A Moray community stalwart who became known as “Mr Cullen” has died after a lifetime encompassing 50 years of public service.
Ron Shepherd’s service to his neighbours began when he was just 12 years old when he started delivering telegrams and milk.
And his service to local government after first being elected to Cullen Town Council in the 1970s is where he forged his reputation for championing communities.
The demise of that authority in 1976 led to an absence from politics but he continued his public service as a retained firefighter and as a Justice of the Peace for 23 years.
‘A jewel of a person’
In December last year Mr Shepherd celebrated his diamond wedding anniversary with his wife Dorothy.
The couple met in Macduff in 1959 before setting up home in Cullen shortly after they were married – growing to a family of three children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Buckie councillor Gordon Cowie, who is close to the family, said: “I knew Ron long before I became a councillor, it was actually him who encouraged me to stand.
“His guidance was second to none, I know others have benefitted from it too.
“I think his passion for his community was what made him so popular. Everybody in Cullen knew him, he was approachable, he was a very sociable bloke.
“He was a jewel of a person with the rest of his family.”
Retiring from public life was a ‘wrench’
Mr Shepherd re-entered politics as an independent councillor on Moray Council in 1999 and held many senior positions on the Grampian Fire Board, Licensing Committee, Grampian Valuation Joint Board and Grampian Joint Police Board.
However, his growing health difficulties, which led to some prolonged absences from the chambers, led to him retiring in 2019.
At the time, Mr Shepherd described the decision as a “wrench” but said the most recent years had been a “terrible struggle”.
Former Moray Council leader George Alexander, who was in the same group of councillors as Mr Shepherd, said: “Ron always had a very upbeat attitude in the office, he would quite often be at his computer singing away to himself.
“When it came to making decisions when we were in administration, Ron never had any hesitation in putting forward his view.
“He was the ideal politician. He was there to work for his community, not for a party, dogma or anything like that – he was simply there for the people of Cullen and Moray.
“Towards his last year or so in the council there were a lot of changes with technology but Ron was determined to move with the times, he was always happy to embrace change.”
‘He had an affinity with people’
Moray MP Douglas Ross worked with Mr Shepherd throughout his own 10-year term in the local authority chambers.
He said: “Ron was a tireless servant to his local community over many years. He was so proud of Cullen and always spoke up for the local area.
“He was very welcoming to me when I was first elected to the council in 2007. We worked closely together on the Grampian Joint Police Board and several other committees.
“He was an excellent colleague and always had a story to tell. He was always approachable and keen to help in any way he could.”
Elgin City South councillor John Divers, who joined the council in 1999 with Mr Shepherd, said: “Ron was such a friendly, outgoing and warm guy – he had an affinity with people.
“I was out a few times with him in Cullen and everybody knew him. Cullen’s obviously a small place but you could see people were genuinely fond of him. He was excellent company.
“In the council he would say it like it is but would also listen.”
Moray Council convener Shona Morrison added: “I was so sorry to hear of Ron’s passing. My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.
“Ron was a true community champion and a stalwart of Moray Council for many, many years.
“Throughout his time as a councillor, he diligently raised the issues that affected the communities he represented.
“He will be terribly missed.”
Council leader Graham Leadbitter said: “Ron served his community as a councillor for many years and was well known throughout Moray and Grampian, especially through his work in licensing and on the Grampian Valuation Joint Board.
“I have already received numerous messages from people who worked with him and recalled his commitment to public service, his sense of humour and how much of a gentleman he was.
“These reflections are also very much my own experience of Ron during over 10 years on Moray Council with him up to his retirement. He will be very sadly missed by many people.”