Search site


James (John) Copley

Members will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 11 January 2006, of Mr James (John) Copley, former Lecturer in the Overseas Education Unit of the School of Education.

Born in 1916, John Copley graduated from Leeds with first-class Honours in English in1938 and, as a West Riding Research Scholar, went on to complete an MA (awarded with Distinction) for a study of the relationship between words and music in the fifteenth-century English Carol. After war service overseas, he taught for the City of Cambridge Education Authority and lectured in the evenings for Cambridge University Extra-Mural Board and for the Workers Educational Association, before returning to Leeds to lecture for two years (from 1949 to 1951) in the School of Librarianship in the then College of Commerce. He spent most of the next decade overseas. Initially, he lectured in English in the University of Malaya (in Singapore), a period that left him with a deep understanding and lasting appreciation for the region and its inhabitants. In 1957, he took up a post as senior lecturer in English in the University College of Sierra Leone, where he was also head of department.

In 1962, John Copley was appointed Lecturer at Leeds. Although his post was ostensibly in the Nuffield Centre within the School of Adult Education, he rapidly gravitated through a combination of circumstance and personal interest and aptitude to a full-time association with the Institute, later the School, of Education. Here he taught courses in drama and literature offered to overseas teachers; from 1970 to 1976 he took charge of the work of the Overseas Education Unit in the area of English language teaching. To his work, he brought a keen sympathy and understanding of the needs of his students. The retirement appreciation, written by friend and colleague John Glover, referred to the many students who had deeply benefited from his concerned appreciation of their problems and steady encouragement of their aspirations; and went on:

Johns contacts with colleagues and students were always quiet and thoughtful, sensitive and utterly good-humoured. Those who were privileged to hear his original vocal and musical contributions to our annual Scargill House conference at Kettlewell will also recall the depth of insight and witty observation which enriched his lyrics and melodies.

John Copley had wide-ranging interests in literature, the theatre and music. He was the author of numerous contributions to Notes and Queries, to English Studies and to the publications of the Thoresby Society. An interest in historical semantics found expression in his book Shift of Meaning, published by the OUP in 1961 and reprinted three years later. He also documented the history of theatre in Leeds for the opening of the Playhouse in 1970.

John Copley retired in 1981, after nineteen years service. He is survived by a son, Michael.