I spent all five years of my secondary school life, between 1961 and 1965, in Parramatta, N.S.W., with Eric Sowerby DRAKE as my English Teacher.
Image courtesy of The King's School Archives.]
He was a gifted teacher, and an extraordinary interpreter of Shakespeare, being able to recite large chunks from memory, and doing so in front of the class, sometimes prowling between the rows of desks, and at least once standing on top of one of them, with great evocation of character and rhythm of the language.
And he was a skilled story teller.
"Brother Animals," he would address us, as the class began...
And so another story - this time, if memory serves, he was parachuting behind the lines in China, and giving the Kuomintang Nationalists under Chiang Kai Shek a few lessons in espionage! Or so I believed.
I certainly remember his advice as to how to spot when you were being tailed, by pausing to look in a shop widow, and when you saw the fellow behind you casually stop, out of the corner of your eye or in reflection in the window glass, then make an excuse for going inside by putting your pipe in your mouth and pretend to have no matches, make a quick entry into the said shop, and when your tail had rushed up, go out again and look him in the eye as you went on your way (all right, perhaps I did embellish some of that from my own imagination).
And of how he confronted an attacking tiger by sticking his fist down its throat and strangling it - my brother Peter remembered that from 6 years earlier, which greatly amused his class.
Any disturbances in class were classified as "mucking up" - and the threat for that sin was Grammar. He kept good control by that stratagem, and the stories were legion.
My five years with E.S.D. resulted in my passing the Leaving Certificate with an "A" pass in English, which was perhaps a little unexpected for a student whose academic talents and curriculum focus lay elsewhere (Honours in Physics and Mathematics I). So off to University I went, leaving the humanities in my wake, to study Civil Engineering (specialising in Structures).
Until years later, when the impact of E.S.D. sowed the seeds of doubt, and I eventually left Engineering for the world of live theatre, albeit in the back-stage and technical departments relating to sets and standing scenery, flying scenery and revolves, lifts and travellators, via brief spells in Lighting and Sound, Props and Stage Management, with even a brief foray into box-office and front-of house in my Canberra days.
And the first indication of this shift came to me in 1974, during my first visit to the United Kingdom, as a 24 year-old Commonwealth Public Servant on 12 months leave-of-absence. After some time with friends in London, I stayed several weeks with my mother's sister, who ran a pub with her husband in Guildford, Surrey, from where I explored a large swathe of the South of England between Surrey and Bristol, where her husband had family.
One night, an unexpected "muse" started moving in my mind, and a series of "poems" flowed out onto paper. And no, it was not the most recent pint of light and bitter I had had that night at work!
One of them went along the following lines:
To this, I now add my further tribute to that inspirational English teacher, E. Sowerby DRAKE, our "Brother Animal" extraordinaire. And the following, as patchy as it cannot avoid being, is what I have been able to glean of his life story.
ORIGINS IN CHINA.
Eric Sowerby DRAKE was born on 22 December 1898, at Chou Ping City (or T'sow-ping Fu), Shantung Province, Northern China. Details of the birth were registered at Her Britannic Majesty's Consulate at Chefoo [G.R.O., Consular Birth Indexes, Volume 10, page 373].
Eric's father was Samuel Bingham DRAKE, who was born in 1851 at Oakham, in that "smallest" English County that used to be known as Rutland - his father, Reuben Cole DRAKE, was a Master Tailor in the High Street, Oakham, and his mother was Caroline BINGHAM, from whom Samuel acquired his middle name - they were married in the Baptist Chapel at Oakham on Tuesday 12 September 1848.
Rev Samuel Bingham DRAKE was aged about 28 when he went abroad with the China Inland Mission. Much of the following detail can be found in "China's Millions," the journal of the China Inland Mission (C.I.M.), published annually in London, and edited by their founder, J. Hudson TAYLOR - references to this journal will appear below as "C.M." with year of publication and page number.
Image courtesy of the vancechristie.com web-site.]
