Ron Copper, 1911 - 1978
Folk World Loses a Giant in Ron
RON COPPER of Rottingdean died on Saturday January 7th 1978 in his 67th year and was buried the following Thursday in St. Michael's Churchyard in Rottingdean, the village where he had spent almost his entire life.
Ron was born into a family that had worked on the estate farms in Rottingdean for generations and followed his uncle James Dale Copper into carpentry. James had been the estate carpenter and Ron trained and worked as a carpenter in the village until the outbreak of World War II when he moved to work as a shipwright on the warships in Portsmouth Harbour.
This was his only period living away from Rottingdean.
At the end of the war he came back to Rottingdean and he took the "Queen Victoria" pub in the High Street. The previous landlord was his father-in-law and Ron was there until the time of his death.
This was the other trade in the family, Ron's grandfather's brother having kept the "Black Horse" in the village.
Ron's health had not been good for seven years. He had a series of strokes and heart attacks in that time and a major aortal transplant four years ago, but he fought back from each setback with a cheerfulness that was contagious. He was in good voice when the Rottingdean Mummers performed their play in the "Queen Victoria" just before Christmas.
He was the eldest of three boys and cousin Bob, four years his junior, was as close as any brother. And, of course, it was Bob and Ron who inherited the love of the family's collection of traditional songs.
Particular credit is due to Bob and Ron for maintaining their interest in the difficult years of the 1930s and 1940s after the songs had lost their social function in the pubs of the village and before the collectors and enthusiasts of the folk revival had come along to encourage them.
Ron always sang the bass line and served as an inspiration to his nephew John's bass singing and to countless others in folk song harmony groups. His harmonies were usually fairly simple but always delivered with a solid assurance.
His range went considerably lower than most singers and even then he was able to really boom out the notes. He never dominated the group singing but one was always well aware of his absence from it.
Though their ages were quite close, Ron seemed to be of almost a different generation from Bob. Partly this was because ill health aged Ron more quickly but the more cosmopolitan Bob, writer, broadcaster, song collector, has much broader horizons than Ron had. When Bob reminisces about his father and his uncle, he could well be talking about Ron at these times.
Rottingdean was well aware that it had lost a much loved character for the church was full for his funeral service. Floral tributes lined both sides of the path from the gate to the church door. Ron was buried in a church whose registers have births, death and marriages of each generation of the Copper family going back to 1593.
He leaves a widow and two sons, one of whom, Roger, may become the third generation as landlord at the "Queen Victoria".
Vic Smith, Folk News, February 1978
This page last updated on 21 February, 2012