Anecdotes and ‘what was he like?’:
Character: In his obituary he is described as ‘Of a kindly disposition which endeared him to all who had the pleasure of his aquaintance’.
Apart from that little is on record. Bill Capper’s note below says that he was a great joker, also that he had ‘a mathematical turn of mind’. The anecdotes below give a warm impression of a humorous and kind person.
1) Piece of cheese:
My father (John P. Capper) often quoted this to encourage us to eat up our food as children. He said that his grandfather (John) had once been so hungry that he followed a crow for nine miles, just because it had a piece of cheese in its beak.
This seemed just a funny, fantastic story, but the real background was almost certainly the Potato Famine.
2) Will running:
Another of my father's stories was about his grandfather John going to watch his son Will (Dad’s father) running. When Will won the race, John said 'why didn't you tell me you were so good then I could have bet a Pound on you!' Part of the spice of the joke for Dad was that betting was regarded as a fairly outrageous thing to do anyway.
John Capper’s obituary states that one of the sons - i.e. William - is a well-known local gymnast. See Tim Pratt’s account of William J. Capper for more detail of his sporting activities.
3) In June 1962 my brother Bill Capper made notes of a conversation with our father John P. Capper. Here a transcription of it. My notes are in square brackets.
June ‘62 A Conversation with J.P.C.
Before the war John Capper = Jack, J.P.C.’s uncle and his son x, whose name I’ve forgotten, [x is Cyril Capper. In the text below I will insert his name.], came down to Newport for the burial of his brother W.J.C. [William James Capper Senior, Bill’s and my grandfather b.j.c.]
They started talking about John, the father of W.J.C. and John. (John was older than W.J.C. and Cyril was about 20 years older than J.P.C.).
Cyril remembered his grandfather asking him to read the newspaper to him. He read an item of news about a skirmish in India when a few men were drowned crossing a stream, among them was Sergeant ? Cappi. John then jumped up and said that this was his long-lost brother.
The story was that John and his brother, who were born in Armagh, Ireland, were very poor and illiterate. They met an RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] who told tremendous stories of the life in the army and so they ran away from home and signed up. John had to give a false age to get into the army as he was too young. (This is his son John’s story.) They both went out to India.
They gave their names as Cappi on signing up but they were heard wrong and put down as Capper and lived under that name since. [Have not found old of people with surname Cappi or Cappee in Ireland. bjc]
The trouble is that John was a tremendous joker and Cyril did not know if what he said about his brother was a joke.
John had a mathematical turn of mind and could outdo his son John, who was a schoolmaster, at mental arithmetic.
A family memory is that my great-grandfather’s (John) wife’s (Avery) grandfather trained Nelson in the art of sailing.
Here is a copy of Bill’s original note (and its reverse side).