DRAKE was set aside to his work by the C.I.M. Council in London on 8 November 1878, and sailed with two other Missionaries (Messrs ELLISTON and PARROTT) on the Messageries Maritimes steamer Irrawaddy, scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the last week of December 1878 [C.M., 1879, page 139]; in the company of Walter HILLIER, Esq, of Her Britannic Majesty's Consular Service, he left Hankow (well inland, on the Yangtze River) "...in barrows" on 8 January, trekked northwards through Ho-Nan (25 January), crossed the Yellow River (8 February), and passing through Hwai Ch'ing Fu (where he went un-noticed as he was wearing Chinese dress, a common practice among C.I.M. men), reached the city of Ping-yang, in southern Shan-si Province, on 18 February 1879 [C.M., 1880, page 4]; there he joined other missionaries carrying out famine relief, including Canon SCOTT, David HILL, Timothy RICHARD and J.J. TURNER [see Rev DRAKE's "Among the Dark-haired Race in the Flowery Land," Religious Tract Society, London, 1897]; after the relief work was completed, DRAKE went on to his Station at Tai Yuen Fu, and spent some months studying the language, as well as looking after an orphanage school for 40 "famine boys" [C.M., 1880, page 118, citing DRAKE's letter dated 6 May at Tai Yuen Fu]; after 9 months, he went for a break to Pao-ting Fu [C.M., 1880, page 78], before returning to the Mission Station at P'ing Yang Fu (commenced in 1879 by HILL for the Wesley Mission), assisting Joshua TURNER; when TURNER and his wife went home on furlough in the autumn of 1881, he:
"...left the Station in the charge of Rev S.B. DRAKE who had been assisting him. For about 3 years, Mr and Mrs DRAKE worked on at P'ing Yang, most of the time single-handed... in the spring of 1885, Mr and Mrs DRAKE were obliged to leave for needed rest and change."
One of DRAKE's Chinese members was the former Confucionist scholar, Hsi Shengmo, whom DRAKE made an Elder; opium abuse was rife in the area, and users were required to kick the habit before being baptised into the missionary church; DRAKE assisted the process with anti-opium pills, evidently morphine, and Hsi's rival Fan, whose anti-opium "dens" DRAKE frequented to administer the pills, eclipsed Hsi in local influence - until DRAKE went on leave, and the supply of pills stopped. Rev Samuel B. DRAKE's "Story of Mr FAN of P'ing Yang Fu, Shan-si," was published in September 1883 [C.M., 1883, pages 127-129].
But there was politics among the missionaries as well.
The China Inland Mission, which was Protestant interdenominational, and the Baptist Missionary Society had both established stations in Tai Yuan Fu by 1879, and:
"...the C.I.M. pioneers, Joshua TURNER and Francis JAMES had been joined by two seasoned veterans, Samuel DRAKE and Thomas Wellesley PIGOTT... The B.M.S. consisted mainly of Timothy RICHARD and his wife... The B.M.S. claimed responsibility for the area north of Tai Yuan, as far as Mongolia, while the C.I.M took the south, to the Yellow River..."
[See "China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832-1905," by Alvyn AUSTIN, Wm B. EERDMAN's Publishing, 2007, page 186.]
And these Missionaries evidently talked to each other.
In 1881, the C.I.M.'s founder, J. Hudson TAYLOR, raised his suspicions over RICHARD's call for "cultural accommodation" and indigenous leadership, and subsequently ordered his people to sever relations with RICHARD; in protest, C.I.M. members Joshua TURNER, Francis JAMES and Arthur SOWERBY all resigned, with their wives, to be followed later by Samuel DRAKE and Celia HORNE.
Samuel then joined the Baptist Missionary Society, gained his first appointment with them in 1886, and served at Stations in Tsing Chow Fu (1886-1892), Tsowping (1892-1908) and again at Tsing Chow Fu (1908-1910); he retired to England, evidently in 1910; was living at Lee, in Lewisham, in 1911 (Census); and by 1919 was residing at Ercildonne, 55 Hide Road, Harrow-on-the-Hill [see his entry in List of Missionaries, 1918 Annual Report of the B.M.S., page 63].
An alternative address was recorded for him in September 1889, at the English Baptist Mission, Chou-P'ing, Hsien, Shantung (see his daughter Elizabeth's birth details below). I presume this may have been the same place as Tsowping, although the dates don't match.
There were trips back home.
The North-China Herald, etc, [15 October 1885] reported that Mr and Mrs DRAKE, and 2 children (daughters Florence and Frances), sailed for London on the steamer Jason; and the issue of 4 February 1887 recorded their return from London on the steamer Glenfruin.
The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal [1 April 1895] noted the departure on 9 March of Rev S. B. DRAKE and family from Shanghai for England; English newspapers record him preaching at Willingham in August 1895, at Huddersfield in September 1895, and at Honeycastle, Lincolnshire, in March 1896; and Chinese newspapers recorded his arrival back in China in December 1896, from London, with Mrs DRAKE and one child (probably the youngest, Henry Burgess, the elder children perhaps having been left in England for their education), on the steamer Ganges.
English newspapers further report that he preached at Tring, Bucks, in February 1906, and at Taunton, Somerset, in September 1906.
