Sheppard, "we should not believe you." The Pope came to worship in the Anglican cathedral, packed to the doors with non-Catholics at prayer.

Sheppard and the Board for Social Responsibility shared the same independent ability to think for themselves when they published their forward-looking report on family life today, Something to Celebrate (1995).

David Sheppard was not an intellectual but he read and travelled widely. His influence was due to his personal courage and independence of mind and the depth of his Christian faith. In place of a bemused hopelessness over ecumenism, racism and unemployment (his 2002 autobiography was entitled Steps Along Hope Street), he was a religious leader who inspired others to believe in a new future and work for change in the national mood, which came only after his retirement.

Alan Webster

Of the 13 clergymen known to have made a mark in English cricket history, including one who was the great-grandson of Charles II and Nell Gwyn and another who founded the Hambledon club, only David Sheppard achieved an England cap, writes Derek Hodgson. While he might have become Primate of All England he could also have captained England for a long spell and been elected President of MCC.

His qualifications were immaculate. He emerged at Sherborne as a tall right-hander of great application and concentration. These qualities, added to a determination to succeed, far outweighed whatever weaknesses he might have been thought to have as a stroke player; he certainly possessed a handsome cover drive.

He was still at school when he made his début for Sussex in the 1947 holidays and from school he moved to that blessed square in England, in the nurturing of top-class batsmen, at Cambridge University's ground. He arrived at Fenner's with a score of 204, for Sussex against Glamorgan, behind him and became one of the constellation of young stars - Hubert Doggart, John Dewes, Peter May - who made professional bowlers wince at the thought of visiting there.

In his first year he shared opening partnerships with Dewes of 343 against West Indies at Fenner's and 349 against Sussex at Hove. In his third year, 1952, when Cambridge captain, he scored 127 in the Varsity match and topped the national averages, 2,262 runs at 64.62. A year later he had reached 24 centuries in three seasons and was already captain of Sussex, leading them from 13th to second in the Championship.

Such a prodigy had already been recognised by the selectors. He made his début in 1950 against West Indies, then played two more Tests in Australia. Back home he scored his maiden Test 100 against India, and, while reading for holy orders, led England against Pakistan in 1954. When he was recalled, against Australia in 1956, he became the first priest to play for England and took the dressing-room raillery with great good-humour. A superb slip field, he had one bad day, later in his career, in Australia that brought a laconic comment from the suffering bowler Fred Trueman: "Aye, it's a pity t' Rev doesn't put his hands together more often in t' field."

He retired to his vocation in 1963 with one sunset memory, 112 at Lords in the last Gentlemen v Players match. It was on this occasion that Tony Lewis, called up from Cambridge to make up the side, remembers Ted Dexter, the last of those Light Blue Stars, swinging his bat, playing strokes in front of a mirror and declaring, "These cocks can't bowl." Those cocks included Trueman and Derek Shackleton.

Sheppard's unremitting opposition to the then South African government policy of apartheid - he had refused to play against South Africa in 1960 - must have hindered his prospects with England, certainly of a long captaincy, for there were still many inside the game who felt that by making cricket a channel of communication they could eventually affect the Afrikaaner government's attitude. Ron Roberts, a distinguished freelance and no bigot, who managed several overseas tours and who worked ferociously hard to bring the races together on that continent, wrote to E.W. Swanton in March 1962:

They [several South African cricketers] have made more practical gestures towards international cricket than David Sheppard in his publicised stand against them. Do you think that Sheppard, because of his outside views, might complicate the search for a solution if he became England's captain?

By coincidence it was on that same tour that Basil D'Oliveira, the player who brought the whole controversy to a head and caused South Africa to be exiled from cricket, first emerged. Sheppard never wavered in a cause in which he believed, yet there must have been days when he looked back in nostalgia to those happy sunlit times when he was a county cricketer and a religious novice.

In 1962-63, during his last tour, the England party were invited to a reception. Sheppard was wearing his dog collar and when a bishop mounted the platform Trueman called: "Hey, David, is that your senior pro?"

Sheppard scored 15,838 runs in his first class career, 1947-63, at an average of 43.51. He made 1,172 runs in his 22 Tests at an average of 37.80, and scored 45 centuries.



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