The death of James Copeland, peacefully at his home in Twickenham after a lingering illness, brings to an end a long career. He was born in Helensburgh and after war work in aircraft engineering, had stints as a water bailiff and policeman before the variety of endeavours for which he will be remembered: as actor, writer, poet, and songwriter.
His film work ranged from Innocents in Paris and The Maggie in the 1950s, to The Big Man in the 1990s. In the theatre, he created the role, in 1955, of Carnoustie Bligh in Sailor Beware, which ran for four years, and starred in The Caretaker, a role he adapted to the Glasgow dialect for Cumbernauld Theatre in 1981. His television appearances spanned an early black-and -white episode of Dad's Army, Operation Kilt, which was recently rediscovered and shown at Christmas, Dr Finlay's Casebook, for which he wrote two episodes, and Brigadista, as well as being Grampian TV's start-up presenter and continuity announcer in 1961. There were also riotous folk and poetry shows with Hamish Imlach and the young Humblebum, Billy Connolly.
He will be best remembered, however, in the context of poetry. He was an expert on Burns, McGonagall and Service and, as a poet in his own right, the author of Some Work and Shoogly Table Book of Verse and the writer of the song These are my Mountains. The Burns nights, the McGonagall nights, and Copeland nights will live in the memory of those who were moved to tears and laughter.
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James Copeland was made a Freeman of the City of London in 1955. He was married to Helen, who predeceased him in 1997, and father to Laura and James (Cosmo) the actor and entrepreneur, and a doting grandfather.
James Copeland, actor;
born May 1, 1918, died
April 17, 2002.