Memories of Edwin

This page is a collection of tributes from Edwin’s colleagues, family and friends. Contributors: Pete Buckland, Brian Croft, Charles Douthwaite, Alan Dunn, Moira Hunter Ross, Roy Lamb, Roger Law, Brian May, Graeme Miller, Linda and Roger Pope, Nansi Robinson, Seth Robinson, Shaun Robinson, Diane Shirley, Raph Shirley, Rebecca Shirley, Chris and Lucy Smith, Andy Tinneveld, Bob Winstanley, Patrick Woodroffe, Mick Worwood and Chris Wright. Please consider emailing a tribute to info @ edwinshirley.com or adding it as a comment at the bottom of the page.

Pete Buckland, Diana Krall Tour Manager:

On a personal level, Edwin was one of the kindest most generous positive and certainly most entertaining people anyone could wish for as a friend, I miss him dreadfully. His openness and generosity extended into his business life, where he was a great innovator, starting the first trucking company exclusively tailored to the needs of the touring world, the first European tour bus, the first European staging company, the first air freight company specialising in the needs of the music business, the Sandgate Hotel and Three Mills Studios.

Despite his many achievements, Edwin wasn’t really interested in material things or being wealthy, preferring to put money back into whatever he was doing or whatever the next project would be. My life and the entertainment industry are much poorer without him.

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Brian Croft, National Youth Theatre:

He was a wonderful, charismatic person and leaves a hole in many people’s lives. He had not one jot of malice in him; nobody can recall him saying a bad word about another person – ever. He saw the best in everybody. I first met Edwin in the ‘60s when he was still at school and a member of the National Youth Theatre, of which I was Production Manager. He became an NYT stalwart; was a good actor and also became quite a star in undergraduate theatre at Cambridge. He subsequently came to work for me at my company, ESP Lighting, as a crew member on a Stones’ tour. This led to the formation of Edwin Shirley Trucking. We remained good friends all of our lives. He stayed a very good friend and practical supporter of the NYT right up till the end. He was a vibrant, enthusiastic entrepreneur who is a great loss to showbiz.

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Alan Dunn, Rolling Stones Tour Manager:

Edwin, the man I loved and admired for over 40 years is best summed up by this quote from the ‘English’ poet,
“I expect to pass through life but once.
If, therefore there be any kindness that
I can show or any good thing I can do
to any fellow being, let me do it now,
for I shall not pass this way again” William Penn 1644-1718

R.I.P. dear Edwin.

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Moira Hunter Ross, Executive Producer/Producer/Production Manager:

I first met Edwin in his office at the back of the Nissan hut at Crows Road in 1979 where he worked with Denise. I was for many years both Company Manager and Tour manager for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Edwin did all my tours around the Uk and Europe and Shirley’s Yard and „the Village“ became a large part of my life.The drivers became part of the company. Venues that were in obscure places could always be found by the colours of the trucks parked up. I always knew that no matter where we were if we had a problem it would be solved.
Edwin would give me tickets or passes to concerts and he and Tim would take me out for lunch to win me over as I obviously had to put the trucking out to tender.

He’d pop out to see us all on tour and when I was in town I’d give him a backstage tour at the Barbican or some other venue if I knew someone there.
I remember him once ringing me up and wanting to have a serious talk as he was thinking of changing career going into acting.
Edwin would give me tickets to a concert if I’d check something out for him. The tours that i managed around the UK had a travelling auditorium. When Edwin was considering going into the seating as well as the staging business he sent me tickets to a Barry Manilow concert (not really my taste) at Blenheim so that I could report back to him on the Grandstand seating.

When I left the theatre and went travelling around north America, I don’t think he quite forgave me, because I’d been a connection with a world he loved.
Edwin and „The Captain „ took me out for lunch before I went and gave me all sorts of tips, addresses and recommendations of places to go to when I travelled.
I had many adventures on my travels.

I stayed with Edwin’s old friend Robert from his University days in LA for a couple of nights, had a brilliantly mad time San Francisco with a camera lady called Susan and got tickets for Michael Jackson’s Victory tour in Toronto all thanks to Edwin. Everywhere I went people had piles of Calendars stashed in their toilets that Edwin had sent them to sell.
I think he’d even wanted me to take some with him. It never quite made the Pirelli status.

When I returned I met my now husband Sam and started working in corporate events. I still saw Edwin and he still gave us tickets to gigs. Sam lived near Hurst green in East Sussex at the time and we came over to Cranbrook for lunch at the pub with you all (Raph was a baby). Edwin was a really good friend to me and when my house was burgled and my car was stolen and burnt out he lent me an old Peugeot. There was no end to his kindness and generosity.

When my daughter was born Edwin took me out for lunch and gave her an Edwin Shirley truck which we still have somewhere.
Then the yard strangely once again became part of my life as my husband started a new business and this was sited at Crow’s Road for several years. Then Sam relocated to Shepperton, we moved to Brighton and I had a second child so to my great regret we lost touch. When I went back to work as I spoke German and French most of my work was in Europe and Sam was always away on the Olympics etc. and so time just ran away.

Edwin was a big part of my life. He was larger than life and I remember all those years with great affection and laughter.

There are many tales to tell.

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Roy Lamb, Production Manager (The Who, Bryan Adams):

In the words of Bryan Adams, ‘it was the summer of ‘69’ when a fresh -faced Roy joined the National Youth Theatre to seek fame and fortune. Little did I realise how my life would unfold when I met a Spear Carrier in Coriolanus named Edwin Shirley. We immediately hit it off, and proceeded through the next 20 years on a rollercoaster of amazing expreriences in this incredible industry, with Edwin ranging from Special Effects Co-ordinator on the Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour to organising mud-wrestling parties at Knebworth for Queen.

