Bruce’s great grandfather George Sheppard arrived by boat, landing in Auckland in the mid 1860’s. He was conscripted into the British army and fought in the New Zealand land wars. Following his service, he purchased some land in Matakohe, northern Kaipara – it is at the end of a long stretch of rugged road called “Sheppard Oaks” and only recently was the homestead burnt down.
His son, also George (Bruce’s Grandfather) married into the Samber family who were among the first immigrants to Northland. The Sambers produced the first white boy born in Northland. The name is anglicised from Russian stock (Finland at the time). The first Samber jumped ship not wanting to return to England. Possibly our first illegal immigrant! George’s sister Rachael married into the Smith family, and they lived in Totara House. Their daughter, Mavis (Bruce’s second cousin) stayed in Totara House her entire life and after 100 years, donated the property to the Matakohe Pioneer Museum. It’s full of Sheppard family photos and furniture built by Bruce’s grandfather, George the second. He was the only Sheppard to escape Matakohe, settling in Auckland. He lived into his eighties and passed when Bruce was seven years old.
Bruce’s father Raymond George Sheppard was born in 1921, a teenager through the depression. He joined the Royal Navy Reserve and ended up on a ship out to England for World War II. On a Russian convoy, he was washed overboard into the Artic Ocean and suffered frost bite resulting in him becoming a double amputee.
Bruce Raymond Sheppard was born in 1959 and at nine years old his parents parted ways. He lived with his Mum in Glenn Innes, then Orakei, then at the age of 16, moved in with his dad. As his dad was a double amputee alcoholic – Bruce ended up with a capable, but emotionally dependent parent. It gave Bruce an intolerance for whining, woe-is-me type people, because his dad had every reason to whine and moan, but he didn’t, he just got on with it.
During school, Bruce was subdued.
He describes himself as a geek, quiet and withdrawn. He found he enjoyed accounting, economics, and history. He says he blossomed at Auckland University and did well. During that period, he established an income through commercial fishing. He made enough money to buy a skanky old house in Point Chevalier.
He started work and Ernst Young and then the Inland Revenue Department, all whilst continuing to fish commercially. The fishing work gave him $300-400 per trip (which in today’s value would be $4,000-5,000), and he did it all out of an eight-foot, six-inch dinghy (which he has kept as a memento along with the flounder nets).
To read more about the origins of Gilligan Sheppard, please read through our stories.