BWS OBITUARY Reverend Malcolm Cooper
BWS 1948-1955 d. 27th June 2020 Proud to have been a pupil of William Golding. Eulogy from his son, Adrian Cooper.
BWS OBITUARY My father was a complex man who lived a full and remarkable life.
Reverend Malcolm Cooper
d. 27th June 2020
Proud to have been a pupil of William Golding
Eulogy from his son, Adrian Cooper
He was born in Trowbridge in Wiltshire, the only son of the local policeman and the daughter of a Swindon builder. He was very proud to be a Moonraker and I imagine that many of you will have heard the story of the canny Wiltshire yokels pretending to rake the moon from a pond to cover the recovery of smuggled brandy casks. As a child, he loved to explore on his bike
, with many expeditions around the Wiltshire countryside which is where he first developed a strong interest in the natural environment. His love of singing and music started aged 9
when he sang in the church choir and was a part of his life wherever he lived. He was cantor in Theological College in Lincoln, and joined choirs in Somerset, Cambridgeshire and of course he sang with the Yeoman Singers in Baschurch here in Shropshire. Dad attended Bishop Wordsworth Grammar School in Salisbury
, where along with 3 or 4 other boys, he was identified as needing extra English lessons. The boys were allocated a rather eccentric teacher, who taught them to think and express themselves, rather than just the literature. Their first lesson was to write an essay on the philosophical proposition Cogito ergo sum
(I think, therefore I am), whilst the teacher sat down and continued to write what was later to become the Nobel Prize-winning novel, the Lord of the Flies. William Golding was to have quite an effect on Dad, who from then on always challenged people in conversation rather than making polite chit-chat. The family got used to it but it could be quite unnerving for others. Dad had a lifelong association with the Scouting movement
and won the Queen Scout Award in 1953 and was presented with a certificate at a national event by the Chief Scout at Gilwell. He was then selected as one of two scouts to represent the UK as part of a European contingent spending six weeks touring the USA in 1954 as guests of the Boy Scouts of America. This trip also resulted in a number of life-long international friendships with scouts from Finland and Sweden. Dad met my Mum Trixie, who was at Teacher Training College in Salisbury
, at a dance whilst on weekend leave from his national service regiment in Woolwich. His platoon embarked for Suez, but luckily the Crisis was over before they arrived, getting as far as Malta when they heard word. Dad then went up to Pembroke College, Oxford initially to read Forestry
, but graduating in Botany. He even found time to author and publish a biology textbook. He has retained a strong association with Pembroke College throughout his life, attending functions, arranging year group reunions, and fund raising. He was given two awards by the College for this work. Even though he explored employment as a professional botanist
, it was at this point that he was called to Christian ministry and applied to the Theological college at Lincoln for training as a Minister. Mum and Dad married in 1961 in her
home town of Knaresborough, the week after her school term finished and just before his course started at Lincoln. The first 2 years of marriage were conducted in Lincoln after Compline, and supposedly in silence. Trixie got home from school as Malcolm disappeared to lectures. Last week would have been their 59th anniversary, and this is testament to the strength of their partnership. Dad’s ordination in Ripon Cathedral
was followed in the afternoon by my sister Jane's baptism to take advantage of the fact that all the family were already present. His first parish as curate was in Wensleydale where I was born and where he made many long-lasting friends. The next move was to a suburb of Reading
, however his vision of Christian ministry proved out of place in this context and so he began a new career in social housing, initially as a rent collector on the Blackbird Leys estate which was built to house workers for the British Leyland car plant at Cowley in Oxford. My brother Giles was born during this period. Alongside his new job, Dad was also licensed by the Church and worked Sundays as an unpaid church minister. This became the pattern of his working life for the next 35 years.
He took the professional exam for the Institute of Housing, for which he came 2nd in the world and then developed his career with a move to Romsey in Hampshire as housing manager and after a short period a move to Bridgewater in Somerset as Assistant Chief Housing Officer. All this moving around had been very difficult for the family,
but eventually Jane left to go to college, I was away at boarding school, Giles was at school locally and Mum was able to go back to work in schools with the NSPCC. However, the top job beckoned and the next move was to Ely in Cambridgeshire as Chief Officer covering Housing, Environmental Health and Works Manager. At the same time, he worked on Sundays as a minister at the local group of churches. Dad enjoyed significant professional success at this time and became the government's specialist adviser on rural housing. With retirement from local government in 1992
he took on the role of managing housing for the Ely Diocese, where he was tasked with selling the older rectories and finding more suitable accommodation, managing to accumulate considerable sums for the diocese in the process, reflecting the value of property in Cambridgeshire. He also sat on the Bishop's Council
putting up many revolutionary but practical ideas. He also worked with lots of charities, national and local and was if anything busier in retirement than he had been in his working life. The Bishop then offered him a small rural parish at Coveney near Ely and he and Trixie were very happily involved in the local community there for many years. The church warden could not be here today but said,''Little did Coveney realise when the Bishop licensed Malcolm, how their lives would change. Classical Malcolm, wherever he went things happened. His great capacity to get people doing things without their realising till later was a wonder to behold. A parish outing to Malaysia, of course was possible and happened twice! We will miss his original mind that thought not only logically but also laterally, his single-mindedness, and his care for those in need without support. He was not only a strong family man, but a great people person, and we shall all be poorer for his passing.'' When he moved to Shropshire in 2005
, he had already satisfied a long-held desire to have his own woodland by buying Merrington Coppice. It seemed an enormous task, with a 100-year plan, but under his stewardship we have already made significant progress towards returning it to its natural form as ancient woodland and those of us in subsequent generations plan to carry on his good work.
Feeling part of the local community has always been important and Dad was delighted to be asked to join a local group of friends, to play dominoes, discuss woodland and generally put the world to rights initially in the Romping Cat and more recently in the Red Lion at Myddle. I know that he valued their company and their support very highly. He was also very active in the Shrewsbury Rotary Club
, one of the highlights of which was to lead a visit by a group of young Shropshire professionals to Kansas for Rotary International. This group proved to be a happy unit, who have since met each year in the wood for a BBQ. Dad’s was a life well-lived
and, in a way, we are all part of his legacy, not just his children and grandchildren, but all the lasting friendships which he formed and enjoyed and the help and support which he was able to give others throughout his life.Just Giving page in Dad's name for the Smallwoods Association, which is a national charity, based in Shropshire, of which he was a member, and which supports activities which were close to his heart: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/revmalcolmtcooper