(32)  James Copinger


He was frequently employed in important political service for the English Government.

He served the cause of the Bourbon family in the wars of the Vendée, where he distinguished himself; and his widow who survived him met with much kindness from the unfortunate royal family when in exile from their native land.  When his father, John Copinger, of Roscoff, emigrated, he, probably not realizing the peril to which his family might be exposed, left his three younger children at St. Pol de Leon, Daniel at school, and his daughters receiving their education at the Convent of the Ursulines.  But the revolution merging into the reign of terror under Robespierre, the nuns were dispersed and the children scattered.  Their mother, then in Cornwall with her husband, suffered at this critical period the greatest anxiety on their account, and James, the eldest son, who had accompanied his parents to England, undertook to return to France in order to seek his brothers and sisters and bring them to England if possible in safety.  No easy task this however at that time.  No sooner had he landed in Brittany than he was tracked, arrested, and imprisoned as an emigrant Aristocrate, and as such sentenced to the guillotine.  On hearing the sentence a sturdy peasant woman raised her voice declaring that the "Citizen was a friend of the people, that he and his family had fed the hungry, and had always assisted the poor in all their needs."  Whereupon a host of market people chimed in, "Why the very fire buckets in the town-house were bestowed on us by his family, and many a poor man's home have his parents saved from destruction."  This allusion might have proved unfortunate, as the said fire buckets bore the family crest, the unmistakeable badge of a proscribed race.  However, the people so urgently pleaded for the prisoner's release, that they did obtain for him a reprieve, during which it was decided that his case should be revised, and if eventually condemned he should be executed with the next batch.  The reprieve was of short duration, the reign of terror had just reached its climax, the next batch was more numerous than the last, every man sentenced to death had his head and neck shaved overnight in due preparation for execution the following day.  When lo! the fall of Robespierre was announced.  His minions, staggered and crest-fallen, delayed the executions, and soon after the prisoners were released.  No sooner was James liberated than he resumed the search which had been the object of his perilous enterprise.  At length the children were discovered disguised in peasant's garb; they had found shelter in a Breton hamlet, where they had been hospitably treated.  They now proceeded on their homeward journey, and reaching the coast without further molestation, joyfully sailed for England and were restored to their family.

After the final overthrow of the Emperor Napoleon, and during the subsequent restoration of the Bourbons, James was left in the peaceable enjoyment of the old Roscoff property.  This he enjoyed until the year 1820, when having a promise of a consulship from the British Government he decided on removing with his family to Boulogne for educational purposes, his eldest son being then about seven years of age. He met his death in a somewhat interesting manner and in a way characteristic of, and in keeping with, the whole of his career.  Having decided on settling in Boulogne he sailed from Roscoff, and after visiting in Cornwall the many friends who still gathered round the old Cornish homestead, he proceeded to London, where having settled affairs to his satisfaction, he embarked in a packet then passing between Dover and Boulogne. On starting the sky was hazy and the sea was rough, and in nearing the coast of France they were assailed by a violent storm of wind and rain - the ship became unmanageable, struck on the rocks, and threatened every moment to break up or sink.  Here they remained until boats from the shore were able to reach them.  James, ever anxious as to the care of others and regardless of self, assisted in filling the several boats which had come to the rescue, and was about to step into the last boat, which had even then received its full complement, when he remembered that amongst the rescued passengers he had not seen a little child of about three years of age who had attracted his notice in the early part of the voyage.  Bent upon seeking him he refused to enter the last boat, requesting the boatmen to remain a moment while he searched the cabin for the missing one.  Down he went, and lo there was the little child with two ladies, all equally helpless and panic stricken, too weak to proceed by themselves to the deck, and left to perish miserably, in the fast sinking vessel.  He immediately set to work to assist them to the deck, no easy matter considering the condition in which they were; and it was only with considerable difficulty, and by strapping the child on his back by means of two bandana handkerchiefs, thus leaving his arms free to support the fainting women, that he succeeded in his gallant task.  By the time he reached the last boat was steering off, and indeed it was too much crowded already to have possibly taken the company now brought on the scene with the hope of deliverance.  "Hold hard," shouted a boatman, "we'll send out another boat at once."  But it was a matter of five hours longer before they could be rescued - a period fraught with danger and anxiety, and exposure to the violence of the elements.  At length the eagerly looked for boat arrived, and James and his charges were safely taken to land, and the little one restored to the hands of those who, in the panic of the moment, had sought their own safety in disregard of their own flesh and blood; for it seemed that they had effected a safe landing in the very first boat that had started for the shore.  Our hero now hastened with all speed to his hotel, where, drenched as he was, his most earnest demand was for pen, ink, and paper, in order to write to his wife to acquaint her with his safety.  In vain did the good host of the Lion d'Or remonstrate; he could not, however, prevail upon him to delay writing, for he feared some exaggerated account of the wreck might reach his wife through the papers and cause her the greatest anxiety. Finally, the result of this night's work was a violent cold, which settled on the lungs, and from which he never recovered.  He just rallied sufficiently to bring his family to Boulogne, but that was all.  The night of exposure had been too much for a constitution never robust, and he passed away in the month of July, 1821, a victim to a generosity of character which never deserted him in any action of his life.  It is worthy of note that in the end, as in the early days of his youth,  he was fated to succour and rescue the helpless at the risk and peril of his own life.

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