An appreciation of Wilfred Cooper

1996/97 - 1997

An appreciation of Wilfred Cooper

by Kieran Clendinning

That the Craigavon Historical Society is flourishing today is due in great measure to the influence of the late Wilfred Cooper. In the beginning when the young society took root its future was carefully cultivated under the skilful and imaginative hand of the Waringstown schoolmaster in his direction and editorship in the publication of Review. The first issue of our magazine carried several sketches of rural buildings by Wilfred, particularly one showing a section of a cross truck dwelling at Annaghanoon, which has become the motif of the society. It also carried an article by Wilfred, and thereafter he contributed to every issue.

Every journal was a high class production and as such are collectors items. What a legacy he has left us. And if that weren't enough, he gave much of his time to serve on the committee from its inception and provided a number of learned lectures relating to history of Waringstown and its association with the handloom weaving industry. Again as a dedicated educationalist he single-handed pioneered the development of the society's schools competition. From its inception this competition proved to be an outstanding success and was - and still is - widely supported by schools of every denomination in North Armagh.

Founder member of the Lurgan Art Club

Besides his work for the Craigavon Historical Society, Wilfred was a founder member of the Lurgan Art Club, and his skill as a water-colourist gained him a reputable place in artistic circles. He exhibited regularly and his work was keenly sought after by patrons both at home and abroad.

But with all that, I think he would like to be remembered for something more personal, the publication "Something to Celebrate" a history of the origin and growth of the Holy Trinity Church, Waringstown, commemorating the three hundredth anniversary of the consecration of the church. The book a most interesting and informative account of the more important events that took place in the life and ministry of the church from its founding in 1681 to 1981, represents the result of his labour and research, and reveals the love and enthusiasms he had for every historical aspect of his beloved Waringstown.

Anyone privileged to know this quiet, modest and agreeable gentleman will feel the poorer with his passing. We in the Craigavon Historical Society will have to redouble our efforts if we are to maintain the standards he has set for us. To his family may we say, "thank you for sharing Wilfred with us."

Archbishop Simms with Wilfred Cooper

The photograph above shows the late Wilfred Cooper [right] exploring Irish illuminated manuscripts with the Most Rev. George Otto Simms, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, during a memorable visit by the Craigavon Historical Society to Armagh and the Primate's Palace, in the 1970s.

Having passed to his eternal reward for a life preponderant in education, history and art, I am sure if he was asked to return to this life he would reply "I'm in my sleeping and let you not waken me."