Man at the Top W Bro Tony Shepherd PJGD, PASoj Metropolitan Grand Inspector
In conversation with W Bro Simon Bennett SLGR, LGCR MetGInsp
I was born in the City of London Maternity Hospital, Islington, in December 1962, coming from a long line of Londoners, spanning over two centuries, of men and women who were born, married and died within a couple of miles radius of where I still hang my hat in Islington – Old Street, Hackney, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Camden and Kings Cross to name but a few. Like many true Londoners, I am blessed to have the influences of many parts of the UK and Europe flowing through my veins – Wiltshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, and my maternal grandmother Mollie’s family were from the beautiful Isle of Wight.
Whilst both sets of my grandparents remained in Islington, as a young family, we moved to Leytonstone in 1968 and then onto Highams Park in 1974. In 1978 my Dad, Terry Shepherd, was Initiated into Acanthus Lodge No 2715, together with other family men who lived in our cul-de-sac (I recently had the pleasure of presenting two of them with 40 Year lapel pins), and I have fond memories of him returning early from work, putting on a dark suit and disappearing with a black briefcase for Lodge meetings and attending regular Thursday night L of Is held at a local social club.
I left school at 16 in 1979 and found employment as a solicitors clerk near the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. I returned to education in 1981 to study A levels at Waltham Forest College, enrolled on a modern history degree course at CCAT (now Anglia Ruskin University) and graduated in 1986, moving back into the family home with my fraternal grandad, Jim Shepherd. Like many young men of my generation, I tried my hand at a whole host of differing part-time jobs – paper boy, market stall assistant (yes, barrow boy), waiter, barman, and Christmas postman to pay for holidays and fund my education.
Immediately after leaving college, I pursued my interest in professional boxing and worked seven days a week laying metal access floors at the Broadgate construction site at Liverpool Street to earn enough money to follow the boxing circuit in America for a few months. On my return from the US, I had articles published in Boxing News and Boxing Monthly and wrote press releases and helped promote small-scale boxing shows on behalf of a friend’s sports promotion companies.
The World Sports Corporation then acquired the upcoming middleweight sensation Nigel Benn from a rival promoter, and for the next three years, I became a busy boxing press officer as Nigel’s personal PR – highlights of those years included a world title fight capture in Atlantic City, New Jersey; a winning world title defence in Las Vegas and a pulsating world title defence loss against great rival Chris Eubank at the NEC in Birmingham.
Remaining as a freelance boxing agent, I was appointed as the press officer at Sadlers Wells Theatre in 1991, where I stayed for two years. I then became a freelance Dance PR working with companies and festivals, including the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Opera House, the Southbank Centre and the Barbican for the next 30 years (travelling across the UK for work and as a freelance agent travelling to China, USA, Portugal, Argentina, Germany, Jerusalem, Switzerland and Belgium).
My journey into Freemasonry was, in many respects, quite accidental. I had attended a few ladies’ nights as a younger man, both in central London and at the local Chingford Masonic Hall, but I never believed that I would find much in common with a group of mainly older men. However, I knew Dad would love to have me involved, and I decided that I could at least give up four afternoons/evenings per year to please him. At my first installation meeting, as an entered apprentice, I was asked to present the 1st-degree working tools, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Dad was, like many others of his background, a man who spent most of his working life in the construction industry. His entry into Freemasonry in general, and Acanthus Lodge and Chapter in particular, helped start changing how he saw himself as a man. Through the Lodge meetings and Lodge of Instruction, he learned ritual, learned how to get over his slight stammer and learned how to speak publicly. Through this journey, he made many friends. Good friends. Lifelong friends.
Freemasonry and Acanthus enabled him to grow as a man and not to define himself by what he did for a living or how dirty his hands had to get to put food on the table for us, his family. In the Acanthus family, he found admiration, respect and affection for the man he truly was and the man that Freemasonry allowed him to become in his own eyes. He once said to me after a Lodge meeting that being a Freemason made him feel 10 feet tall – I shall cherish that moment forever.
I was initiated, passed and raised in Acanthus Lodge No 2715 by Dad in 1992-93, within the stunning environs of the Grecian Temple of the Great Eastern Hotel (now the Andaz Hotel) and was installed by him as Worshipful Master in 1998. Over the following years, we inducted each other into the big chair on a few occasions across two different Lodges. I had always enjoyed a close relationship with Dad, but the 27 years I shared with him in Freemasonry elevated it to another level.
In 1941, at the height of the Second World War, Dad, aged two, was evacuated from Islington to the South Welsh mining village of Skewen, near Port Talbot.
Margaret, one of the daughters of the family that took Dad in, became Godmother to me, and Dad became Godfather to Margaret’s Granddaughter Jenna. A few years ago, Jenna got married in Swansea, with Dad walking her down the aisle and ‘giving her away’. He was incredibly proud to have been asked by Jenna to do so, and he was, in essence, sharing the love with the great-granddaughter of Jenny Jones, the woman who had, 73 years earlier, said to him, “Would you like to come home with me Terry?” Those amazing people from South Wales will always have a huge place in the heart of this family, and their incredible act of ‘service before self’ and generosity of spirit embodied everything we hold dear in our Freemasonry.
Dad died in 2019, aged 80, from COPD, worn out and wishing to be at peace, and we, as a family, were content that his wish was granted. In the week of his peaceful death, he received a letter announcing his impending appointment to LGCR, which really pleased him. He never lived to see my appointment to Metropolitan Grand Inspector or my Grand Rank preferment in 2021, but I know he would have been immensely proud of how my masonic journey has unfolded.
I carry Dad’s Grand Lodge and Supreme Grand Chapter certificates in the back pocket of my respective aprons. One of the many privileges afforded Metropolitan Grand Inspectors is the opportunity to present newly made brethren or companions with their certificates, and I never pass up the chance to use Dad’s to illustrate the historical and symbolic significance of their certificate. At his funeral Dad was carried into the crematorium – as primus Acanthus Lodge Mentor – by six brethren whom he had personally mentored. It was nothing less than he deserved to ‘have lived respected and died regretted’. He was a good man, a great Dad and an exemplary Mason, and I was proud to call him my brother.
Five Things you don’t know about Tony Shepherd
1) Has run and completed five Marathons for Charity 2010-2016
- 2) Received a Courageous Citizen Award In 2012 from the Mayor of Islington for helping to save a next-door neighbour’s toddler from a terrible house fire
- 3) On his 30th Birthday, debuted at Sadler’s Wells Theatre by performing as the Mask Seller in Act One of London City Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet
- 4) His first Escorting Duty was leading Nigel Benn into the ring, carrying the union flag, for his first Middleweight World Title defence in Las Vegas August 1990.
- 5) On 1st April 2022 he was Metropolitan Grand Master Baker for a day! – Official Met Comms April Fools joke shared on all the Met platforms.
1992 Initiated into Acanthus Lodge No 2715
1998 WM of Acanthus Lodge No 2715
2005 WM of Acanthus Lodge No 2715
2018 WM of Chingford Meridian Lodge No 7465 (Essex)
2019 VO, London
2020 ProvAGDC (Essex)
2023 WM of Skelmersdale Lodge 1658
2000 Exalted into Acanthus Chapter No 2715
2013 MEZ of Acanthus Chapter No 2715
2018 VO, London
2019 MEZ of Acanthus Chapter No 2715
2022 MEZ of Temple Chapter at Jerusalem No 4611
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 51 April 2023 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 51 here.