He was an amazing character, the eternal optimist, and I can safely say we never had a dull moment. The trucking company was established in 1973 after we both worked on the Stones’ tour of Europe, and decided ‘we can do this better‘ – the rest is history.

Through the ‘70s and ‘80s the purple and yellow EST trucks became a legend, with Edwin’s sales acumen and humour ensuring that the wheels never stopped turning. His charisma was always the driving force behind our expansion, but I must say that on occasion I had to try and reign him in – a very difficult task as anyone who knew him would appreciate! I am proud and priviliged to have known and worked with him over the formative years of rock touring, and he will be sorely missed by his myriad of friends in the industry. Farewell my old friend, see you on the other side.

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Roger Law, Co-Founder, Spitting Image:

Spitting Image, the satirical puppet show, was my company based in London’s East End. Further east in the early ‘90s Edwin Shirley moved into a derelict collection of moated Georgian warehouses serving three old gin mills. The moat, I understood, was originally to keep the Cockneys away from the gin.

Edwin and a small band of determined helpers turned the site into film and television studios – Three Mills Island Studios. Inevitably Spitting Image found their way to Three Mills and Edwin and I did a number of projects together. I quickly realised that Edwin was a one-off, like no-one else I’d ever met. And I have met a lot of people.

In another life Edwin had started The Edwin Shirley Trucking Company – “you rock, we roll”. Setting up heavy rock concerts had impared Edwin’s hearing. Consequently he thought you had the same problem and spoke at full volume. Edwin was loud. So were his letters that I received during the time I lived in Australia, a maximum of a sentence per page in large script.

Edwin Shirley was never about money; always about ideas and facilitating them. A creative, life-enhancing man and I, and many others, adored him and will miss him.

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Brian May, Queen:

Most of you guys will not know Edwin’s name. He didn’t become a rock star or a politician or billionaire. But he was a gentle giant in his chosen profession – Trucking. Edwin was at the head of Queen’s vehicle convoy for so many years I can’t begin to remember how many. He was a rock in his own way – the job always got done, and in a way which pleased everyone. He was a great pal of Gerry Stickells, our illustrious Tour Manager and the two of them wrote the book on how to party on tour. How to work hard, play hard, and treat everyone with decency and respect. I’m so sad to hear Edwin has passed on today. As Jacky has said, we can all hope he finds Freddie in the mood to celebrate up there. A good life. A good man.Sincere condolences to Edwin’s family. God speed ya.

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Graeme Miller, Artist, Creator of ‘Track’:

From the toe of Italy to the Hook of Holland the Edwin Shirley map of Europe is highlit with the best places to buy fine cheeses and good local wines, with small family-run hotels and cheap diesel. For me it’s a map of how to live – of how to make carrying stuff (in the widest sense) not a burden, but an art. I was lucky enough to have met Edwin as the mover of choice whose beaming arrival with my kit would offer up the chance to spend a few days of schmoozing, dining and storytelling. I feel privileged to have been part of the Edwin’s Mercedes Sprinter period – a re-invention of art moving that was as far from the po-faced, air-sprung, humourless couriers of gallery art as you could imagine. These were gentle effective logistics and part of the art itself. Stupidly I feel cheated of future mini-breaks with Edwin. I can only guess the heartbreak his nearest and dearest can be feeling at losing the person they have know for so long. I am staggered by how much I miss this person I have overlapped with only recently and can only guess that’s to do with seeing in Edwin an example of how to go about things. I drove some of my work in one of Edwin’s vans to Paris and while checking the load on the Périphérique the back door blew shut and in the dark I had a bit of time to consider life and death. When a young Algerian man finally answered my banging and opened the door, the light, noise and fumes of Paris smelt like Chanel. There is something to be said for living life with your nose glued to the view ahead maximizing on the stops en route and making them as rich and gracious and convivial as possible, giving the least grief and the most grace to others as you do. Between chaos and order we each choose a recipe. Edwin, I think, wrote a great cookbook. I raise a glass of reasonably priced good local wine to the ethos Edwin embodied of how to live well pragmatically and poetically, with modesty and largesse. To dear lovely Edwin… Santé. Thanks.

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Nansi Robinson, Edwin’s great niece:

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Seth Robinson, Edwin’s great nephew:

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Shaun Robinson, Edwin’s nephew:

My early memories of Edwin are from the 1970s, when we used to stay with his family in Kent. I remember being fascinated by a huge, American video cassette player, eating my first Indian takeaway meal, and driving their golf buggy around the grounds of their fabulous rock-star’s house.

He was generous and loud – a very cool uncle. We grew older and he got us tickets to see Queen and Michael Jackson in concert, and sent us Tour T-shirts and miniature EST trucks. He was well known by our friends back home in Wales, even though they’d never met him.

Over the last few years, when Edwin was visiting Emma, Sarah and Dan’s house in the Charente Limousine in France, we saw much more of him, getting to know him quite well. He stayed with us at our house nearby a few times and one particular evening stands out…

I was over with a friend, Justin, who had never met Edwin, so I braced him for the arrival of a high-decibel whirlwind of talk, laughter, eating and drinking. Edwin turned up wearing his Hawaiian EST shirt, having driven his Mercedes Vito (containing some bizarre modern art involving aircraft seats) all the way from Sicily. The journey seemed to have made him more animated and louder than normal, and he was carrying a plastic jerry can full of Chianti. Within 5 minutes he had persuaded Justin to re-arrange the furniture in his bedroom, fix his broken mobile phone and explain, in great detail, what type of aircraft the seats from Sicily had come from.

He then took full control of the barbeque, cooking all the steaks beautifully.