Further, he preached at Zion Chapel in Gloucester, and at Tewkesbury, in February 1910, and again, at Burnham and at Bristol, in November 1910, but whether he went back to China between these 1910 dates is not clear.
Eric's mother was Florence SOWERBY, who was baptised at Dalston St Phillip, County Middlesex, with her twin Arthur, on 3 November 1857, the children of Joseph SOWERBY, Commercial Clerk, and Grace SEGUIER (both of whose fathers were Artists). It was she who gave Eric DRAKE his memorable middle name.
Arthur and Florence were living with their parents in 1861, at 2 Park Villas, Hackney, aged 3, as well as their three older siblings, Edward, Alice and Herbert; they were at 38 Fairford Road, Hampstead St John, in 1871, again with their parents and two older brothers, their father now being a Collector of Town Rates; and in 1881, shortly before she went to China, Florence was boarding at Kingston-upon-Thames, in the household of Henry N. STEPHENS, a Commercial Clerk, his wife Lucy E. (aged 24), and their infant son, Florence being recorded as his "...wife's companion."
And it was her brother Arthur SOWERBY, who served in China as a Missionary, from 1881 (at Tai Yuan Fu), who probably encouraged his twin sister to join him there.
Eric knew neither of his SOWERBY grandparents, who were both dead before his parents were married (both at Hampstead, Joseph in 1871, and Grace in 1879). But one of his SOWERBY kin was named as the guardian on his brother Frederick's enrolment at Eltham School in 1902.
But he would probably have known his seven SOWERBY cousins, the children of his uncle Arthur by his wife Louisa CLAYTON, and born between 1885 and 1896, probably in China, where Arthur was posted to Tai-yuen Fu (1881-97), Sinchow (1897-1900), Tai-yuen Fu again (1900-1911), Teintsin (1911-13) and Peking (from 1913).
Samuel and Florence were married at Peking on 30 October 1882. The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Herald [1 November 1882] recorded this event as taking place at the British Legation, and between "Mr S.B. DRAKE, China Inland Mission, to Miss SOWERBY, Baptist Mission, Tai-yuen Fu." Perhaps another good reason why DRAKE left the C.I.M and joined the B.M.S. A report in China's Millions [1883, page 57] recorded, among "Tidings from Miss LANCASTER in Tai-yuen Fu," that :
"...Miss KINGSBURY accompanied Miss SOWERBY and Mr DRAKE to Pekin."
On a journey that was undoubtedly connected with their nuptials.
Samuel and Florence raised a family on the move in parts of North China:
1. Florence Caroline DRAKE, born at Tai Yuen Fu, Shansi Province, 23 August 1883, and registered at Tientsin [Consular Birth Index, Volume 7, 1881-85, page 481]. Aged 17 in the 1901 Census. She was evidently a teacher at Eltham College, 1907-09; an assistant teacher at Crouch End High School and College for Ladies, at Hornsey, 1911, aged 27 (her birth place was recorded); with her parents at 55 Hide Road, Pinner, 1919 Electoral register for Hendon; she was Housekeeper to her mother, at 55 Hide Road, Harrow, in the 25 September 1939 Register of England. She died, as the result of a road accident, in a hospital at Hyde Park Corner on 11 October 1847, late of 61 Twyford Abbey Road, Park Royal, County Middlesex, unmarried.
A brief notice appeared in the Eltham College Magazine, noting that the "Old Boys of the 1907-09 generation will be grieved" by the news of her death, and that during that period at Blackheath she was "Mistress in charge of the 'Mangag'." It is likely that this last term is a corruption of Menagerie, and was the term applied by older boys to the most junior form in the school - which is probably what Eric would later (1931) refer to as the "monkey stage" of young boy's development.
2. Frances Grace DRAKE, born in or before October 1885, probably also at Tai Yuen Fu, and registered at Teintsin [Consular Birth Index, Volume 7, 1881-85, page 483]; her death was registered at Chefoo [Consular Death Index, Volume 8, 1886-90, page 268], having undoubtedly been the second child who returned to China with her parents in February 1887; a child.
3. Elizabeth DRAKE, born at the English Baptist Mission in Tsing Chou Fu, on 17 April 1887 [Chinese Recorder and Missionary Herald, 4 July 1887], the birth registered a Chefoo [Consular Birth Index, Volume 8, page 396]. Aged 13 in 1901. Aged 23 in 1911, and unmarried.
