Montague Egbert ‘Monty’ Sheppard (1931-2020)
When the switch was thrown at 6am on August 2, 1962 to radio station ZFB-1, Egbert Montague Sheppard had endured two years of roadblocks to the creation of the island's second station.
In 1960, after years abroad, Mr Sheppard, known widely as “Monty” or “Shep”, launched a feverish effort to create the station, but was beset by interference from the white establishment.
An early challenge was an attempt by the authorities to block the station, with the House of Assembly forming a commission to investigate whether there was even a need for a second radio station.
The commission lost credibility when Mr Sheppard dramatically released the number of shares its chairman owned in the monopoly, Bermuda Broadcasting Company. The chairman resigned.
Forced before the Wireless and Telegraph Board, he persuaded it to allow his Capital Broadcasting Company a licence, provided he produced the pro forma information about the station's frequency, loudness and his studio location and equipment.
Capital was Bermuda's first black-owned radio and television station, and was wound up and absorbed into Bermuda Broadcasting only after protracted financial and legal battles in the 1980s. Mr Sheppard spent months researching and selecting the frequency the station would use and made several trips to the United States to buy studio equipment. He built the transmitter himself, by hand.
He was prescient in buying remote broadcast equipment, allowing coverage of sport and other events.
During the formative years of the station, a significant boost came with the backing of Lord Martonmere, the Governor, who insisted that visiting dignitaries be interviewed on ZFB.
They included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the former President of Yugoslavia, and Ted Koppel, the Nightline anchor on ABC, ZFB's affiliate network.
Also interviewed was the controversial Labour Member of the Commons, Geoffrey Bing, QC, an adviser to the Progressive Labour Party in the lead-up to the constitutional talks of 1966-67.
Mr Bing got into a bitter dispute with the ruling United Bermuda Party's Sir Henry Tucker, who called him a “grotesque old man”.
Mr Bing responded, on air, calling Sir Henry a “small-town banker”.
Licence in hand, Mr Sheppard's parents cleared a Berkeley Road cottage they owned for the operation.
Several petitions were circulated against proposed antenna sites, and the Building Authority rejected several more.
He told a primary-school audience in 1984, that things were “very bad, indeed” until he was given a 20-year lease by the Crown Lands Corporation, on the Spar Yard, on the northeastern edge of Ireland Island South.
In March 1965, Capital Broadcasting and ZFB moved operations from Berkeley Road to “By-The-Sea”, on Watlington Point, off North Shore Road, Devonshire.
The television station began broadcasting on July 31, 1965.
In addition to Capital Broadcasting, Mr Sheppard was involved in many businesses, including co-founding Kirkland Company, in 1969, the parent company of the Bermuda National Bank, of which he became a director, and the Bermuda National Executor and Trustee Company.
National Bank was a close affiliate of the Bank of Nova Scotia.
In addition to Capital Broadcasting and National Bank, Mr Sheppard started, was a partner of or bought, variously: St George's Press, Atlantic Broadcasting, Seahorse Trading, Bell Services, Atlantic, Bermuda and Caribbean Company, and had shareholdings in the Bermuda Sun, Island Press and Bank of Bermuda.
He bought, sold and rented real estate, sand and screening.
He had business interests in the Caribbean and Bahamas, leasing and/or owning ships trading between Anglophone Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico, and across the Atlantic to Spain.
He was appointed a member of various government boards, including the Bermuda Civil Aviation Board, Public Vehicle Licence Board, and he was a governor on the board of Bermuda Technical Institute.
For nearly two years in the late 1960s, he served as a common councillor of the Corporation of Hamilton, resigning in late 1970, to concentrate on his business interests.
Born in 1931 to Frederick Oliver Sheppard and Isa Ernistine Rabain Sheppard, he attended The Central School (now Victor Scott Primary School) and the Berkeley Institute.
After graduation, he enrolled, at age 17, at the Radio Corporation of America Institute, in New York City, one of the largest technical schools in the US devoted exclusively to electronics education.
He was later employed by RCA itself, then enlisted in the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, an elite military unit of specialist mechanics and signallers.
He is known to have worked on the jointly operated US and Canadian Distant Early Warning network of radar stations well above the Arctic Circle, sprawling from Greenland, across Canada and Alaska.
The Dew Line was designed for the critical role of protecting North America from ballistic missile attack, from the Soviet Union, over the North Pole.
Often stationed by only two men manning a complex radar array hundreds of miles from human contact, and snowbound for months at a time, such voluntary duty fit classification as both hazardous and isolation pay.
It is understood that after service in the Canadian Army, he returned to Bermuda with enough money to start Capital Broadcasting.
Undaunted by Bermuda's segregation and attempts to block the project, Mr Sheppard hired dozens of people who would go on to long careers in broadcasting and journalism.
They included Royal Gazette columnist Al Seymour, Marlene B. Landy, Lee Stovell, Kelly Zuill, Sturgis and Danny Griffin, Ann Daniels, Joe L. Brown, Winston J.R. Jones, Carole Marshall and Glenn Blakeney, the owner of Hott 107.5.
A key element of the team was engineer Delano Ingham.
Bermudian broadcaster Elroy R.C. Smith started at the station, left the island for the US in the late 1970s for a career as a DJ and is now a respected programme director.
Capital Broadcasting's first station manager was the journalist Ira Philip.
He said of his time under Mr Sheppard: “I was given wide latitude. Every member of the station staff, sales, engineering, etc, was indoctrinated in the belief they were part of the news team ‘in the church of what's happening now'.
“The theory was, simply, you sell the news, you sell the station. No two successive newscasts were allowed to go over the air without revision.
“Foreign news of local interest was recorded from the BBC, Voice of America and the Caribbean, excerpted and inserted into local casts.
“The boss was unmistakably Montague. He proved to be a man of tremendous insight and business acumen.
“We wondered if he ever slept. But one thing we know for sure, his many detractors in all likelihood had more sleepless nights figuring how to block Monty.”
In 1984, Mr Sheppard, speaking about his struggle to create the station, told students: “The one lesson that is very true in life — and it will always be true; it was true in 1962 and it is still true today — is that if you want to do something, anything at all, first you must be positive and pursue it with all of your talent and the might and resources you can muster.”
He added: “Don't take ‘no' for an answer, and make up your mind to overcome any obstacle that may be put in your way. And you will succeed, too!”
Mr Sheppard was married three times and leaves a daughter, Monique Sheppard-Lightbourne, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by sons Montague Jr and Marcel.
Egbert Montague Sheppard, broadcast pioneer, was born on July 22, 1931. He died after a short illness on May 2, 2020, aged 88.
• Additional reporting and research courtesy of the late Ira Philip