(3)  Stephen Coppinger


From this Stephen, who steered a discreet course in troubled times, and lies honourably buried in his own tomb in Shandon churchyard, most of the existing Coppingers of his clan and their allied families trace descent.  So far as tradition, backed by scanty evidence, goes, there were, at intervals, Coppingers of Ballyvolane whose lives were spent in the conservative process of nursing the property, evading penal enactments, warding off dangerous creditors, and keeping the old acres together.  These were usually preceded and succeeded by adventurous followers of the Stuarts, and reckless, jovial sportsmen; the old proverb of "After a gatherer comes a scatterer," seeming true both in its usual application and in the inverted form of "After a scatterer comes a gatherer." All the sons of the Stephen suffered severely for King James;  while his discreet, though genial grandson and namesake, got off with a few years of exile and a certain share of encumbrances.  His sons were somewhat more reckless and lavish than was discreet; and the last William Coppinger of Barryscourt devoted a long life to the honourable pursuit of paying ancestral debts.  There is good reason for thinking that the story current in the family of this Stephen Coppinger's property having been saved from forfeiture in Cromwellian times, by some mysterious intervention of Oliver Cromwell himself, is not without a foundation.  There are many versions of the story; the one most accurate is probably that often related by the late William Coppinger of Barryscourt.  It was as follows:-

Stephen Coppinger was sent abroad to be educated, as it was impossible for Catholics to be well educated at home.  Tradition avers he studied at the University of Louvain.  It is said that on one occasion he had called at whatever place he was in the habit of getting his money - either a banker's or merchant's house.  He was coming away in high delight and saw another young man, who also spoke English, leaving in great dejection, having received no remittance. In the openness of his heart and the fulness of his purse the young Irishman proffered to lend a few pieces.  The Englishman accepted the offer, gave either an I O U or a receipt, and in a few days received his remittance and honourably discharged his debt.  The signature was Oliver Cromwell.  He also gave Stephen Coppinger a ring, either as a security at the time or as a token of regard.  When Cromwell summoned the recusant Papists before him to the King's Old Castle, Stephen Coppinger came with his fellow-Catholics.  Cromwell wore his hat, and it was broad-brimmed, and pulled low down over his brows.  Stephen did not recognise him in the least, but either he recognised his former helper or he recognised his own ring, for he called over Stephen Coppinger, reminded him of old times, and preserved him and his from all injury.  Tradition further avers that he spent the Christmas with him at Ballyvolane.

This is the version of the story as related by the late Canon Bolster, an old friend of the late Mr. Coppinger's, but there are other versions stating that it was a forgiven gambling debt.[1]

Stephen was born in 1610.  His mother was Catherine, daughter of Alderman John Copinger, thrice Mayor of Cork. Unlike his father, he married but once, and Ellice Gould, who erected the tomb to her "deare husband," seems to have been the fruitful mother of all the brave sons who suffered exile and poverty for King James.  As Thomas the eldest was married in January, 1669, when his father was 59 years old, Stephen must have married tolerably early himself.  There is a family tradition that Ellice Gould and her grandson's wife Joan Gould were of the same powerful and influential city family of Danish descent, prolific in Mayors and Aldermen.  Stephen's successful application to the Court of Claims was made in 1668, and the decree bears date Wednesday, 22nd July, 15 Charles II., and by some means or other Stephen steered a clear and prosperous course through the troubles of the time, and remained possessed of the same lands enjoyed by his namesake, who died in 1600.  How he contrived to effect this we have now no means of knowing.  Sir Robert, who was probably very distantly related to him, designates him in his Will as "Cheife of ye name."  It is strange how the old non-Celtic families fell into this Irish Custom, and in legal documents in Latin they used to designate the head of a family in the very same words applied to an Irish Chieftain, literally Captain of his nation.

