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Gloucestershire Business News

Gloucester stunt star Dick Sheppard dies, aged 90

Stunt driver Dick Sheppard, who once held the record for having the most entries in the Guinness Book of Records, has died aged 90.

The three times married father of nine from Gloucester, who also had a stepdaughter, said he had wrecked 2,003 cars, appeared in 500 films and held 18 world records during his career.

His death on March 1 was announced by his family on his Facebook page.

A family statement said: "Fondly known by many for his obsession with cars and motorbikes, he was truly a larger than life character who caught the public's attention with his daredevil stunts and world records.

"His final wishes, however, were that we his family might grieve in private so we can reflect on his other roles as husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather."

Born and raised in Gloucester where he lived all his life, he called himself "The World's Most Prolific Stuntman - as documented by the Guinness Book Of Records."

His autobiography Whirling Wheels and Dancing Hooves recounted how he went from his first motorcycle scramble aged nine to featuring in the Guinness Book of Records every year from 1969-1996.

He finally retired from his daredevil career in 1993 after wrecking his 2,000th car at a show in South Africa, becoming a popular public speaker and for many years at Christmas he turned his large detached home in Stroud Road into a winter fairyland.

His first world record - one of his favourites -was in 1969 when he rode an ex-army motorbike through a 100 foot tunnel of fire and often said he had appeared in the Guinness book more than anyone else... "even the editor".

He said his most treasured possessions were 766 ignition keys from cars he had written off with his dramatic stunts.

After attending Calton Road Junior and Crypt Grammar School, he earned a place at Cambridge University but opted for a job in a motorcycle shop instead.

He said: "At school I was caned quite frequently and threatened with expulsion more than once for being a rebel. I accepted that because it was usually quite true.

"The few masters who owned cars used to hand me the keys during the morning so that I spent the lunch hour cleaning the plugs and points and generally tuning their cars at the out of bounds area in front of the school, while my pals played football in the playground.

"This I did more for the love of engines than any fondness I felt for the teachers. The happiness this gave me continued throughout my life whenever I got the maximum performance out of an engine, whether it was to win a stock car race or achieve a new world record."

The transformation of his home was inspired by seeing American houses decorated and raised more than £40,000 for charity.

He said: "I was not content with just sticking flashing lights up; the showman in me made me realise that people liked to see something move, so I added a Victorian fairground with its roundabout, Ferris wheel and swing boat.

"I also had a train running round the lawn and a cable car carrying dolls up to a mountain. There was even a snowstorm every hour to enhance the North Pole scene with its polar bears and animated eskimos."

Not surprisingly, his favourite film was The Italian Job in which he worked as a stunt driver.

"It contains all the ingredients for a night of escapism at the cinema," he said. "It was a very low budget movie, but it was great fun to make and it must be heading for the record of the most repeated film on TV."

Asked if he had any remaining ambitions at the age of 84, he said: "There are 196 countries in the world. I have worked in 35 of them and visited another 16, but that still means there are 145 that I have never been to.

"With the increase in airfares and the decreasing value of my savings I think that my only hope is to buy a boat."

His last public appearance was on December 21 when he received his Covid-19 vaccination at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and admitted he had a phobia about needles.

Punchline-gloucester.com editor Mark Owen said: "I was lucky enough to meet and interview him a number of times. He was a really nice chap who never pulled and punches. 

"I really admired him, not just for his obvious bravery but also for his amazing charity work, the Christmas decorations outside his house in Stroud Road were legendary. 

"I used to take my daughters along to see them every year. He was one of a kind and they just don't make them like that any more."

Dick Sheppard is survived by his children and his third wife Phoebe.

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