Coppersongs: A Living Tradition
1987 LP, EFDSS VWML004 [Coppersongs 1]
Claudy Banks - Bob, John, Jill, Lynne & Jon
Cupid's Garden - John & Lynne
The Seasons, or The Ploughshare - Bob, John, Jill, Lynne & Jon
Two Young Brethren - Bob & John
Sweep Chimney Sweep - Bob, John, Jill, Lynne & Jon
Warlike Seamen (The Irish Captain) - Jim & John (Snr), Bob & Ron
Especially recorded on 3.4.1952 by Seamus Ennis at Peacehaven in Sussex for the BBC Sound Archives Library. "Released by arrangement with BBC Enterprises Ltd", BBC 1952. The Irish Captain was transcribed from a mono BBC acetate disc, and while all reasonable attention was paid to securing the best possible transfer, there is some surface noise present from the original.
Brisk Young Ploughboy (2:41 ) - Bob, John, Jill, Lynne & Jon
Bold Fisherman (4:38) - Bob, John, Jill, Lynne & Jon
The Battle of Alma (2:39) - John & Jon
Come Write Me Down (3:42) - Bob, John, Jill, Lynne & Jon
Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy (3:15) - Jill & Jon
Sportsmen Arise (3:18) - Bob, John, Jill, Lynne Jon
Thousands or More (2:50) - Ben, Lucy, Tom, Bob, John, Jill, Lynne & Jon
Sleeve Notes - Coppersongs: A Living Tradition
For almost 400 years the Copper family have lived and worked in and around the village of Rottingdean, a village on the Sussex coast about five miles east of Brighton. They have worked as shepherds, carters, publicans and general farm-workers on the seaward hills of the South Downs. Though they probably lived in the area for some time before, the earliest entry relating to the family in the parish records is dated 1593, and in the churchyard many headstones are to be found bearing their surname. In fact, one part of the churchyard contains so many family graves that it is referred to as "Coppers' Corner".
For at least 200 years the family has been renowned locally as country singers and they have been called upon to sing their songs at sheep-shearing suppers, Harvest Homes, family parties and pub sing-songs. But in 1898 their songs were made known to a wider public when Mrs Kate Lee visited Rottingdean and noted down the words and music of "about half a hundred" of them from the singing of James "Brasser" Copper, at that time a farm bailiff, and his brother Tom who was landlord of the Black Horse in the village High Street. Mrs Lee took the songs back to London where her adventures in collecting their songs were described at the first general meeting of the Folk Song Society in 1899, and subsequently published in the Society's first Journal. James and Tom were made honorary founder members for their contribution of songs.
In spite of building developments which changed the rural character of Rottingdean in the 1920s, the family never lost their affection for the old songs, and in 1936 Jim, the son of James, wrote out the words of about seventy of them in a determined effort to keep the tradition alive.
In 1950 Jim and his son Bob sang on BBC Radio, and for the first time the songs were heard by a national audience. Two years later Jim, his brother John and their respective sons Bob and Ron sang at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Many broadcasts, concerts and recordings followed, and in 1958 Bob and Ron sang when the English Folk Dance and Song Society celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of one of its parent organisations, the Folk Song Society. On a large cake were written the opening bars of "Claudy Banks", a song collected by Kate Lee from their grandfather sixty years before . It is held to be the first song collected for the Society and they sang it while the Society's President, Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams, cut the cake.
In the 1970s, three books written by Bob Copper were published: A Song for Every Season (which won the 1971 Robert Pitman Literary Prize), Songs and Southern Breezes (1973) and Early to Rise (1976). Early to Rise was republished in 1988 by Javelin.
Bob's children John and Jill inherited their father's love for the songs, and in 1965 John made his public debut when he sang with his father at the Royal Festival Hall. The Coppers are still living on the Sussex cliff-tops and are singing as enthusiastically as ever, having been joined by John's wife Lynne and Jill's husband Jon Dudley. In 1986 John and Lynne's three children Ben, Lucy and Thomas sang with the family for the first time in public, thus being at least the seventh consecutive generation of the family to have sung together.
Here then, just ninety years after Mrs Kate Lee first noted the family's songs, four generations of the family - are brought together on one record. From the BBC Sound Archives comes "The Irish Captain" - sung by Jim and John Copper and their sons Bob and Ron - a 1952 recording which has not been available commercially before. And on the final track, "Thousands or More", Bob, John and Lynne, and Jill and Jon, are joined by three of Bob's grandchildren, Ben, Lucy and Thomas Copper.
Bob Copper and Derek Schofield
The English Folk Dance and Song Society would like to thank the following for their help in making this recording:
Ian A. Anderson, Tony Engle, Vic Gammon, Sian Griffiths, Roger and Helen Holt, Jim Lloyd, Derek Schofield, Malcolm Taylor, Chris Zuidyk and most importantly, the Copper Family.
In addition grateful thanks are expressed to the Arts Council of Great Britain, the BBC and Topic Records.
First published by the English Folk Dance and Song Society January 1988.
This page last updated on 7 November, 2006