A Family of Many Blessings and Gifts
20th Century Histories
Ashley Shaftesbury Cooper was born on December 3, 1890 at Wiarton, Bruce county, Ontario, Canada. He was the son of Joseph Balton Cooper and Ethel Manley of Orillia, Ontario, Canada. Family report his mother Ethel died at his birth. Ashley died February 6, 1967 in Vancouver B.C. Canada. His father was a practicing pharmacist in Ontario.
Eileen Honorah Williamson was
born 24 February 1889 at Widnes, Lancashire, UK, and died on March 13, 1980
at Vancouver B.C. Eileen was the second daughter of John and Ellen
Williamson of Widnes
Ashley Cooper ca 1908 Eileen Williamson ca 1907 and
later of Vancouver B.C. Canada. Her father John owned a tailor
shop and was active in local and regional Liberal Party politics
in Lancashire. He was later a journalist and editor of various
newspapers British Columbia.
We are inclined to believe that
Ashley's father may have been a remittance man. It was widely known in
Canada during the late 19th and early 20th centuries that men called
"remittance men"; were men banished to the overseas Dominions, were often
the sons of aristocrats or of other prominent men. They were sent away
in Victorian times, amply funded, for various reasons, usually because they
cause embarrassment to acknowledge as born out of wedlock, as
criminals, or suffered various unhappy reputations.
Eileen Williamson seemed to inherit
both the traces of her ancestors good looks and love of the arts and of life
in general. The family claim her father spoiled her and she expressly
adored him. At his knee she listened to his storytelling and the music
of his violin. As she grew and matured she learned to play the violin,
which she played well. Eileen began her life long adventure in
writing, dabbled in sketching, painting, a little prose, however reading and
writing poetry was her special interest and love. She engaged and
absorbed poetry enthusiastically all her life. She was this author's
godmother. As she and Ashley were childless, she endowed her love on
the author and his siblings, nieces and nephews in great measure. While some of the less
enthused critics of her poetry find her creations as enjoyable, others have
praised her skill and talent with honors and prizes to be treasured.
She was also a fascinating incurable romantic, seriously in love with love!
Eileen exuded a deep attraction to the romantic life. She would tell of the young lads she fell in love with even as a very young girl. Later as she matured into a young woman, her beauty and romantic personality captured the heart of many young suitors. She was expressly fascinated by the Irish lads she met when holidaying each year at Knockanglass in Tipperary She well remembered a special boy friend she left behind at the Tralee railway station in County Kerry on her way back to Tipperary and to England. Evidently he and she felt the pain of broken hearts over the separation. In later years her poetry, her reading and her movie watching seemed to always reflect her romantic preoccupation. Now, she never displayed preoccupation with hidden sexual implications, she was just a truly romantic heart who was in love with the idea of human and divine love and adored its purity and goodness. This love is also apparent in her religious faith and in her love for Jesus for whom she honored in her poems, "The Cross" and "In the Garden of Gethsemane".
Ashley and Eileen married secretly in 1913 at St Phillips Anglican Church in Vancouver. The Williamson parents were offended by the way it was privately carried out. They convinced the couple to do it properly again at the family church of St Patrick's in front of a large gathering of family and friends during a nuptial Mass. Ashley had been raised to belong to the Loyal Orange Lodge, that held no small disrespect for Catholics and the Catholic church. Ashley's decision to marry Eileen, an RC, was considered a serious offence against the family and the lodge. In the following years he was treated rather shabbily by his grandfather Manley, yet his grandmother Manley and his cousins never denied or ceased their love for him.
So, the couple began their deeply committed married life which never diminished or faltered as their lives drew them ever closer together. Ashley literally adored her, never ever showing anything but a deep love for her all the days of his life. He was revered by the Williamson's as a man of learning, of dignity, and a thorough gentleman. He eventually converted and became a Catholic and ever offered his abiding love and loyalty to the faith. The family considered their inability to bring children into the world an unfortunate tragedy.
Eileen's desire to create poems never diminished throughout her life. Almost any idea or event that caught her imagination was subject to her pen. While she found Byron and Shelley and other classic poets most attractive, she had a very special love for John Keats and studied his style and approach for years. She would receive the inspiration to write frequently, often suddenly, and would drop everything else to put her thoughts and verses to paper --- on whatever she could find at the moment, be it a napkin, scrap of paper, or on the backs of envelopes within her reach. After an episode of writing and editing a new poem, Ashley would take the new creation to his old Underwood typewriter to type it up for posterity. With her permission, a few months before her death in 1980, this author gathered almost 100 of her poems, had them newly retyped, copied, and packaged in covers, and dispensed these treasures to her remaining siblings and some nieces and nephews. Two of her acclaimed poems, one named "The Cross" for which she received a gold medal in a 1933 international competition, is printed below for the reader's interest.
Ashley was a simple humble man who
never seemed to have any great ambitions in life other than his great love
and joy of learning about the wonders of the world, his love of history,
wisdom and honor. Eileen was all that really mattered to him. He
remained a telegrapher all his life. They owned an old 1922 Willis Overland
Whippet car which seem to go on and on for years and finally broke down
around 1950. They did not venture far from the city in their little
car and frequently spent evenings at Spanish Banks beach walking along the
shore or sitting in the car enjoying the gorgeous scenery of mountains and
sea that surrounds the inlet of Vancouver harbor. Sometimes Ashley
would collect pieces of wood for their home fireplace from along the beach. He
was a handy wood carver and would make bows and arrows, whistles or sling
shots for the visiting nephews, and trinkets for the nieces.
Those members of her extended family --- remaining siblings, nieces and nephews and a few friends remember "Eily and Ash" as they were affectionately called, with happy memories. Their loving ways and joyful natures remain with us forever. May they rest in everlasting peace and joy!
This story of Ashley and Eileen Cooper is a happy work of their godson John Farrell Hopwood who loved them and is grateful to them for their loving presence in his life. Copyright © 2009
A Presentation of a Recognition and a Few of the Poems of Eileen Honorah Cooper
The following announcement was published in The Poetry Quarterly (Summer, 1933) an English periodical devoted to British and American poetry and drama.
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THE GOLD MEDAL