Hubert was born on 25th September 1918 the only child of Hubert Stephen deBurgh Copinger and Jane Trinita Copinger, née McSwiney.
The following biographical notes were written by his cousin Ian Stuart Copinger:
Hubert clearly had a sound education and was brought up within a strongly religious family. Born and raised a Catholic Hubert and his parents, by mutual consent, left the Roman Catholic Church in 1937 to become Anglicans.
Hubert was 20 years old when he applied for a post at the British Museum. There is a contemporary family story which says that his application was at first turned down but then he was recalled to be asked if he was related to “the great Dr. Copinger”. This of course was Walter Arthur Copinger, Hubert’s great uncle. At this point he was given a position in the Department of Coins and Medals where he stayed for 22 years becoming a recognized expert on Communion Tokens. His article on the subject published in the journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, "Numismatic Chronicle" is included within this web site.
As a devout member of the Church of England he became associated with the Society of Saint Francis but since the death of his father in 1949 he was committed to the care of his mother and was unable to make a greater commitment to the Society until after her death in 1960. He finally joined the Society as a postulant on Christmas Eve 1960.
He studied at Ely Theological College from 1960, was ordained Priest in Ely Cathedral on 22nd September 1963 and, as the Rev. Bro. Hubert SSF., became Curate of St. Benet’s Church in Cambridge which is run by the Society. His life with the Society of St. Francis is most ably recounted in the sermon given at his funeral.
My first contact with Hubert was in December 1963 while I was gathering information on the family history. He came to stay with my wife and I and our growing family on four occasions. Hubert was a man who, it has to be said, enjoyed his food to the full. He introduced us to the delicacy of smoked cheese and told the story that someone at the Cambridge house had once, mistakenly, put him in charge of buying the food and he had spent most of the week’s budget on smoked cheese. I found that he also enjoyed Newcastle Brown Ale and, at that time, the occasional cigarette.
He loved puns which he popped into the conversation whenever possible. Now that our daughter Ruth has gone to live in Corfu he would have so delighted in saying that we are “ruthless”.
My wife Pat took him to the nearby Lambton Wildlife Park where he demonstrated his love of cats by rather unwisely opening the car window and shouting “Puss puss puss” to some basking lions who were really too close for comfort but had obviously just been fed.
Thinking back to his time at Ely, Hubert told us that at one time a newly appointed Bishop of Ely briefly visited the Theological College and immediately insisted that the place be exorcised before his enthronement. I mention this only because on his first visit to us he looked at our bookcase and said, “Oh good, you’ve got some Dennis Wheatley”. His reading on that and subsequent visits largely consisted of Dennis Wheatley black magic books, “To the Devil a daughter” etc.
Two of his visits were timed to coincide with the christening of our children David and Anne. Hubert was their Godfather and in fact baptized them. The Rector and later our friend the Curate, saw the appearance of Hubert on the horizon as an excuse for having a day, or at least a service, off and would gladly hand over their flock and the communion service into Hubert’s capable hands. Hubert was of course delighted to be of help to them.
On one of Hubert’s visits to our cousin Paul Copinger in Scotland, Paul took him to Dunblane Cathedral. Hubert also wished to visit the Cathedral Museum in the Dean’s House which he knew contained a collection of Communion Tokens. They were met by an unhelpful curator who seemed reluctant to display the tokens and unable to answer Hubert’s questions. Hubert, remaining calm and charming, continued the conversation until in became clear to the curator that he was "THE" Hubert Copinger, late of the British Museum, whose expert knowledge on the subject was well known to him. The curator’s demeanour suddenly changed and he could not have been more helpful. The problem then became, not getting into the museum but getting away from it.
Everyone who knew Hubert will have their own memories of him. Pat and I will remember his charm, his rich humour, his appetite and his attempts to teach us how to play three-handed bridge.
Hubert Stephen Augustine Copinger, Brother Hubert SSF, died on 28 February 2003 in hospital in Dorchester and his funeral mass was at Hilfield Priory, Dorset. He was aged eighty-four years and in the thirty-eighth year of his profession of vows. The following obituary was published in the Franciscan, the magazine of the Society of St Francis, Volume 15 number 3 dated 2003.
Hubert SSF, RIP
Afraid that the parrot might be lonely the owner put a little budgerigar in to keep him company at night. The next morning the owner came in and found the budgerigar dead.. That night he decided to put in a bigger bird, another parrot, but the next morning the same thing happened - the parrot was dead.