After we’d put away about a gallon of the Chianti (cheap, but fantastic quality), Edwin told me how he’d been thumbing through a glossy men’s magazine – FHM or GQ, and had come across a piece about one of Freddy Mercury’s parties. This particular one, in Ibiza, sounded truly extra-ordinary with all manner of nefarious activities going on. After describing the scenes, he turned around, wide-eyed, and said:

– “as I was reading it, I remembered!! – I was THERE!!”

Apparently Freddy often had an entourage of minor European Royalty at these events. One of whom, a Countess, from Liechtenstein (?) had asked Edwin for a dance. He agreed, and started “waltzing”’ her around the swimming pool until, after getting bored of it all, he waltzed her into the pool. She was drenched and furious and demanded that he be thrown out! The commotion attracted Freddy himself who came over to see what was going on.

Upon hearing that the security guards were about to evict him, Freddy just said:

“You can’t throw him out, – thats Edwin !!”

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Raph Shirley, Edwin’s son:

Edwin meant good times, having a laugh… A bit of fun. He was a wine quaffing, rabble rousing, hawaiin shirt wearing, big fat party animal. Always looking for fun and games right to the very end; cracking jokes in Chemo, and convinced that the culture and bureaucracy surrounding cancer was funny. And the sheer hardiness. I mean, I’m 28 and he was 64 and on chemotherapy drugs and he had a bigger appetite for socialising and merry making than I do.

A few weeks ago, we’d been out for a few drinks. We get on the bus to come home and Edwin reaches in his pocket for his freedom pass. Presses it against the reader and the man goes You haven’t got any credit on your Oyster card and Edwin says its a freedom pass I don’t need any credit. And he looks down in his hand and hes trying to use his anti-diarrhoea pills. We had a good laugh about that. In fact he never stopped laughing and never moped about or felt sorry for himself.

One of the first things Edwin said to the paramedic was have you got my lottery tickets. At which point he made my sister fish around in the bin for them. The night before he died, Edwin was making notes on business ideas and plans. One of the things he wrote down was a joke. And he said here Raph I’ve thought of joke. And I’ll read it out verbatim: the nurse says to the paramedic ‘Why did you throw his lottery ticket away’. And the paramedic says’ I thought perhaps his number had come up’. It reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s apocryphal final line ‘either the drapes go or I do’’. I make this comparison because Edwin, he was a joker, but don’t underestimate the fool. Because what is a sense of humour but a sense of perspective, and the fact that Edwin kept his wit and humour to the end, says something about his intelligence and wisdom.

It’s impossible to talk about the last ten years of Edwin’s life without talking about the death of my sister Rachael, which had a profound and irreversible effect on Edwin. I think out of all us Rachael was the most similar to Edwin. Stubborn and difficult, but loyal and positive.

He was also my boss of course. And lets not descend into hagiography here. Lets not commit a whitewash, because he could be a belligerent, irritating, patronising, vain, grumpy old git. He was, literally bossy. Too loud! There’s no need to be that loud. a review for one of his university plays began ‘And weighing with the most decibels…’. All these things but I had a lot of fun working with him.

I don’t think I’ve known anyone who more truly rose to Rudyard Kipling’s challenge in the poem If ‘if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same’ That’s something everyone who knew him says’ It didn’t matter if his pockets were empty or full, he was always generous. It didn’t matter if he was in the midst of a glorious success or a terrible tragedy, he was always kind. I remember I went on holiday to Milan with him, and he took as much cash out of his bank account as he could, being sure to get to the bank quick because he knew he’d given some cheques out. and the first 7 days we lived it up in expensive hotels and lavish meals, Filet steak and the finest chianti, foie gras, and champagne. And then on the last day he suddenly realised he’d totally run out of money, and we had to downgrade to a youth hostel, which was fine you know, he managed to blag some wine, but the next day and I remember him putting his hand in his pocket and pulling out a few coins and he realised he had just enough for that day’s food to spend on one truffle which we shared out.

To conclude I think the best word to describe Edwin, is a word that he used every day. A word that I can’t hear without thinking of Edwin. The word I’m talking about is fabulous. Edwin was fabulous. I’m grateful for every day I spent with him, and I’ll miss him for the rest of my life.

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Chris and Lucy Smith, NYT friends:

One of many memories I have of Edwin is of the period in the early 70’s when we were members of the National Youth Theatre together. The NYT took a production of Zigger Zagger to Amsterdam and I was the tour production manager. Edwin was in the cast. One of the main characters was sick so the understudy had to go on and for some reason Michael Croft, the director, thought it would be a good idea for me to go on before the play started and explain that an understudy would be doing that performance. Most Dutch speak excellent English but Croft thought it would be a good idea if I made the announcement in Dutch! As Edwin spoke German, which is similar to Dutch, he coached me in making the announcement. I had no idea if Edwin was actually teaching me the words to explain the appearance of the understudy or schooling me in making an obscene statement either way my halting delivery was received with a round of applause!

Later the National Youth Theatre launched its professional company at the Shaw Theatre in Euston Road. For reasons I can’t recall – perhaps as ‘graduates’ of the NYT they auditioned? – the original stage door keepers a the Shaw were Ken Macdonald (remember him as the barman in Only Fools & Horses and Gunner Nobby Clark in Ain’t Half Hot here Mum) and Edwin.

What a welcome actors, actresses and staff got on their arrival at the Shaw stage door. Both Ken and Edwin were larger than life characters and met all comers, from the humblest stage hand to some mega stars of stage and screen who worked there, with endless quips and jokes. What a double act but I am not sure they would have won any awards for security though and some of the local characters from the Euston/Kings Cross area they entertained ‘after hours’ were interesting to say the least!

