The earliest mention of The Copper Family is in the village of Rottingdean when in 1593, a male Copper was married in the parish church. There is a very good chance that the family were resident in or around Rottingdean long before this date. Always working in the agrarian community, most were farm labourers or shepherds, although James ‘Brasser’ Copper (b.1845) and his son Jim Copper (b.1882) were farm baliffs or managers.
Singing seems to have run in the blood and we know that the Coppers were particularly renowned. In 1896, ‘Brasser’ Copper and his brother Tom were ‘collected’ by a musicologist Mrs Kate Lee, who noted some fifty songs from them which in many ways became the foundation stone upon which the Folk Song Society (later the English Folk Dance and Song Society) was formed in 1898. The songs were kept alive in the village through the lean years of disinterest in the 1920s and ‘30s by Jim Copper and his bother John. Post-war, Jim’s son Bob Copper and his cousin Ron took on the mantle and, largely through Bob’s diligence and writings, they survive into the modern era.
Today the family is represented by Bob’s son and daughter John and Jill, his son-in-law Jon Dudley and their respective children, Mark, Andy Sean, Ben, Lucy and Tom. Recently Bob’s great grandson Flinn has joined the line-up thus making it the eighth consecutive known generation of The Copper Family to sing.
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