THE late Bob Copper of Rottingdean was an icon of the folk singing world. This Express photograph shows him performing at Lewes Folk Club in January,1995, aged 80.
He died on March 29, 2004.
Bob was a leading member of the famous singing Copper family of Rottingdean and an important collector of English folksongs.
The Copper family have lived in Rottingdean, where Bob was born in a farm cottage, since the 16th century. Kipling mentions them in Rewards And Fairies. The family were not gentry (Bob’s father would tell of having been caned at school for forgetting to raise his cap to the parson), but were always respected members of the community, working as farm bailiffs, publicans, policemen and and even, occasionally, as soldiers.
Until the folksong revival of the 50s brought the family fame and recognition, Bob and his cousin Ron, kept alive the family songs. All these songs had been learned orally, at father’s or grandfather’s knee as he repaired shoes or mended sacks, or within the family circle.
Several songs by the Copper family were recorded at the Central Club in Peacehaven, a social centre run by Bob and his wife Joan, whom he had married in 1941.
This encounter triggered a relationship with the BBC, for Bob who himself became a wandering collector and recorder of songs around Sussex and beyond.
Shortly after his 87th birthday, Bob went to New York to meet the American folksinger Pete Seeger, five years his junior, whose work he had long admired.
Four days before his death he was invested with an MBE.