It was from the Shaw that Brian Croft and Roy Lamb headed off on the rock and roll road to be almost literally followed by Edwin with an old 3 ton truck – an ex bread or electricity board van or was that Toffo? – to supply the transport. As ESP Lighting grew and the scale of the shows got bigger so too did Edwin’s vehicle fleet and the first branded trucks hit the road. From small acorns…..
I followed Brian Croft working for him and John Brown at ESP and can vividly remember EST trucks – sometimes several of them – pulled up in Glasshill Street being loaded for tours and one off shows. Sometimes I had to phone up Clint asking where the trucks were as EST were always juggling their fleet and customers as they expanded!

On my final job with ESP – the Stones shows at Earl’s Court in ‘76 – I think we had five trucks to get out the stage and equipment. It took several nights and days and by the time we had moved out the Stones had moved on and played their next dates in Europe!

At one time we lived near to Edwin and Diane in Kent and I can remember going to them for a meal – I think we had rabbit casserole from Edwin’s ‘country estate’ and copious wine to wash it down of course.

On the way home we were stopped by the police and when they asked who owned the car my wife as driving, she replied Avis. Perhaps realising we had been recipients of Shirley hospitality they escorted us home. You wouldn’t get that today nor will we see Edwin’s like again. I fondly remember his larger than life personality, his grin and laugh and the sheer sense of energy and enjoyment he bought to everything and everyone. I regret not staying in touch because Edwin was truly a legend in his own lunch time and the world is a poorer place without him. Chris (& Lucy) Smith

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Bob Winstanley, university friend:

‘All the best tales gain by exaggeration’

Mrs Shirley while driving the farm van saw Edwin’s motorcycle squashed flat in the road. She drove home to contact the police, fearing that Edwin had suffered a road accident. When she got home, there was Edwin. He explained that he’d fallen off the bike and that it had been squashed flat by a steam roller coming the other way. Obviously the bike wouldn’t go, so he’d left it there.

Manor Farm had a herd of Jersey milking cows. To promote the sale of dairy products directly from Manor Farm, Edwin created and displayed on the road an advertising board which read ‘You can’t beat our milk, but you can whip our cream.’

Edwin was paired with a female student from Germany (‘Beata’?) in his school foreign language exchange because the German school read his name as ‘Shirley Edwin’ rather than ‘Edwin Shirley’. History does not record whose error this was.

When Edwin arrived in Germany to spend time with Beata’s family it turned out that Beata’s mother was a wealthy lady who had been recently divorced and was embarking on a new relationship of her own. She did not wish to spend her summer holiday supervising her attractive 17 year old daughter or entertaining her daughter’s 17 year old visitor from England. Mother solved her problem by giving Edwin and Beata the keys to a Mercedes Benz and a fistful of Deutchmarks and inviting them to amuse themselves.

When he first arrived at Cambridge, on the recommendation of Peter West, Edwin had the considerable distinction of being asked to attend a freshers’ trial for the University rugby XV. Edwin had already decided that he was more interested in acting rather than rugby but he did attend the trial. That he was not selected probably had as much to do with the fact that he didn’t have any rugby boots as anything else.

In one university long vacation Edwin visited Germany driving a Wolsey Hornett car of considerable age. The car broke down. Edwin pushed the car to the side of the road. He abandoned it with a notice stuck to it offering to accept 10,000 Deutchmarks or an alternative car for the Wolsey Hornett. The Wolsey Hornett was an interesting looking veteran British sports saloon. Someone rang the telephone number Edwin had left on the notice offering to swop his Mercedes Benz for the Wolsey Hornett. The deal was done and this is how Edwin, one of the more impecunious of students at Cambridge, became the owner of a Mercedes Benz.

Edwin’s father had first use of the Mercedes Benz to move items such as bales of hay around Manor Farm. So, when the Mercedes made its first appearance at Cambridge it was not in pristine condition. There was a fair amount of hay inside and a good deal of farm muck outside. It had a front bench seat and column gear change so it could easily take 6, 3 in the front and 3 in the back. Still, the only other undergraduate who we knew who had a Mercedes Benz was Arthur Frederick Rank Packard of Fitzwilliam College (who when asked why he didn’t go into the family business after he left Cambridge was reported to have said ‘Because I didn’t want to rise through the Ranks.’

A mature student, Robin White, who had obtained his first degree at Dundee University asked Edwin to a party in Dundee. Edwin thought it would be fun to go a party in Dundee so off we went to this party in Dundee from Cambridge, 6 of us in the Mercedes Benz.

After the Mercedes, Edwin acquired a Matchless 500 twin of about 1958 vintage for £10 including the full tank of petrol ( a bike easily identifiable from a photograph from its unique distinctive double front pilot lights set on and either side of the headlight.) Edwin’s Matchless had drop handle bars that were set so close to the tank that there was very little turn either way in the bars. To get the Matchless to go round a corner it had to be leant over on its side. Also the bike had virtually no clutch. When coming to a halt the gear pedal had to be kicked into neutral which was between 1st and 2nd gear otherwise the bike would stall.

Once on a visit to point to point horse racing outside Cambridge bikes were swopped for the return journey. Edwin rode Bob W’s Norton 500 single and Bob W rode the Matchless. As they were leaving the heavily police controlled exit some young girls in St John’s Ambulance uniform jumped in front of the Matchless with an open blanket seeking a charitable donation. Of course, the Matchless stalled. Two hefty policemen promptly gave it a push with Bob W on it to bump start it. Happily the engine fired and away they rode. The bike may have been insured and MOT’d but you could never be sure.

