By Jerry Sadowitz

Roy Walton: Card magician and owner of Tam Shepherds Trick Shop

Born: April 11, 1932;

February 4, 2020.

THERE is such perfection in some work that anything falling short of that benchmark stands out as a glaring fault. Such was the card magic of Roy Walton, who has died at 87 after a brief battle with cancer. His creative output was the gold standard, matched by a quite phenomenal technical skill, knowledge and understanding of the subject. A typical Roy Walton trick is so perfect that to alter it in any way usually diminishes its impact.

He contributed his first published trick, ABC, in the Phoenix magic magazine in 1949, and after contributing to other magazines such as The Pentagram and The Pallbearer’s Review (two issues of which were devoted entirely to his magic), he published his first book, The Devil’s Playthings, in 1969. It became an instant classic, as did his commercially released tricks such as Card Warp, and Cascade, which have never been off the market and have featured in the shows of many leading magicians throughout the world.

Further books followed, and in 1981 these were compiled as The Complete Walton Vol. 1.(the title was a play on Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler). Two further volumes followed and although he was not a performer himself, his magic could be worked straight off the page and onto any stage -- as I still do.

His material not only completely conceals skill and method but also includes built-in storylines, plot, humour, and often O’Henry ‘twist in the tale’ endings. He had a thorough appreciation of comedy, being a lifelong fan of Laurel and Hardy, W. C. Fields and the Marx Brothers, among others, which accounted for the entertainment value within his tricks.

Roy Walton was born in April 1932 in Ealing, London. He was “bitten by the magic bug” when for his eighth birthday he received a magic set produced by the famous (and the oldest) magic shop in London, Lewis Davenport’s. It was there that he would visit on Saturdays, meeting future magic luminaries Alex Elmsley, Jack Avis, John Derris, Bobby Bernard, Ted Danson and others. This creative group became The Beatles of magic, with Elmsley and Walton its Lennon and McCartney. Virtually every trick they devised advanced a principle in method or effect.

Roy joined the RAF at 19, and, at 22, joined the British computer group ITC, where by 34 he was an executive analyst. In 1959 he married Jean Davenport, daughter of the magic shop’s manager, George Davenport. One day in 1965, the couple were asked to look after the shop’s Glasgow branch, still known under the name of its original proprietor, Tam Shepherd. It was to be a two-week-long position until a new manager could be found, but Roy liked the job, and he and Jean loved Scotland so much that he quit ITC and began managing Tam Shepherds permanently.

He continued to work there happily from 1969 until 2019. Few patrons realised that they were being served by an internationally recognised magical genius. He treated every customer with uniform respect and courtesy and there were many eccentrics who walked through the doors of Tam Shepherd’s, for whom many lesser mortals would have had no time.

There were many Scottish magicians who were influenced by Roy as beginners, spending their pocket money on simple tricks and going on to become world-class sleight-of-hand magicians and creators, including Gordon Bruce, Peter Duffie, Dave Campbell, Steven Hamilton, Douglas Cameron and many others.

Roy’s standard of skill and creativity inspired all magicians who fell under his spell, yet he was always humble and modest, rarely demonstrating his own tricks or talking about himself. It was a perverse treat to watch a visiting US magician walk into the shop, not realising who the proprietor was, and patronise him about the art of magic. This would sometimes culminate in a poor display of skill, which Roy would watch politely, resisting all temptation to trump or criticise, despite the the magicians standing at the back of the shop yearning for just that. Yet to sincere magicians who were genuinely looking for advice, he gave freely.

Once, in the 1970s, he appeared as a guest performing his own tricks on a late-night STV show Top Score. Magicians were hopping mad to have missed him, but such was his modesty that he had told no-one about the show.

Tam Shepherds, now run by his daughters Julia and Sarah, who survive him, along with Jean, is the longest running joke and magic shop in the U.K.

Far more important than magic, Roy Walton was an exemplary human being: modest, even-tempered, friendly, moral, uncomplaining, logical, a family man, a gentleman, a purist and pure of heart. A true role model, he possessed all the qualities I wish on myself and others. He was in life, as with magic, the gold standard. He will be greatly missed in Scotland and by the international magic community.