It appears highly likely that Elizabeth DRAKE, of St John's, Greenhill, County Middlesex, was married in County Middlesex in April 1914 to her cousin William Herbert SOWERBY of St Anslem's, Hatch End (son of Edward Joseph SOWERBY, a brother of Mrs Florence DRAKE); and by him had issue a son - Frederick Peter Seguier SOWERBY, born in Nowra, N.S.W., in 1918 #31855. The family arrived in London on 23 Apr 1920, on the ship S.S. Borda, from Sydney, Elizabeth being then aged 32 years.
4. Samuel Bingham DRAKE, born at the English Baptist Mission at Chou-P'ing, Hsien, Shantung, on 28 June 1889, "...the wife of Rev S.B. DRAKE, English Baptist Mission, of a son" [Chinese Recorder and Missionary Herald, 1 September 1889], the birth registered at Chefoo [Consular Birth Index, Volume 8, page 402]. He was aged 10 in 1901; attended the School for the Sons of Missionaries, Blackheath (later Eltham College) from 1900 to 1905; and aged 21, Manager of a Real Estate Agency in Prittlewell, Essex, in 1911, boarding with a Mrs PAUL at 33 St Helen's Road, Westcliffe-on-Sea; and later a Surveyor's Clerk, of 23 Salisbury Road, Wealdstone, Middlesex (December 1915). Samuel enlisted on 7 December 1915 (S.N. 7414) in the 14th Battalion, London Regiment (London Scottish); he went to France in August 1916, and was killed by a "flying torpedo" at or near Arras on 11 October 1916; he was buried in Maroeuil War Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, Calais Nord. His name appears on Memorial plaques in the Avenue Road Baptist Church, Westcliff (one of 15 names) and on a much larger memorial in St Saviour's Church, King's Road, Westcliffe-on-Sea (195 men of the parish and its churches). He was married at Westcliffe, Essex, on 8 August 1914, to Martha Louisa (Mattie) FRYER, with his brother Rev F. DRAKE acting as his best-man; they had a daughter, Mollie Florence DRAKE, born at Harrow, Middlesex, on 11 June 1916 [see British Army WW1 Service Records on Ancestry.com].
5. Frederick Seguier DRAKE, born in Tsow Ping, Shansi Province, on 13 April 1892, the birth registered at Chefoo [Consular Birth Index, Volume 9, page 281]. Aged 8 in 1901; attended the S.S.M. (later Eltham College) from 1902 to 1909; aged 18 in 1911; he married firstly, at Shanghai, on 1 December 1916, to Dorothy Mabel PALMER, aged 23, a daughter of Rev John PALMER; her death, during 1917, at Peichen, Shantung, was recorded in the B.M.S.'s 126th Annual Report [1918, p.5]; Frederick married secondly, in China, on 28 January 1930, Dora Mabel CRACKNELL; he later occupied academic posts in China, and Hong Kong; he died in 1976.
In 2011, CHRISTIE's sold the fine art work "Birds and Kapok Flowers," by Zhao Shao'ang, 1959, Pen on paper, Dedicated to Yangshan (Professor F.S. DRAKE), with the following biographical note on Professor DRAKE, from whose former collection the work was sold:
"Professor Frederick Seguier Drake (1892-1976) was born in Shandong, China. From a distinguished English family, Drake was ordained minister as a young man and devoted himself to missionary work. Professor Drake was a traveller, and a scholar in Chinese and Divinity; as an archaeologist he travelled extensively within China and was Dean of the Faculty of Divinity at Qiliu (Cheeloo) University in Ji'nan, Shandong. After a brief return to his native England during the Chinese Civil War, Prof. Drake came to Hong Kong as Chair of Chinese at the University of Hong Kong and occupied the position for twelve years. Prof. Drake was widely respected by his students and within the academia. His most notable achievement included leading the archaeological excavation of the Lei Cheng UK Eastern Han Tomb in Hong Kong in the 1950s. Zhao Shao'ang gifted Prof. Drake with Birds and Flowers (Lot 3150) to celebrate his 72nd birthday and his retirement."
6. Henry Burgess DRAKE, born in Tsien Ping, Shansi, on 14 April 1894, the birth registered at Chefoo [Consular Birth Index, Volume 9, page 285]; aged 6 in 1901; attended S.S.M. from 1902 to 1912; aged 16, at Eltham College, 1911. He enlisted as a Stretcher Bearer in the R.A.M.C. in 1915, and later transferred to the Royal Field Artillery, and returned to France. B.A. (First Class Honours in English), University College, London, 1920; Teacher's Diploma, 1921. Identified as the brother whom Eric would join in China in late 1944. For many years a teacher, initially with brother Eric back at Eltham (until 1927), and later, after a stint in Korea as an English Professor in a Japanese University, at Bromley County Grammar School (from 1930) with time out during the War, back in China (at Chanqing, then Xi'an), as a Major in the Intelligence Corps (he requested his brother Eric join him there in 1944), with a mission to recruit spies to penetrate Japanese held territory. He died in September 1963, late of 7 London Road, Widley, near Gosport, Hampshire; he married Rene BOWKER in 1921, and they had 2 sons, who were his executors - Terence Theodore DRAKE, Lecturer, and Alan Reginald DRAKE, Scientist.