While we were at Cambridge, at the end of each summer term 4 or 5 of us together together with any girl friends drove to Kent to stay at Manor Farm for a long week end. (Follow the A21 and turn left onto the A261 just past the AA box. Everyone was allowed to sleep with their girlfriend except Edwin.

We learnt something about farming. Mrs Shirley explained that the only economical thing to do with the male jersey calves born to the farm’s herd was to slaughter them for their veal. She explained that she kept the heads to make brawn and demonstrated by opening the double doors of a fridge to display 6 calves’ heads in a row on the top shelf.

In one of the farm sheds was a 1948 Lanchester saloon car which Mrs Gates, Mrs Shirley’s mother had purchased new. The car had an early form of automatic gear selection and wire brakes. It also had just 1200 miles on the clock.

Meals could be fun. On one of these end of term weekends we were to have Sunday lunch. At the last minute it was realised that the Aga had gone out! So we had the strawberries and cream, then cheese and finally at about 5pm in our back to front lunch, the roast joint.

One Saturday evening we went to the Mermaid Hotel in Rye for supper. When we arrived it was obvious that the hotel staff had not expected a party of l0 long haired rather scruffy students to have made a booking at their up market establishment. We were, however, made welcome as Edwin was recognised as the person who supplied cream to the Hotel.

And so on………

‘Absolutely 0% guaranteed accurate’

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Patrick Woodroffe, Lighting Designer:

To all of his friends and colleagues Edwin was an enormous character, full of fun, wit and energy, a forward thinker and free thinker, and an icon and legend in our business. He was also the very first person to run a trucking company and then a staging company and he did both of these things with style and panache and good humour, even as the business become more serious and looked to the bottom line. He was a huge influence on all of us and we miss him already, even as we cannot help but smile as we remember him.

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Chris Wright, Managing Director Rock-It Cargo:

WHO ELSE BUT……..EDWIN SHIRLEY

I wanted to share a couple of stories that might raise a smile or two………………………..

Edwin, Del, Roy and myself were the original founders of Rock-it back in in 1978. My recollection is that Del should get the credit for putting us all together in the first place.

My very first job was something that Edwin gave me as a lead from one of EST’s trucking clients. It was my very first experience of the “real” world. I had to go and see this guy after hours one evening and deliver some shipping papers to him. When I arrived at his house, I was invited in and shown to his living room. On the table there was a large amount of “White Powder”. There was a knock at the door and the guy went to answer the door. I sat there for about 5 minutes and he didn’t come back and so I sat there for another 10 minutes – he still didn’t return. After about 20 minutes I became somewhat worried and started calling out his name but no reply, so I went looking. The guy had disappeared without a trace and left the front door wide open. As I left, closing the door behind me, I began cursing Edwin wondering what on earth had happened and why me? I later found out that the Police had called at the house to arrest the guy for unpaid parking fines because he had been evading them for very many months. What you might call a close shave.

Finally, in the early days of operations, United Airlines offered me a First Class ticket on an inaugural flight to New York. I couldn’t go but I offered the ticket to Edwin, who was more than happy to accept, especially as there was a reception and a return ticket too. Well it turns out that Edwin had been enjoying the full range of hospitality of the pre-boarding reception before eventually boarding the flight. Unfortunately, when he got to his seat in First Class, there was somebody already sitting there and he proceeded to ask him to leave and move somewhere else.

Needless to say, there was a minor disagreement but no violence and the occupier of his seat remained defiant and would not move elsewhere in the cabin. Edwin chose the path of least resistance and meandered to another seat in First Class. Seeing that Edwin was now settled, the cabin attendant attended to his needs and took his jacket to hang up in the wardrobe and in doing so asked for his boarding pass.

“Sir, I’m terribly sorry but you’re on the wrong flight, we’re going to Boston” –

“Yikes” or words to that effect cried Edwin and he departed with great haste to find the right flight to New York. I think he called it a very sobering experience.

I have no idea how this would have been possible except it was at a time when security was nowhere near as tight as it is now and I suspect the sight of a truly ebullient Edwin boarding a flight was enough to convince any unsuspecting attendant, that all was well.

Edwin – you will be missed.

Good luck with your next venture, wherever that may be,

Chris

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25 thoughts on “Memories of Edwin

  1. Edwin, the man I loved and admired for over 40 years is best summed up by this quote from the ‘English’ poet,
    “I expect to pass through life but once.
    If, therefore there be any kindness that
    I can show or any good thing I can do
    to any fellow being, let me do it now,
    for I shall not pass this way again” William Penn 1644-1718

    R.I.P. dear Edwin.

  2. We were so saddened by the news of Edwin’s death.
    He was a friend from way back .Our children went to play group and then to primary school together.It was that long ago. We had parties at our house —at the Shirley house Anywhere .Anywhere Edwin was we had fun and we always looked forward to seeing him .The last time we saw Edwin was at Rachel’s funeral , a very sad occasion but filled with love.
    What else can be said than “goodbye to a much loved and valued friend.
    Linda and Roger Pope
    Goudhurst

  3. I first met Edwin in March 1968 in the scruffy waiting area at the then NYT headquarters in Eccleston Square. We had both been cast in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Shakespeare Festival. Edwin was Snug (with Barrie Rutter as Bottom). Over the next 2 years, we acted in at least a further 6 productions together: Peter Terson’s The Apprentices for the NYT and BBC Wednesday Play and 5 more at Cambridge, including 2 quite heavy European tours.

    I took to Edwin immediately. He was already in his first year at Cambridge and I had only just left school. He was easy and friendly to everyone. You always wanted Edwin to be in the show because he was not only good but he was a great guy to have around.

