Opinion

In memory of David Shapley, 1938 - 2016

23 October 2016

David Shapley (1)
David Shapley

I am extremely sad to report that David Shapley died yesterday [October 22], aged 77. Below, you can read an obituary to a man who dedicated his life to two things – his family and the fresh produce industry

He himself would write that he had a wonderful life, surrounded by a loving family and a vibrant and widespread network of friends whom David and his lovely wife Rosemary spent many, many happy times with. I’m glad to say Lizzy (my wife) and I were amongst those friends, and the fact that I became a friend so soon after I joined the industry in 1995 was testament to David’s character in itself. He had left the Fruit Trades Journal a few years earlier in circumstances that he found hard to accept and having moved to become fresh produce editor at FTJ’s rival The Grocer, there is little doubt that he was a man on a mission.

Leaving the post he had made his own at FTJ had been the hardest thing David had to do during his career. But in his own style, he picked himself up, dusted himself down and threw himself at the next challenge. When I first met him it was clear that the situation rankled (to say the least), but we first became friendly rivals, then friends and through many a conference and business trip, I got to know David very well.

He wasn’t a mentor in the classic sense. He never force-fed me his opinions or ideas and he never directly told me how to do things or argued that I was wrong, although with far greater experience than I, he could easily have done so. In that respect, he was very much like my dad - always there for me if I needed to talk or wanted some advice, but more inclined to provide that advice in the way he acted rather than the way he spoke. In so many ways, David was an ideal act to follow – one of the gentlemen of the industry, he would never have claimed to be the greatest writer of all time, but he knew what the story was and he got it, every time. He also cared deeply about his subject area, to the extent that he also knew what the story was not, most definitely. He therefore served the industry in a way that any seasoned trade journalist would respect, and gained the widespread respect of the trade too.

It was one of my more inspired decisions to bring David back into the fold at what had now become FPJ, in late 2002. He had by now moved on having done an incredible job raising the profile of The Grocer in the fresh produce industry and as we underwent a revamp, I thought his face and his knowledge were far too valuable and meaningful to the pages of the magazine to be lost forever. He went on to contribute some wonderful insight to the FPJ until shortly before his death, much of it focused on the supermarket trade that barely existed when he first came to the fore in the early 1960s. He faced widespread criticism when he increased the coverage of the retail scene in FTJ, but rather than ignoring the bandwagon, he recognised early on that it was unstoppable and felt his readers needed to be aware of its direction. It was apt that many of his later pieces, including the article he penned for the UK Retail Guide we published for this year’s London Produce Show and Conference, looked at the way that the supermarket sector had continued to evolve. I believe that was his final published piece – the last of the millions of words of copy he has submitted on this great industry and the last time we will have the benefit of his experience and expertise.

There is no trade journalist around today who can hope to match the unique historical context David brought to his writing. However, he accepted progress for what it was - even when it often resembled a poor or badly-disguised imitation of things that had gone long before.

He could be cussed and sometimes bloody minded, but always with a twinkle in his eye and a lop-sided smile on his face. Equally, he was thoughtful and wise. And he cared deeply. To me, he was a great friend and ally, a confidante and an excellent social companion. Without being a teacher, he taught me a lot and I’ll always be grateful to him.

Yesterday marked the end of a good life, very well spent. I’ll miss him greatly and my condolences go to Rosemary, Mark and Giles and the rest of the Shapley clan.

David Shapley, Fresh Produce Journalist, November 5, 1938 – October 22, 2016

David Shapley has died after a short illness. He would have been 78 on November 5th.

Born in Walton-on-Thames in 1938, David was schooled at King’s Wimbledon before a two-year stint in National Service. He joined the East Surrey Regiment, which later became the Royal Fusiliers, and his service took him from Dover, via a spell at the Tower of London, to Mombasa during the Mau Mau Uprising, and tours of the Middle East with the Trucial Oman Scouts, and Malta.

He was extremely proud of his time with the British Army and particularly of his own regiment and it was a time that helped to shape him as a man and a father.

Soon after leaving the Army, David joined his father Bill Stanford at The Fruit Trades Journal and embarked on a career that saw him become one of the central characters in the British fruit and vegetable industry for more than 50 years. He spent almost 30 of those years at Lockwood Press (publisher of the then FTJ, which is now known as FPJ), and rose from junior journalist to managing editor of the company’s titles.