7. Our Eric.
A CONUNDRUM OF XINHUA OR CHINESE PLACE NAMES.
Early attempts to anglicise Chinese place names weren't always entirely consistent, relying, as they appear to have done, on phonetic interpretation of local dialects. Few of these variations are readily identifiable on modern maps of China, as they have either been re-named, or re-anglicised by Chinese map-makers who no longer pay lip-service to colonial era traditions.
The earlier C.I.M. map of China (see above) does show a number of towns in both Shantung and Shansi provinces, but the resolution of the digital image is not sufficient to reveal their identities on enlargement. But another map gets us part of the way.
There was no scale attached, but the distance from Peking to Taiyuanfu is 250 miles or 400 km direct.]
This map does show Chefoo, on the north coast of the Shantung Peninsula; and Tsow Ping in Shantung, and Tai Yuen Fu in Shansi.
My current and somewhat feeble attempts to identify the places named above, it only now dawning on me that Fu or Foo means City, are:
1. Che-fu or Chefoo, on the northern coast of Shantung or Shandong province. Also known as Yentai.
2. Tsing Chow Fu, alias Tseng or Ch'ing Chou Fu, in Shantung - now Qingzhou, or Yitu (as shown on a 1973 Bartholomew's map of China).
3. Tsow Ping Fu, alias Chou Ping, also in Shantung.
4. Tai Yuen Fu, principal city of Shansi or Shanxi province - now Taiyuanfu.
5. Ping Yang Fu, in Shansi - now Linfen.
THE BOXER REBELLION CASTS A SHADOW.
Of this place named Tai-yuen Fu, I have heard much, although not until after I had made a visit there in 1978 - I later discovered that it was the site of a set of Boxer executions of foreigners, including Missionaries, on 9 July 1900 - among these was Rev Thomas William PIGOTT, his wife Jessie (formerly KEMP), and their 14 year-old son Wellesley, and who was, as described by eye-witnesses, the last of his little family group to be beheaded, in a standing position, having to the last minute been holding his mother's hand, even as she fell. These PIGOTTs were distant relations, deriving a descent, as I do, from the PIGOTTs of Dysart in Queen's County (Laois) in Ireland.
Recently discovered newspaper reports indicate that Rev DRAKE was in the area at the time, and may even have been witness to their group being led from an out-station into Tai Yuen Fu in chains just before they were killed.
It sent shock waves around the expatriate European community in China, and among their families at home, and the Church bodies there who sent them - and this resulted in the dependent part of the DRAKE family being withdrawn from the risk of danger, and shipped to the safety of England.
Indeed, on 12 September 1900, the Indianapolis Journal (page 3) carried a report emanating from the U.S. State Department concerning the efforts of the U.S. Consul at Chefoo, John FOWLER, had made to secure a vessel to rescue the missionaries and their families who were escaping from the interior of China, attaching a list of their names, which included, by the steamer Heian Maru, on 2 July, on her first trip, from Chou Ping (English):
"...the Rev S.B. DRAKE, wife and three children."
Nine days later, on 21 September 1900, the Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury published more detail in a report of "The Crisis in China" under the sub-heading of "Stamfordians Had to Leave the Country," as follows:
"Mrs DRAKE, wife of the Rev S.B. DRAKE, formerly of Stamford, and now attached to the Baptist mission in China, has supplied to a representative of the Mercury some interesting observations respecting the position in China, and her experiences in that country since the 'Boxer' rising. Mr DRAKE, whose father lives in Recreation-ground-road, was stationed in the Shan Tung province in the north east of China. When he and his family left for the coast there had been no actual disturbance in that immediate neighbourhood. The American consuls kept them in touch with what was going on elsewhere, and up to a few days before they had warning to leave, they hoped to be able to remain at their Station; but things began to get alarming in the neighbouring provinces, and they had 2 days notice to clear out and get towards Chefoo. The Governor of Chi Nan Fu was asked to supply a guard of soldiers to escort the missionaries and their families, but he sent back that he could not grant one as there were so many guards in request. He advised them to get down to Chi Nan Fu and then, he said, he would see what could be done. At that time the Chinese were getting excited, and the Christians were getting nervous about what might happen, and the missionaries took the precaution to clear out at night. They left the Station at about 9 o'clock in mule carts, the party consisting of 4 ladies and 8 children, the youngest being a fortnight old, and the oldest eight years; and they travelled in these carts to the riverbank. Here the Chinese officials granted them a guard of ten soldiers. Native boats were obtained, and the party continued the journey by water, being on the river three days and two nights. They were subsequently transferred to a big junk, and had to stop in it all night, and afterwards they got on to a Japanese cargo steamer, chartered for the purpose of getting the missionaries away, and then went to Chefoo. Here there was some excitement among the Chinese, but there was no danger. Several missionary parties kept coming in, some of them having travelled three weeks under very trying circumstances, and with only the clothes they stood in. Mr DRAKE's party got away with comparative comfort, and Mrs DRAKE having arranged to go to England in the autumn had been getting prepared for the journey. It was a rough experience to Chefoo, but there were really no hardships. The Governor of the province was very good to them, being anxious to get all the foreigners away, and thus respect the wishes of the Empress to clear China of foreigners...