    Apart from Edwin himself, three things stand out in my memory:

    He was fantastically loyal to the NYT. I remember one weekend driving up to Sunderland with Edwin to see a revival of Peter Terson’s Zigger Zagger. I had been in the 1967 and 1968 shows but couldn’t do Sunderland as it was term time. Edwin was the driving force in us going because of his loyalty to the NYT. We had a crazy weekend driving to and from Sunderland in a battered minivan that Edwin had borrowed from a mate (Cambridge to Sunderland and back was quite a mission in the late 1960s). I suspect now we weren’t insured to drive it but, hey, it was a great weekend.

    In Keith Hack’s production of The Tempest, I played Trinculo to his Stephano. I could never do comedy. Edwin was the comedy and it worked amazingly.

    Pre 1970 Cambridge Alumni might remember a ramshackle cinema and social club called the Rex where we would spend many late nights watching old movies. Edwin had a plan to turn the Rex into a place where we could spend pretty much all day, movies, eating, sleeping and generally chilling out, all at student prices. Sadly the Rex is long gone but it was a great plan.

    • Thank you for that, Charles, especially the reminder of the Rex and Edwin’s keenness on it. I dated Edwin briefly in early summer 69 (we first met on the Cam, he was tripping, but I didn’t find him much different when he wasn’t!). I remember being at the Rex debating with him about whether or not mattresses, not seats, were a good idea for all cinemas. He was FOR mattresses even though people f***ing would be a distraction from the film, as I objected. He would have liked the way academic libraries now are starting to have sofas and pillows, I think? This Apollonian-Dionysian tension endlessly fascinates me. I dunno.
      As for his time in the 1967 Zigger-Zagger and that summer with the NYT, the visceral importance of theatre to him was something I’d never encountered before. It paved the way for me, much later, to segue into writing some fringe plays and to relishing the profound interactions the writer can have with directors and cast.
      Without him, it wouldn’t have seemed so natural to just fling oneself into all the magical transformations that theatre-making can enable.

  4. Dear Edwin,

    Thank you for letting me nurture your genes for posterity.

    They’re doing really well

    Love
    Diane x

  5. Edwin was a wonderful father to have. For many years I was unaware of the unusualness of my upbringing but I came to realise it from my friend’s reactions to it.

    Edwin was much more than a father to me, and Raph and Rachael. I think that is why we have all referred to him as “Edwin”, even through childhood. He liked to be called “Edwin” by everyone. I remember him as a parent who I was often trying to keep under control or make him behave himself, not the other way around. However, he could be on his best behaviour and do a very good job of it, if the circumstances required it.

    I have so many rich memories of situations and adventures we became involved in.

    He loved to tell a good story and it was extremely funny how they emerged and developed and became embellished. I think my favourite one was a scene in Frankfurt airport where his hip replacements set off the security alert. In the most recent version he was held at gun point by multiple officers with his hands in the air and his trousers around his ankles and everyone in the airport shocked and dumbstruck.

    It was terribly sad to see him progress from his initial diagnosis of cancer to his death. He remained optimistic throughout his treatment, in a way I found most humbling. Even on the morning he died he was talking in his usual loud voice and making cheerful observations of the situation around him. He described his hospitalisation as “A bit boring” and “a drag” as it prevented him from having his usual busy and fun life.

    I am sad for myself and sad for everyone else around him who love him as dearly as I do.

  6. YOU ROCK – WE ROLL
    Having been out of the country for some time I have arrived back to find that Edwin has passed away, I was saddened by this unexpected news and feel bound to share a memory of him.
    I first met Edwin Shirley in the late 70’s; it was during the pre-arena period when the venues we were playing were clubs, student unions and provincial theatres. Depending on the size of the production we would either have Shirley trucks and drivers or we would self-drive one of his Saviems, during this period Edwin Shirley Trucking was the principal provider of transport for our business and this fact alone indicates vision. Edwin’s created an eye catching and memorable image for their transport and it was almost a badge of honour at the time to be driving one of the trucks or have their vehicles and drivers as part of the tour, the catch phrase You Rock – We Roll summed it up completely.
    Edwin was energetic, creative, charismatic, inquisitive, well read, extremely naughty and humorous, a joy to hang out with “back in the day”. Coming from Glasgow I still smile when I think back to Edwin’s offices, I always enjoyed seeing that the floor covering consisted of “liberated” sections of original Art Deco “It’s Good-It’s Greens” carpeting from Glasgow’s Green’s Playhouse-Apollo. Edwin’s also produced yearly calendars; some of which I still have, which were much sought after, sadly in our current moral climate these now may be construed as being a tad politically incorrect…..tut…tut!
    A man of vision who was often viewed with trepidation by his more corporately conservative peers, he was often underestimated which was a mistake as services such as trucking and staging that we accept as a given in our industry can trace their roots back to Edwin’s energy and vision.
    Later on in my career I was asked to set up an entertainment arm for large industrial company and I chose to set up my office at Edwin’s Three Mills Island Studios. It was a perfect location and Edwin’s presence was the icing on the cake. We shared our resources and a couple of times a month I would take him to lunch being careful to have him choose the eatery, he always came up trumps, you’d be surprised how many fine lunch venues there are in the environs of Bromley by Bow. During these lunches we would compare notes about our respective businesses, he would often give me some fine advice as well as regaling me with hilarious recollections from his own life. During my years at Three Mills I saw Edwin’s steely and determined side, he fought to have the facility recognised and during his tenure he had some fine directors and productions base themselves there, it was a sad day when more powerful forces prevailed. What cannot be taken from him is without he and his team’s vision and tenacity the studios would not have become what they are today.
    RIP Edwin Shirley………………………………..You will be missed.
    Andy Tinneveld London May 2013

  7. A cheery optimist. Always willing to help solve a problem. Kind and resourceful. Occasionally worse (or better) for wear. That’s how I remember Edwin. It’s nearly 40 years since we first met. I’d had an idea to sell T-Shirts on rock tours. The Rolling Stones were receptive to my idea and so it was on their 1973 European Tour that we met.
    Edwin was always my first port of call if I’d run out of Gaffer Tape. Invariably I would find him or Roy Lamb with Eric Owen (Truck Driver) gathering as much knowledge and information as they could. The rest certainly is history.
    Subsequent to that tour our paths crossed over many tours.
    A little known fact was that Edwin held the record for the most visits to my backstage hospitality bar at Wembley Arena.

