Richard Sheepshanks sadly and suddenly passed away on Saturday 28th November 2009. Richard had worked at Eastnor Castle for the past 14years.
It will not surprise you to know that when I last saw Richard, just a few hours before he tragically and prematurely died just over two weeks ago, he was asking his Eastnor work colleagues with genuine interest what they were doing at the weekend. Typically, Richard was more interested in others than himself. We didn’t ask him what he was doing at the weekend because we already knew. He was working. Like so many other evenings and weekends he was doing a job that he did so well and enjoyed so much: Looking after other people.
Richard was on great form. He seemed happy with life and in the thirteen years that I had the privilege to work with him, he had never seemed so relaxed and content. As tragic as this is, I believe Richard died a happy man.
Richard James Sheepshanks was born in Leeds on 8th April 1949, the son of John and Margaret and brother of Joanna and Felicity. His early years were spent in Harrogate but as his father was in the Army, family life involved numerous postings, including Germany, London, Catterick and finally Cyprus.
Richard attended the Dragon School in Oxford between 1957 and 1962 where he particularly enjoyed playing Rugby, Hockey, Cricket and Golf. It was during a hockey match, aged 9 and a half, that Richard was hit on the knee by a ball. This injury led to a lifetime of problems with his knee although during his school career he managed to continue with his beloved sport, in between operations and plaster casts.
During school holidays he visited the family in Cyprus, where he learnt to sail in Firefly dinghies and this started a passion for sailing. Later John and Margaret bought a 30’ wooden yacht and Richard would often join them for happy sailing holidays at home and abroad. Although sailing is a somewhat difficult hobby to pursue when you live in the Midlands, we often talked about sailing together as I too share this passion and was brought up in Chichester, where Richard often sailed.
From the Dragon School Richard graduated to Cheltenham College, chosen mainly for its convenient location, near to Oxford, where he continued to have further operations on his knee. Richard left school at 18 and proudly told me many times that he chose his further education in the ‘University of Life’ rather than an academic institution.
He was selected as a trainee manager for British Home Stores where he worked successfully for 5 years and acquired a great knowledge and interest in food. From there he moved to Dorothy Perkins and set up a number of major retail stores including Brussels and Paris. Richard was very proud of the fact that he had a successful career in women’s underwear!
He moved to Argos and whilst on a management training course, was headhunted by the Burton Group. His work for Burtons involved endless tiring journeys from one end of the country to the other and it was then that he decided to give up his retailing career in London and move to rural Worcestershire and run his own business. Richard and Pat ran the post office and shop in Upper Welland for ten years and made it much more than a village shop. Richard’s knowledge of food and retailing coupled with his extraordinary customer service skills meant that they quickly built up a huge local following. People came from far and wide not only for its renowned delicatessen and groceries but also because of Richard’s affable and warm personality.
After ten years of working 364 days a year and 5am newspaper rounds, Richard came to Eastnor Castle in 1996 as our House Manager. Richard made the job his own and quickly built a reputation as a master of his trade, with customers from all walks of life. He loved his job and worked conscientiously and tirelessly to ensure that every detail of an event was as perfect as possible. Typically modest, Richard often joked that he simply got paid to go to other people’s parties!
Richard, like all of us, would get irritated and despondent from time to time. But he only ever did so through frustration when, for whatever reason, he was unable to deliver the highest standards of customer care.
He was a terrific mentor to other staff, including me on occasions, and took great interest in other people’s work, always offering help and advice whenever he could. He particularly enjoyed helping young students who came to Eastnor in the summer holidays to sell ice cream or work in the shop and he took great pride in seeing their career plans develop.
Richard is irreplaceable in so many ways and none more so than at home where he lived very happily in recent years with Christine, Camilla and Nicola. I know that he was immensely proud of Camilla and Nicola and in many ways regarded Chris’s daughters as his own. He had not previously had an interest in horses, yet he loved helping the girls with theirs and watching them take part in the Hunt and numerous other equestrian events.
The sheer number of people here today, whose lives were in some way touched by Richard, is testament to his enormous personality. Whether you are family, friend, work colleague or customer, your life, like mine, will have been enriched by knowing Richard Sheepshanks: A good man with a genuine interest in other people who always put others before himself.
Simon Foster 16th December 2009