"After leaving Chefoo, the missionary party were taken to Shanghai..."
Just 2 months after the Tai Yuen Fu massacre, the "Houdini" that I seem to have imagined in Eric DRAKE had survived his first "scrape" with danger, and he was still not yet 3 years old!
And much later, Eric's nephew Alan DRAKE, the son of Henry Burgess, wrote that as the family was making its way down the Yellow River, the young boys had to be hidden in a tea chest!
If the N.Y. Times report of only three children is correct, then it appears likely that the three youngest boys, Frederick, Burgess and Eric, were the ones in the tea chest, and that the three eldest children, Florence, Elizabeth and Samuel Junior, were probably already at schools in England.
AN EARLY-IN-LIFE EMIGRATION TO ENGLAND.
On Census night of 1901, Florence DRAKE and 5 of her children were living at Ebenezer House, Queen Street, parish of Stamford St George with St Paul, County Leicester. She was aged 43, a Missionary (Wesleyan), born Dalston, Middlesex; the children were Florence C. (aged 17), Elizabeth (13), Frederick S. (8), Henry B. (6) and Eric S. (2), all born in China, British Subjects.
I wondered if Ebenezer House might have been a church property, or where Rev Samuel Bingham DRAKE had planned to retire to anyway - but there is a simpler explanation.
Eric's grandfather, Reuben Cole DRAKE, formerly a Master Tailor on the High Street of Oakham, had made his residence at Stamford, Lincolnshire, sometime after the Census of 1871, and was recorded there in 1881, as an Assurance Agent, residing at 11 Conduit Road, Stamford St Michael, along with his wife Caroline and three children (Emma, Ada and Edwin); in 1891 he was at 3 Recreation Ground Road, All Saints Stamford, with wife and two children (Ada and Edwin); and at the same street address in 1901, with just his wife Caroline. She died there on 31 October 1905, in her 78th year [The Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Friday 15 September].
Eric's aunt Ada (his father Samuel Bingham's sister), the wife of Frederick CLARKE, a Wine Merchant's Traveller, was living at Stamford St George, Lincolnshire, in 1911, and with her was their father, Reuben Cole DRAKE, aged 84, a Widower and a Pensioner.
And in the same Census, 1911, at 4 Peters Street, in the parish of All Saints with Stamford St Peter, Lincolnshire, we find Samuel Bingham DRAKE, aged 10, born Chou Ping, China, boarding in the household of Mary Elizabeth WAKEFIELD, a Boarding House Keeper, her niece, and one other boarder.
Whether Florence and the children remained here is unclear. Perhaps things settled down in China after the Boxer Rising passed, and perhaps Rev Samuel felt it safe enough for them to re-join him. But if they did go back out, there is no mention of them in Passenger Lists for departures from or arrivals in England between 1901 and 1911 (although their arrival in 1900-01 was not recorded either).
Samuel Bingham and Florence DRAKE were enumerated in 1911 Census at 74 Manor Park, Lee, Borough of Lewisham, London S.W.; he was recorded as a Retired Missionary, with them were two of their children - Elizabeth (aged 23, born Tsing Chou Fu, North China) and Frederick Seguier (aged 18, born Tsow Ping, North China). It was here that they were recorded as having had 7 children born, with 6 surviving. Eric was absent, boarding at the School for Sons of Missionaries in Blackheath, as was his brother Burgess (aged 16); S. Bingham DRAKE Junior was at Prittlewell, Essex, an Estate Agency Manager, boarding with a Mrs Dulcie PAUL.
