Trimble, William Copeland (1851–1941), newspaper editor, was born 8 November 1851, eldest son of William Trimble (qv), newspaper proprietor, and his second wife Anne (née Stewart). Educated at Enniskillen Royal School (Portora) in the 1850s and 1860s, he entered his apprenticeship to Alexander Thom (qv), Dublin printer, in 1868. Though briefly considering other careers, first at the bar, and then as a concert singer (he had a fine tenor voice), he returned to Enniskillen as junior partner in the Impartial Reporter in 1875. His father was delighted, enthusing: ‘Copeland . . . writes well, no better reporter exists, is a good printer and is a perfect gentleman’ (W. T. to John Nevin Trimble, 3 Jan. 1876). Though he ultimately grew more conservative in politics than his father, he was at first active in the liberal–nationalist tenant demand for legislative reform. In early 1880 he joined the Land League. After the land act of August 1881 he disassociated himself from the militant nationalism of the League, establishing the Fermanagh Tenant Right Association on 22 December 1881 and acting as county secretary for several years. From c.1880, for practical purposes he was in charge of the Impartial Reporter (though it was issued under the name of William Trimble until 1886). The paper became critical of the Parnellite demand for self-government, though continuing to advocate tenant protection and relief. In a number of instances in 1881–2 Copeland exposed great injustice and inhumanity in the treatment of smallholders on landed estates in Cavan and Fermanagh, to the wrath of the county landed interest. On one occasion in early 1882 he was attacked and badly beaten up late at night in Enniskillen, the suspicion being that hired supporters of county landlords were responsible – the culprits were never discovered.
He alienated radicals on both sides of the question: tenant association meetings under his guidance were mobbed sometimes by Land League sympathisers. His editorials lamented the polarisation of political feeling in the region as catholics began to withdraw support from the liberal party, and Orangeism reorganised. At a major home rule meeting at Rosslea, Co. Fermanagh, in October 1883, where large numbers of Orangemen assembled in counter-demonstration, he was lucky to escape a mauling from Orange farmers who mistook him for Tim Healy (qv), whom at the age of 30 he closely resembled. Though he desired to have the assistance of his brothers in the operation of the newspaper, he resisted shared editorial and managerial control, telling his brother Sinclair Trimble (1853–1937) that he would provide him with employment as overseer but ‘could not give up my place, which while a sort of managership is virtually mastership . . . knowing the business as you do not and the customers’ (W. C. T. to S. T., 17 November 1883). He had considerable fluency as a journalist, but his writing was more facile than that of his father.
From 1886, when the Liberal party split over home rule, Copeland became a liberal unionist under the leadership of Joseph Chamberlain. In demand as a public speaker, he was frequently invited to England to present the Ulster case against home rule. He toured English constituencies on this basis speaking for the conservative party in the 1895 general election. When in November 1901 the family printing works in Enniskillen burned down, he exerted himself vigorously to maintain newspaper production, using works in Omagh for six months before the paper was reestablished at home in May 1902. During the second Boer war and the first world war, he collected by newspaper appeals large sums of money to make up a comfort fund for the Inniskilling regiments. He participated enthusiastically in the Ulster anti-home-rule campaign of 1912–14, raising a troop of mounted horse from Enniskillen as part of the Ulster Volunteer Force. His History of Enniskillen (3 vols, 1919–21) is one of the most substantial Irish local histories of the century. Some days after suffering a partial stroke, he died 24 January 1941 in Fermanagh county hospital. He is buried in Breandrum cemetery, Enniskillen.
He married first (3 October 1881) Letitia Jane (1854–92), third daughter of John Weir of Letterbreen, Co. Fermanagh; they had three sons and two daughters. He married secondly (8 May 1893) Lily (1866–1949), third daughter of Henry Reilly of Armagh; they had two sons, one of whom was killed serving with the 8th Inniskillings on the western front in April 1916. His granddaughter was the composer Joan Trimble (qv).