CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in East Anglia

People - 3 of 13: Billy Cooper, 1 of 3


Reg Hall tells the story of Billy Cooper himself; he was born in London, but came back to Hingham in 1883 when he was one.

His father showed him a scale on the dulcimer and promised him one of his own if he could play a tune by his 10th birthday: he won the dulcimer.

With two friends, Jack Bond, who played an autoharp made by Billy's father, and later guitar, and Walter Balwin, also a guitarist whom Billy said was "the best working player I ever heard", he made up a nigger-minstrel band playing for dances before and after the Great War. He joined up in 1915, was a corporal-in-charge of the fife-and-drum band, and while stationed on the East Coast played the dulcimer for the Army service (25).

His granddaughter Bridget said that he used to play with his daughter Flora on piano, on a cart, before she became married, apparently in processions and the like.

He never talked very much about other players, and Russell Wortley got the impression that he played on his own rather much, but he told Reg Hall about travelling to dances with his sister-in-law, and playing with Walter and Daisy Bulwer, on violin and piano.

He was adept at tuning, and would quite happily tune to a piano at one pitch in the daytime, and change to suit another in the evening, taking only 15 minutes to tune 120 strings.

He also played the concertina, autoharp and one-string fiddle, and sang comic songs (25).