    He also allowed me to produce one of the (in)famous Edwin Shirley Trucking calendars.

    Edwin. I raise a glass (or two) to you.

    Mick Worwood

    I was privileged to know such

    • WILLIAM ALLINGHAM 1824 – 89
      ‘EVERYTHING PASSES AND VANISHES’

      Everything passes and vanishes;
      Everything leaves its trace;
      And often you see in a footstep
      What you could not see in a face.

  8. Encountering Edwin was a unique experience, always friendly, always honest, invariably loud. One of a kind who will be missed by all who knew him.

    Not how did he die, but how did he live.
    Not what did he gain, but what did he give
    These are the units to measure the worth
    Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

  9. I have had the pleasure of working for Edwin for the last five years it was never a dull experience moving something weird and wonderful for someone weird and wonderful from Edwins past.

    When I first started to work for him I had no idea who he was and what an amazing bloke he was but little stories emerged from the customers and his friends that we worked for and I began to realize how lucky I was just to know him.

    My favourite times with him was sitting in his kitchen with a cup of tea which he would always offer and then get me to make, we would be having a settle up and arguing about jobs if they were half or a full day, he would regularly lecture me on the importance of this that and the other all at the top of that voice of his with some interesting language thrown in for good measure but it was always done with good humour. If I was lucky our conversation would get side tracked and he would tell me a story of a tour here or show there. I hope that someone writes the story of his life as he crammed more into his life than most of us could manage in 3 or 4.
    His bravery while he was ill was amazing, still working and planning for the future when he was obviously not feeling good an example to all of us to grab the oportunities that life throws at us with both hands never giving up.
    It was an honour to work for you and get to know you over the years I will miss those cups of tea.

  10. A number of people above have written RIP. In most cases this would mean ‘Rest In Peace’, but anyone who knew Edwin knows that’s never gonna happen…

    I would like to think it means ‘Rocking In Paradise’.

  11. Edwin and I no doubt drank too much in the 70’s and tested the patience of those who were close to us but we did have a wonderful time.
    There are too many tales to tell here but I do want to share the story of the time we went together to LA to check out the Stones tour of 75 and Edwin overheard that the “boys” were all going back to Diana Ross’s house in Malibu. Never one to miss out on a good party, he decided that although not invited, we should go too. His performance in justifying our entry to security would have won an oscar. He ultimately was successful and whilst we spent a fair amount of the party hanging out behind palm trees by the pool, he was later to be seen thanking a bemused Ms Ross for a wonderful evening.
    As others have said he was charming, loud, intelligent and hugely entertaining but more importantly he was a loyal and supportive friend whose generosity of spirt will never be forgotten

  12. So many hilarious days and wonderful evenings are now deeply embedded memories. Edwin was such a maker of happenings and generous provider of opportunities and it was always a delight to witness them. To those that feel the loss much more than I, there is nothing I can say, but we all can share in a loving and loveable knowledge that, Edwin sparkled, sparkled and sparkled.

  13. Today Edwin, I found that you are no longer here, on this earth. We had so many beautiful times when you were seventeen and I a few months older..do you remember the portrait I drew of you during Speech day..on the prefects wall…in boot polish and milk? I am told that it has been preserved..I wonder…
    Your amazing performance for the talent show of the Stones”Can’t get no Satisfaction”…
    You had a motor bike..You used to leave it up by the hollow oak, walk down to our cottage, and then we would pretend we were going for a walk…but one day I burned my leg on the exhaust pipe. I was found out!
    I would climb out of the downstairs window and we would escape to a party..so many escapades.
    You wondered who this boyfriend I had was, and why he should be so special…..then when I found I was pregnant with his baby, I confided in you in my worry and confusion…A levels being the priority…whatever would parents say/do?i
    and you immediately took charge…your uncle would pay for an abortion!
    You took me to your parents lovely farmhouse, and offered me a drink from a jug of fresh cream…for the baby…
    Of course my baby grew safely and I studied at home under the tutelage of my teachers…all wonderful suffragette types who felt that I had been wronged! My three A levels were taken in the school “sick room” at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School For Girls! I passed! I think you believed, too, that I had been wronged, and every Thursday, you Cranbrook School boys were supposed to go and chop wood for old ladies and so on..You decided that I needed some TLC and visited me diligently!
    We would wander into the wood where bluebells were carpeting the ground..you wanted me to come to Cambridge with you and to bring my baby too!
    A levels came , and the day after the last one, my son was born. I spent the first few weeks of his life back in my home in Bedgebury, June was full of storms and roses. You came to find us one day..I was alone with my little son, and you took us for a drive to the sea…I shall always remember, somewhere on the road to Dungeoness.. You suddenly stopped the car, and leapt out , rushing to the side of the road, where you gathered an enormous bouquet of poppies , which you presented to me with all your young enormous heart…..on blended knee…always so romantic and generous.
    Thankyou for your young love and adoration Edwin…it is my treasured memory.

