Obituary: wife of former owner of heritage railway locomotive

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Published:
06:00 7 May 2022



The wife of the late David Shepherd, the former owner of beloved locomotive The Black Prince, has died.

Avril Shepherd has been described as an ‘amazing family matriarch’ and praised for her work behind the scenes, including her support for the famous train now housed in North Norfolk.

Paying tribute to Mrs Shepherd, the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) thanked her for enabling her husband to achieve much of her success.

A statement shared on the foundation’s website on April 30 said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Avril Shepherd, wife of the late David Shepherd and extraordinary family matriarch, who enabled a much of her husband David’s success as an artist and environmentalist.

“Avril worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that David’s work, clients and foundation were taken care of with grace, kindness and quiet determination.

“Avril served as DSWF Trustee for over 12 years between 2003 and 2015. She was a lifelong friend and guiding light to so many of DSWF’s wonderful conservation partners, friends and supporters.

“While Avril dazzled internationally at art galleries and high-profile events alongside David, she was equally at home in the wilderness and wilderness of Africa. She calmly maintained the often wild and wonderful ideas that have taken her, David, and their family to remote corners of the world.

“She was a strong advocate in her own unwavering way for conservation and for all who fought for the places and species she loved. Many of us remember her for her warm welcome and generous hospitality. as she supported the work of DSWF.


Weybourne station is the backdrop for wildlife artist David Shepherd OBE with the steam engine, The Black Prince in 2007
– Credit: Archant

The Friends of Black Prince group, which supports the operation and maintenance of British Railway Standard Class 9F number 92203 owned by North Norfolk Railway, said: “We are sorry to learn of the death of Avril Shepherd, wife of the late David Berger We send our condolences to the Shepherd family.

Friend Ian Crowder added: “When locomotive 92203 Black Prince was based at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, David and Avril visited often and I had the privilege of pulling the locomotive with them on the baseplate a few times.”

As well as being a heritage railway enthusiast, Mr Shepherd was a British artist and one of the world’s most outspoken conservationists. Despite an adventurous life together, the couple, from Hascombe and Godalming in Surrey, cherished quiet family time above all else.

Ms Shepherd leaves behind four daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren whom she “inspired to respect and fight for the natural world”.

Born Richard David Shepherd, Mr. Shepherd died on September 19, 2017. Mrs. Shepherd died at the end of April 2022.


The Black Prince locomotive photographed in 2007

The Black Prince locomotive photographed in 2007
– Credit: Archant

Norfolk and the Black Prince

The Black Prince was built for British Railways in 1959.

David Shepherd bought the engine in 1967, after a sold-out art exhibition in New York.

He owned it for just under 50 years, and when the time came the North Norfolk Railway became the new guardian.

Mr Shepherd first brought his beloved Black Prince to Norfolk over 15 years ago. He loved the railroad and the staff and volunteers loved him.

He has previously been described by NNR staff as “a great man who will forever be recognized as one of the nation’s greatest railway preservation pioneers”.

The arrival of the Black Prince was a turning point in the fortunes of the railway and with the support of Mr. Shepherd and the immense popularity of him and the locomotive, visitors came from all over the country to see them.

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