Bill Berry grew up on a farm in Blairdaff by Monymusk. He was educated at Kemnay where his school report and certificate reported him an excellent scholar in most subjects. He left school aged 15 and was first employed by Cluny Estates as a Kennel boy and trainee Gamekeeper. He then moved to Findrack Estate near Lumphanan, with another Gamekeeper to become an Under Keeper. Whilst there, in 1953 the Laird actually arranged for Bill to join the Scots Guards, which was to chart out the rest of his life.
Bill joined the Scots Guards that year serving with both the 1st then 2nd Battalions. After basic training at the Guards Depot, Caterham, he was measured to be a ‘trained soldier’ skilled in smartness, drill and marksmanship and was retained there as an Instructor. From there he later served with BAOR, at Dusseldorf, then to Kenya during the Mau Mau Rebellion Campaign. Even then he was deemed a natural sportsman; part of the Guards Rugby and Football Teams, and whilst in Germany, trained in Austria with the Ski Team and was also introduced to Judo.
Whilst he was home on leave in 1957, he applied to join Aberdeen City Police and was accepted, and so began the next part of his career. Bill joined Aberdeen City Police on 29 May that year, as Constable 71 with ‘E’ unit. He worked various beats and districts as well as some internal roles, but didn’t venture into any departments. This was due to his dedication to the sport of judo, which he initiated into the force as early as 1959. During his long police service he received a Commendation from Chief Constable Alex Morrison in the early 1970’s as well as being mentioned in Orders several times.
Prior to the police service amalgamation, in May 1975, Bill was working with the MSU (Mobile Support Unit). On 7th July, his first move was into GED (General Enquiries Department) remaining there until 1 May 1977, when he returned to his old ‘E’ Unit, working from Queen Street, Aberdeen. He stayed there through to August 1983, when he moved to his final post as Grampian Police Federation Secretary until he retired from the police on 30th September 1987. Thereafter, he immediately became a member of the RPOAS (Retired Police Officers’ Association Scotland). However, (not wishing to lose his police connections) he began his next career, again at Police HQ, with the newly formed ‘Legal Documents Unit’ on 31 March, 1988, along with three ex-colleagues, working closely with the Procurator Fiscal Office. He served with the unit for almost 13 years, until his final retirement date came up on 21 January, 2001.
Bill was involved in judo for over 65 years and was an active 7th Dan for over 20 years. He was an accomplished player rising to the rank of 1st Dan in 1966 in the days when the examiners would decide how many people you needed to fight on the day. Legend has it that Bill won all ten of his contests! Bill also won the British and Scottish Police Championships on several occasions, a record only recently surpassed by one of his own players. He was Chairman and Honorary Vice-President of JudoScotland and was the JudoScotland representative on the British Judo Association Council for over 30 years. Bill was also a Senior Examiner and National ‘A’ Referee. Additionally he was part of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games Baton Relay as well as being made a Free Burgess of the City of Aberdeen.
Not content with all of that, he was an inaugural member of the Aberdeen Sporting Hall of Fame and in 2016 he was awarded a richly deserved “Lifetime Achievement Award” by ClubSport Aberdeen. His achievements and awards were not just local. In July 2005 he was awarded the MBE in recognition of his 45 years involved in Judo, which was presented by HM Queen at Holyroodhouse. In 1996 he was elected into the Order of the Scottish Samurai, an award created to celebrate those in Scotland who had a link with Japan and its culture.
Bill was a well-kent and well-respected face in Aberdeen and for many years he would often turn up unannounced at various North-East judo clubs to pass on his wisdom, advice and support for both players and coaches. He would also pack himself into his beloved Mini and support judo across the country whether it was refereeing competitions at Meadowbank in Edinburgh or attending meetings and courses across the world as Chairman of JudoScotland.
Bill Berry was a liked, admired and sincere man and his quiet wisdom, calm demeanour and dry sense of humour will be much missed by his many friends within the worldwide judo family. The outpouring of respect since his passing is testament to the level of respect in which he was held.
JudoScotland and BJA Honorary President, Dr. George Kerr (10th Dan), CBE, described Bill as a “talented, hardworking and committed leader of the highest integrity”, adding: “I have lost a very much valued friend and colleague.”
Rick Kenney OBE, 7th Dan, President of the Commonwealth Judo Association, paid this tribute, saying “Bill Berry has been involved in Judo for over 60 years and has played a role as a referee, senior examiner, area organiser and subsequently as Chairman of JudoScotland. Bill has left a legacy for our sport that he and all of our Judo family can be proud of.Our sincere condolences to Bill’s family and friends.”
Jason Moore, 5th Dan, Head Coach/Vice Chairman Aberdeen Judo and Turriff Judo Clubs said “I’ve known Bill for over 30 years and his presence both on and off the mat will be greatly missed. Always very sociable, Bill was never short of offers of a dram, such was people’s desire to show their respect and appreciation for a man held in such high regard.”
Bill is survived by his son Martin.