The application made by his grandson and namesake to the Chichester House Commissioners in 1700, gives an account of the possessions, which are precisely those enjoyed by Stephen Coppinger, who died the first year of the 17th century.  The old law-suit spells Irish names phonetically. Granacloyne is given as containing half a ploughland in the Barony of Barrymore, but, curiously enough, there is no mention of Killacloyne, which goes with it; the two form a long, narrow strip of 600 English acres.  He also owned the Parkes or Lands (town parks in our modern phrase), Coppinger's Acre, East Coppinger's Acre, and Coppinger's Parke in the north suburbs and parish of St. Mary's Shandon.  In his grandfather's Inquisition, appears Garrani Coppineri (Anglicé: Coppinger's Garden).  Garden, in Anglo-Irish, means a place for tillage; and Coppinger's "parke" (inclosed fields) may have been in tillage two generations earlier.  The first property in the South Liberties is Templestown, now called Ballintemple.  It is the townsland of the Templars, and was probably got after the annihilation of the once powerful order.  There is a tradition that the right of presentation to the Catholic living of Shandon, only taken back by Rome within this present century, came with these lands of Knight's Templars.  The townsland was lost for King James, but the right was exercised for 200 years more.  In Stephen's grandson's claim this townsland is called Templestowne Beating, alias Knocknabeating.  Knockyvostragh and Stanton's Acre, otherwise Parky Coppinery's (Coppinger's Field) are in Ballinlough, in the South Liberties also; these form the bits of land in the South Liberties, still enjoyed by their posterity.

The Southern Lands, separated by city and river from Ballyvolane and the Coppinger's Acre and Fields, in the same Northern parish, were the lands settled by him by way of jointure on the loving and faithful old wife who erected his tomb.

Stephen died in 1681, and the following is the inscription on the tomb in the east side of the churchyard of St Anne's Shandon : -

In this Monument eret
ed at the charges of
Elizabeth Coppinger alias
Goold. Here lyeth the body of
Her dear Husband Step
hen Coppinger chief of the
name who deceased the
28th day of July 1681
Aged 71 years.

The old man had the happiness of seeing four stout sons rise about him.  Heaven was merciful, and he died one year past the patriarchal age three score and ten, a few years before attainder and outlawry drove away all four.  Their mother lived to see the beginning of their misfortunes. She had time to raise the tomb to her husband, and seven years after was laid beside him.  The quaint old tomb is shaped much like a child's Noah's Ark, and covers a vault out on the churchyard of St. Anne's, Shandon.  The present Protestant Church, so designated, was built early in the last century on the site of the old Church of St. Mary's, Shandon, to which, in Catholic times, the Coppingers of Ballyvolane appointed the parish priest.  The tomb is made of large plain stones, and the roof is also formed of stone slabs.  The writer caused it to be repaired recently.  The inscription was quite legible, cut deep into a large smooth stone facing the road.[2]  Two other sides bears inscriptions let into the masonry.  A large slab commemorates a descendant of the Coppingers of Midleton, whose remains were afterwards removed, and a small slab of white marble marks the last resting-place of the writer's late husband's mother, who sleeps with her ancestors a few paces from the quaint tower which enshrines the sweet-voiced Bells of Shandon.


[1] The story is thus related in Wright's History of Ireland, vol. ii.,p.86, note.  "Mr. Coppinger was travelling abroad in Holland, in the reign of James I., and was placed in circumstances under which he became security for a young Englishman for a debt for which he was arrested.  The bills which were drawn by the stranger in Mr. Coppinger's favour in liquidation upon England were dishonoured, and there the matter rested, Mr. Coppinger having made good the payment.  In 1649, at the Court of Claims in Cork, he was recognised by Cromwell, who sent a message to him that he could not decide upon the forfeiture of his property without seeing him. Mr. Coppinger accordingly waited upon His Excellency, when Cromwell inquired, 'Is not your name Coppinger?'  'Yes.'  'Were you not at __ ?' naming the town and the year.  'Yes.'  'Did you not become security for a young man whose bills were never honoured, and you had to pay?'  'Yes.' 'Then,' said Cromwell. 'I am that man, and you will receive your estates without further question, in compensation of these bills.'  While Cromwell remained at Cork he is said to have made Mr. Coppinger's house at Ballyvolane his head-quarters, and there to have kept his Christmas.

[2] His descendants, the Coppingers of Granacloyne and Midleton, continued to be buried there until 1847.



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