In his entry in the 1913-14 Annual report of the Baptist Missionary Society, his address was recorded as 65 Welldone Crescent, Harrow-on-the-Hill. And in Electoral Registers for Hendon, he was at 55 Hide Road, Parish of Pinner, with wife Florence, from 1919 onwards.
The Grantham Journal [Saturday 18 March 1933] carried the following report of an "Oakham Native's Golden Wedding" celebrations, summarising Samuel's career:
"Recently, a native of Oakham, the Rev S.B. DRAKE, of Hide Road, Harrow, celebrated that happy event... the eldest son of Mr Reuben DRAKE, of Stamford, was born at Oakham some 82 years ago, and after completing his College training, proceeded to China as a Missionary in connection with the China Inland Mission. That was in 1878, and for about 7 years he worked in Shansi, where he associated himself with the Baptist Missionary Society. He was stationed in Shantung from 1886, and in addition to his ordinary Missionary duties, he engaged in literary work, and on several occasions took a prominent part in relief work. After working in China for a period of 30 years, he retired. For 3 years, 1913-16, he was Professor of Chinese at King's College, London, transferring in 1917 to the School of Oriental Studies, retiring in 1920. He married Miss Florence SOWERBY, and they have 3 sons and 2 daughters, their eldest son being killed in the war. Another son, Mr Fred DRAKE, is a missionary."
While he was at King's College, London, Samuel was credited for his assistance in Chinese, and cited for a piece of Chinese-English translation, by Israel GOLLANCZ in his "A Book of Homage to Shakespeare," Oxford University Press, 1916.
In 1925, Rev Samuel B. DRAKE stood as an Independent candidate, with support from the local Unionist, Liberal and Allotment Associations, to fill a vacancy on the Hendon Rural District Council, for the Headstone Ward. He was elected as the second member. He was re-elected in 1928 (second member again, just behind Miss Julia CURTIS-PRICE); and he was co-opted to continue in office in 1931, after only one candidate (Mrs Florence MARTLEW, Conservative) stood unopposed. The Council was abolished when the new Harrow Urban District Council was created in July 1934.
Eric's father died on 11 June 1935, at St Vincent's Nursing Home, Headstone Lane, Harrow, Middlesex, late of 55 Hide Road, Pinner, Middlesex; Probate was granted at London to Henry Burgess DRAKE, Schoolmaster, Eric Sowerby DRAKE, Fine art gallery Director, and Florence Caroline DRAKE, Spinster; the estate was valued at just over £5,900.
His mother Florence was residing at 55 Hide Road, Harrow, in the 25 September 1939 Register of England, her date of birth recorded 15 October 1857, a Widow, on Private Means, and Incapacitated; she died there 4 years later, of 55 Hide Road, Pinner, Middlesex, on 14 December 1939; her probate was granted to the same three children, Eric this time being recorded as a Camouflage Officer; her effects were valued, at £2965 1s and 4d.
These valuations were made undoubtedly for the purposes of assessing death duty obligations, and Florence may well have been assessed on assets she received from her late husband's estate.
But these asset values are not small; and the executors may have been obliged to sell up some of the real property to satisfy the death duty collectors.
Eric would later speak (to Lloyd WADDY) of his "austere" up-bringing, which may have had more to do with his parents judicious economising in the home, as they would probably have had no choice but to do in China, rather than it representing any significant impoverishment in their domestic finances overall.
ERIC GOES TO SCHOOL.
Built in the 1850s as the School for the Sons of Missionaries, it was vacated in 1912 when the school moved to new premises and was thereafter known as Eltham College.
Evidently Eric and his second wife Janna rented separate rooms on the top floor before they were married.]
Eric started at the School for the Sons of Missionaries, at Blackheath, on 13 March 1905, his admission entry recording him as a Day Boy, and his father as Rev S.B. DRAKE of 65 Welldon Crescent, Harrow.
I'm not sure that we can assume that Eric's father was then actually living in London, and some evidence from China sources suggests that he wasn't, but we can probably assume his mother was still in England, otherwise Eric would probably have been admitted as a Boarder.
Eric was a gifted student, and his Valete entry records him with French Certificate, 1912; First Class Cambridge Senior qualifying for matriculation, 1913; Prix Hatchette, 1914; Inter. Arts, London, 1916; and South African Bursary.
He did well at sports, and played in the First XV in 1915-16, with First Colours; his "Critique" in the School Magazine [December 1916, page 153] records that he was:
"An extremely good scrum half, lets the ball out well. His tackling, falling on the ball, and picking up the ball, have been very good. Has been handicapped by a sore leg, which has prevented him from kicking, Well deserved the colours."