David travelled the world in the interest of informing the British industry. He was for many years the voice of the British trade, leading the FTJ through what many would see as its halcyon days in the 1970s and 1980s. There would have been very few in the industry who were unaware of David, or of his unrivalled knowledge and expertise as a journalist in the trade. Instrumental in the launch of Eurofruit in the 80s, David also sat on several industry boards and representative bodies, including the PPMA and FFVIB. He was a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers. His work was further recognised by national government in both Spain and France with prestigious awards.

He left Lockwood Press in the late 1980s and joined The Grocer. For around a dozen years, he transformed the fresh produce section of the country’s leading retail-focused grocery title and connected the fruit and vegetable trade with a magazine that was becoming more important as the supermarket retailers expanded their presence and changed the face of the industry.

On his departure from the coalface at The Grocer, David became a freelance consultant journalist and as well as representing several high profile clients, also continued to write prolifically for publications including FPJ, The Grocer, International Fruit World, Eurofruit, and several British grower-facing titles. He was a consultant to The London Produce Show and Conference, where he provided guidance and also hosted a retail tour and his last published piece was written for a UK Retail Guide that was distributed at LPS in June. 

David was as prolific with his out-of-hours projects as he was at work, where his pursuits included painting children’s pictures, brass rubbing, and using those artistic skills as a set designer and stage manager, as well as amateur dramatics performer. His love of art and the military combined in a passion for painting military figures. His many friends will confirm that David was also famed for his love of entertaining, and an excellent chef specialising in grouse pies and trout en croute, with the fish caught by himself during one of his regular fishing trips. His fishing career began quite late in his life, but like everything else, he took it seriously, with trips to Canada and Africa alongside his local sessions. 

David was a family man above all else. He met his lovely wife Rosemary at a Young Conservative Conference and they enjoyed 53 years of marriage, bringing up two sons Mark and Giles, who in turn have brought David and Rosemary four cherished grandchildren.

A service of thanksgiving for David will be held at noon on Friday, November 4 at St Mary's, Stoke D'Abernon, Surrey. Gentlemen are asked to wear their favourite ties. If anyone would like to make contact with the family, please contact Giles – [email protected]

Produce Business UK welcomes letters to the editor and other input from the industry. If you wish to respond to an article on Produce Business UK or join the conversation on any industry issue, please send your thoughts to [email protected]

5 comments

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  1. Clive Beddall | Oct 24, 2016

     

    Very sad news. My memory of David is that he brought a whole new range of humour to The Grocer newsroom which will probably never be surpassed. But more importantly, he injected a professional knowledge of the fresh produce industry that was second to none.

     With David on board they will be laughing in heaven!

    Rest in peace, David.

    Clive Beddall

    The Clive Beddall Consultancy
    Former Editor of The Grocer
    Felpham
    West Sussex.

  2. Rupert Hargreaves | Oct 24, 2016

    A fine tribute to a fine gentleman. I had the good fortune on many occasion to be interviewed by David. You always knew you were sat in front of the master himself. A great loss.

    Rupert Hargreaves

    Global Plant Genetics Ltd.

    Brancaster
    Kings Lynn
    Norfolk
    United Kingdom

  3. Katie Shapley | Oct 23, 2016

    I met David 27 years ago when I moved into the industry to run the trade event - International Fresh Produce Fair - and knowing nothing about apples, wholesale markets, retailers or indeed anything in the fruit trade, I was hugely relieved when he agreed to become Chair of the steering committee.

    What a relief - he taught me how to talk to this group of people who didn't really want to talk to me, and how to engage with them on my mission to produce a UK trade fair worthy of their industry. He made sure that I met everyone who was anyone, he gave me a book that helped me tell my kiwis from my kumquats and danced with me at many an event.

    The best event we danced at however, was my wedding to his son Giles, which took place 20 years ago this year.

    I couldn't have wished for a better Father-in-Law, and he will be sorely missed.

    To David! A fine raconteur, a fine journalist and a fine man.

    Katie Shapley
    Managing Director
    The Organisers

     

  4. Kathy Hammond | Oct 23, 2016

    I am very proud to say that like Tommy, I am another ex-editor of FPJ who followed in the footsteps of the peerless David Shapley.

    What a generous professional, and a warm and engaging human being. I loved his tales of his times as a cub reporter. May he rest in peace.

    Kathy Hammond,
    Editor
    Produce Business UK


  5. Sarah Calcutt | Oct 23, 2016

    Beautifully written Tommy, he was the father of fresh produce journalism and set an example to us all.

    We will miss him

    Sarah Calcutt
    Partners In Produce Ltd.
    Goodhurst, Kent
    United Kingdom

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