The Life of Brian

10 May 2023

Brian Cooper

Brian Cooper 1951 - 2023

Weymouth-based businessman Brian Cooper passed away peacefully at Weldmar Hospice on 27th April 2023 after a long illness.

Born in 1951 in Dartford, Kent, Brian joined the local Sea Cadets as a youngster, which led him to a career in the Royal Navy on leaving school. Serving as an aircraft mechanic and travelling the world, it was whilst stationed at HMS Osprey that he joined the Royal Navy Sub Aqua Club, something which would shape a good portion of his later life. He made Weymouth his permanent home in 1974, when he bought his first house with soon-to-be wife Annette.

He left the Navy to start a new career as a commercial diver, which began at Portland and Portsmouth dockyards. He later worked for salvage firm Risdon Beazley, which saw him recover valuable cargoes from deep waters all across the world, help rescue refugees, and disrupt pirate activity. Towards the end of his diving career, he worked as a saturation diver in the North Sea. Brian was well-known and respected by his colleagues in the industry, and his lively character left its mark. He would later be an important figure during the founding of the Historical Diving Society, where he offered support and logistics to friends and former colleagues.

Ever-aware of the dangers of his occupation, Brian was keen to be closer to his growing young family in Weymouth, and had visions of creating a tourist attraction to showcase the story of diving, its history and techniques. So began his idea for opening a unique museum, the Deep Sea Adventure. Finding the right building was key, and his ambition led him to the old Deheers warehouse on Weymouth’s Custom House Quay. After raising significant funds, ‘The Deep Sea Adventure’ was opened by HRH Princess Anne in 1988. The attraction was the first of its kind anywhere, and was created by completely renovating what was, at the time, a semi-derelict fish and grain warehouse. 

Brian threw himself wholeheartedly into the Weymouth business scene, becoming the first chairman of the Harbourside Traders Association (HTA) which was formed in the early 1990s in partnership with Roger Dalton (of Brewer’s Quay at the time) and a group of other influential business owners. Its task was to lobby local authorities with the aim of helping to revitalise the harbour and make it more attractive to visitors. The group came up with the ‘Old Harbour’ branding and published leaflets to promote the area. They pushed for changes to Custom House Quay that saw it become a more pedestrian-friendly one-way system, rather than the two-way chaos of old. Brian was impressed with recent further improvements around the harbour, which are in keeping with the vision of the HTA all those years ago.

Sadly, the museum business couldn’t be sustained and was sold to a private buyer, then later closed. Not one to let things get the better of him, Brian dusted himself down and focused his efforts on promoting Weymouth and the wider Dorset area to visitors.

Brian was involved in many of the town’s events; in partnership once again with Roger Dalton, they co-founded and ran both Waterfest and The Dorset Seafood Festival. Brian was involved in the organisation of Victorian Shownight, the inception of Weymouth BID and other local projects besides.

In 1992, Brian teamed up with designer Iain Ross when he spotted the need for a quality tourist publication to showcase the local area. The Resort magazine was born and in the late nineties was acquired by the Auto Trader group, where, still under Brian’s direction, it grew to include titles right across the South Coast. The company also published official event programmes for the International Festival of the Sea in Portsmouth, and the Cutty Sark Tall Ships’ Races. Later Brian took back the reins in full, and Resort Dorset remains in publication over 30 years after that first edition; it’s now published by his daughter, Laura, and designed by Stuart, his son.

Throughout his career, Brian’s determination and can-do attitude attracted the support of a great many talented like-minded individuals within the town. He would always be keen to listen, and to support others in their endeavours. He was an entrepreneur who always looked at the bigger picture and believed that what was good for the area, would ultimately benefit everyone.

He was incredibly proud of his family and had a happy life outside of work, he shared this passion for business so much that the whole family jumped on board, he had mastered the art of mixing business with pleasure.

Brian was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011, but was characteristically determined to not let the various treatments get him down and remained independent until the last. 

There are so many friends, family, business associates and individuals, who will remember Brian for different reasons, most commonly for his huge character, passion, sheer determination, support of others and interest in people. He is already hugely missed.

SEAFEAST - The Dorset Seafood Festival raises funds for the Fishermen's Mission - the vital port of call for fishermen and their families.
Fishermen's Mission