  14. I’ve only just found out. Dear Edwyn, I’d been ‘meaning’ to get in touch again for 35 years and now you’ve gone.

    We worked together on Ike and Tina Turners tour in 1972 and for the UK part Edwyn had bought an old Gas Board van and rented it out for the tour. I remember driving with Edwyn down the M6 on its inaugural trip and the start of things to come. The tour was not surprisingly hectic, amazing, great fun and very naughty with Edwyn as a constant entertainer and, on reflection, a calming influence.

    Much love

  15. I’m in New Zealand for most of the year and have just heard this sad news. I only got to know Edwin & Marg in the last couple of years. I worked at his local wine merchants, where (perhaps unsurprisingly) he was a proper “friend of the shop”, and enthusiastically attended many tastings and dinners, always creating a friendly, sociable, warm, laughter-filled mood in the room. A successful night was guaranteed when Edwin & Marg were in attendance.

    I thought he was a star, and it’s nice to read that my opinion of him is consistent with everyone else’s.

  16. Don’t get to the uk often and was shocked to hear of Edwin’s passing.I drove for him 1977 – 1980 and he was an amazing guy for sure.RIP Edwin

  17. Over 40 years ago, a rather wonderful man with an amazing smile asked me to play the party of Jo in ‘A Taste of Honey’ at the Cambridge ADC.
    Edwin’s multi-media production (with his own cameo performance astride a motorbike in the somewhat ‘racy’ interval film) was a huge success and, if I remember rightly, asked back for a second week.
    I also played a part in his quirky Rock Opera, ‘Make me Make you’, which was performed both at King’s May Ball (rain during the evening caused delays as the stage had to be earthed) and later at the Edinburgh Festival.
    I’d often thought of renewing contact, organising a ‘Taste of Honey’ reunion. Returning recently from six months in France, I decided it really was time to do just that – and found to my enormous sadness that I was too late and that Edwin had gone.
    It is clear from all the wonderful tributes that Edwin made an extraordinary impression on everyone who knew him, even those who, like myself, only had the privilege of knowing him and having him as a friend for a few short years.
    Lovely, kind, big-hearted Edwin will llive on strongly in my memory.
    Briony Garety (née Young)

  18. i waone of about four who built the tour bus in the 80s.they were happy times met edwin once .i t was one of the best jobs i ever had,i.bob somerville

  19. I’m really not sure where to begin because, just like everyone else who was lucky enough to meet Edwin, I have so many wonderful, fun memories.

    Meeting Edwin and Roy in the Peacock one night in ’76 and starting work the next day as a wine delivery driver…..another of Edwin’s ideas not destined to succeed…..paved the way for me in the touring world nearly 40 years later.
    I must have broken and drunk more bottles than I ever delivered for which I’m still ashamed.

    I think Edwin took pity on me as a locally born and bred Old Cranbrookian, also of poor farming stock. I was hired, fired, and re-hired by Edwin in the course of the first week.

    Edwin was the most amazing, colourful, loveable, inspirational, crazy, kind, character I have had the privilege to work with.

    Yes he could drive most of us nuts at times, but he was never, ever boring.
    A true pioneer in our business who I continue to look up to in every sense. In comparison I’m still a nobody…..an ex crap driver, steam cleaner, tractor driver, and yard boy.

    Thank you Edwin for so many precious memories that I smile and laugh at each one. As my so called career grew I’d like to believe that Edwin would be proud of how I worked my way up from cleaning a 40′ trailer EST 9 with a brillo pad….don’t ask…..to tour managing some of the biggest acts in the world.

    I loved being your 19 year old chauffeur in the mini, and when you would finally pass out somewhere in London, we’d set off back to the Weald where I’d literally carry you to the door and to the lovely, and oh so patient Diane.

    I’m certain those early and fun days at the Yard, and later times at Battersea where pigs did fly, and to my naked appearance in the infamous EST calendar (April 78 I think….yet another one of Edwin’s mad ideas….I guess we were young and cheap/free), with my then naked girlfriend (now wife of over 30 years)….Edwin, I’m laughing now just thinking about that day and how you persuaded us to share the shower scene photo with another naked model….how we all laughed….. maybe you had something to laugh at:(

    All I really want to say is thanks for your inspiration. You touched so many lives.
    My love and respect always.
    Frankie (and Davina…. girlfriend, now wife, mother, and grandmother…..see what you started).

  20. Reading Briony’s comments above brought back so many memories. I too only recently heard the sad news about Edwin, just as I had decided to make contact again. I was Stage Manager on that version of ‘A Taste of Honey’ at the ADC all those years ago, and have such fond memories of that show and Edwin’s crazy enthusiasm. (I even named my daughter Briony – sorry Briony!!)
    I also worked on Make Me Make You at Kings and the Edinburgh Festival. The night at Kings turned into a mad competition – who would give in first, the audience who were getting totally drenched in the rain, or the generator which was literally rocking as phases intermittently shorted out? Whoever gave in first would lose money!! At Edinburgh we had an example of typical Edwin. Some of our projection equipment was delivered by mistake to Cambridge, not Edinburgh. It was Bank Holiday weekend, so with no other options Martin Wallis and myself drove non-stop there and back (seemed quite an adventure in those days). And we did it in a Mini, owned I think by the father of Edwin’s then girlfriend. I don’t suppose we were insured, and non of us would have cared anyway, and the Mini was papered all over in the bare-boobed posters from the show. We got some great looks!! Never a dull moment with Edwin – I am so sorry not to have made contact again.
    Thanks Edwin for letting me spend time briefly as part of your mad world.

    • Only just arrived here. I wrote Make Me Make You with Edwin and appeared in it too. He was such a kindly man, with boundless ms infectious drive. Long days scribbling in his rooms in College before he went in to such a rewarding life, gave me a priviledged view of the man.
      He was special. We’ve all been lucky to know him.

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