'I'm going to put the fear of God into this parrot', the owner said. So he went out and bought a great big vulture and put it in the cage that night. Next morning the vulture was lying dead, the parrot had no feathers on and looking up at the owner said, 'I had to take my coat off for that one'.
I have never told a joke at a funeral in my life before, but jokes were so much a part of Hubert's life that I felt it might be appropriate for this occasion. All of Hubert's jokes were family entertainment.
What does the Gospel say at this time? As usual, a great deal. It says that this life is not the only life. There is life beyond the grave in the nearer presence of God. 'If you are faithful unto death I will give you a crown of life.' And for me it is this dimension of life after death that helps to put suffering in this life into perspective. Some people and some families seem to be handed more than their fair share of suffering. I would not say that this was so with Hubert, but there was suffering at various points in his life and those last few years were not easy for a man who had always been very active. But the Gospel assures us that in the nearer presence of God Hubert is not suffering now and his body and his spirit are as free as a bird. Revelation 21 assures us that he is in a place where there is no more death or mourning or crying of pain. After the faithful life he has lived Hubert deserves to be there. May I just leave the last word to St. Paul. 'I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.' Romans 8, 18.
I don't think Hubert would want this to be a
sad occasion. In fact I think he would want it to be the opposite,
a celebration. Not a celebration of his life, he was far too
humble a man for that, but a celebration of the fact that he has
gone to be in the nearer presence of God, so much closer to God
than we could ever be in this life. Now that is something
He joined SSF when he was made a postulant on Christmas Eve, 1960. He made his final profession on August 15, 1968. Hubert served for one year in Cambridge, four years at Hooke School (quite an achievement), eight years at Hilfield during which time he was priest-in-charge of Hilfield and Hermitage, and the sixteen years in Belfast. He left Belfast in 1992, going to Scunthorpe for a year before moving to Hilfield, where he remained until his death.
Hubert was trained for the priesthood at Ely Theological College and I know at least one brother who would attribute his vocation to contact with Hubert at Ely.
Hubert came to Belfast in 1976. It was the heart of the Troubles and the Brothers lived in the Shankhill Road, an area which had seen more than its fair share of violence. But tough as it was Hubert handled that situation well, and that led me to believe something that has been confirmed many times since - Hubert was a man of courage. He did not give up easily, even when the going was tough. He worked in four different parishes in Belfast, all of them very different both in Churchmanship and the area in which the parish was situated. Hubert got on well in all of them, and that showed me something else about his character - he was adaptable.
He always claimed to be Irish, and that was indeed where much of his family background originated from. He was proud to be Irish, but
I am sure that you will understand that with his rather posh English accent it took some time before I was convinced.
One of Hubert's main spiritual interests was meditation and, indeed, he was an enthusiastic member of the Fellowship of Contemplative Meditation. I would say that his little booklet on meditation is as good as I have read on the subject.
His love for cats is well known and this often came out in the pronunciation of words like catastrophe and Magnificat, never failing to put the accent in the right place.
One of the qualities that I admired in Hubert was that he never held grudges. No matter what had been said or done he never held grudges. Just recently Sir Alex Ferguson was in the news when, after a match that Manchester United lost, he kicked a boot in the dressing-room and hit David Beckham above the eye and cut him. There was a furore in the press. For three or four days Alex Ferguson said nothing. But then he said something that Hubert would have approved of - 'It's time to move on'. When something unpleasant happened Hubert did not dwell on it. He moved on as quickly as possible.
I found him to be a very loyal person, loyal to the Rector of a parish he worked in and loyal to the Guardian of the house he lived in. He was also a faithful religious. Hubert's entry into the Society was delayed because of a family commitment. But once he entered he was very faithful to the Society and to the living of the vows.
I have many memories of Hubert. I remember when I joined SSF in 1973, at the Sunday morning breakfast, a talking breakfast, he asked me to pass him the salt. I obviously was not moving quickly enough for him because he immediately reached across me, pushed me out of the way and grabbed the salt for himself. Needless to say, I was not too pleased. A few minutes later, when breakfast was over, I ran into Hubert in the corridor. He told me that there was a message for me in my 'pigeon-hole'. It was from Hubert - 'Please forgive my Irish temper. Hubert SSF'. I respect that. Some people seem to find it very difficult to say sorry, but not Hubert.
One of the stories that has gone into the folklore is that occasion when Michael was Minister-Provincial. He rang the Friary at Hilfield. Hubert answered the phone. 'This is Michael here.' Hubert replied, 'No, he's not.' Phone down immediately. He was quick, and sometimes abrasive.
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