He also played in the First XI, 1916; described [ditto, August 1916, page 127] as:
"Much handicapped by bad eyesight. Uses the strokes very well. A good catch and field in the slips."
Which last accolade would probably have been a little difficult for him to have achieved, I would have thought, with bad eyesight!
He was also awarded, on the votes of the Senior boys, with the Bayard Cup, 1916. I am not sure what this was for, but there were two others similarly awarded to 2 other boys (the "Blackheath Cup" and "Best Fielding," so probably sports oriented), and the Bayard and the Blackheath awards were both won by only very narrow margins over the elder of the two LIDDELL brothers, both of whom played in the First XI.
Eric was a Sergeant in the Cadet Corps; and he was Head Boy and Senior Prefect in 1915-16.
A very well-rounded achievement.
From Eltham, Eric went to University College, London, where he was studying in 1917, having passed the Inter. B.A. London in 1916 (as annotated on his admission record when he went back to Eltham in September 1921).
ERIC GOES TO WAR.
Eric saw action on the Western Front during the first World War. I find only very scant reference anywhere to his war service; however, a snippet from a google.book search, which have a habit of being frustratingly incomplete, gives us a glimpse.
From "Mervyn PEAKE, Vast Alchemies: The Illustrated Biography" by G. Peter WINNINGTON [Peter Owen Publishers, 2009], at page 49:
"...The other teacher, Eric Sowerby DRAKE, was an Old Elthamian... On leaving school, he enlisted, fought, and been wounded on the eve of his nineteenth birthday..."
This was an up-dated and illustrated version of WINNINGTON's earlier edition published in 2000. (See further below in the section concerning Sark.)
WW1 British Army medal index cards, date range 1914-1920 (Findmypast.co.uk), record an Eric S. DRAKE as a Private in The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, Soldier Number 14154; and as a Private in the Middlesex Regiment, Soldier Number G/53862. Mentions are made of Campaign Medal and Silver War Medal index cards [WO 372/6]. It is not clear whether this entry was for 2 different Eric S. DRAKEs, with one of them being our Eric; and if so, which of the two might have been him.
Lloyd WADDY (a former pupil at T.K.S., whom Eric cast in one of his dramatic productions, he delivered the eulogy at Eric's funeral in 1988) mentioned that he was still in hospital when the Armistice was declared. Eleven months hospitalization would suggest that his wounds were not minor ones.
Malcolm YORKE, in his "Mervyn PEAKE: My Eyes Mint Gold: a Life," [Overlook Press, 2002], at page 38, wrote about the:
"...young brothers, Burgess and Eric DRAKE, both former pupils [of Eltham] and sons of Baptist Missionary parents serving in China. They had suffered in the trenches, read the latest psychological and pedagogical theories and were keen to blow fresh air and new ideas through the stuffy staff-room. Eric DRAKE (1898-1988) was a 'small moustachioed man'..."
ERIC'S EARLY TEACHING CAREER.
Electoral Registers in England record Eric at 55 Hale Road, Hendon, Borough of Barrets, in 1920 and 1921, evidently residing with his siblings Henry Burgess and Florence DRAKE, at the family home.
He soon put all his energies back into his future career, continuing his studies at University College, London in 1919, where he gained his B.A. with First Class Honours in English (with French subsidiary) in July 1920; and a Teacher's Diploma during his post-graduate year at the London Day Training College, from September 1920 to July 1921.
Eric joined the teaching staff at his old school, Eltham College, on 16 September 1921, being assigned principal duties in the subject of English, "also Latin," and at a starting salary of £305 per annum.
Peter WINNINGTON's biography of Mervyn PEAKE had originally been published in 2000, as "Vast Alchemies," and, at page 49, he wrote of Eric's second time at Eltham, with his brother Burgess, where:
"...like a breath of fresh air, 'they stirred the imagination of staff and boys and threw some doubts on the alleged values of orthodox pedagogy' (The Glory of the Sons, p.200). They had adopted and adapted the 'playway' method of Caldwell COOK (the brilliant English teacher at the Perse School, Cambridge) which involved much creative writing, projects and individual assignments. DRAKE passed on to his pupils his great love of classical literature, English poetry - his nick-name was 'Shelley-belly' - and, above all, drama..."
As he was still doing nearly 40 to 50 years later.
His farewell tribute was published in the Eltham School Magazine, by an unidentified contributor, presumably the editor, under the heading of "E.S. - A SYMBOL," and from which I have abstracted a few salient points:
"His going is a wrench to our school life, not because he has become built into us by mere longevity of service - he has only been with us five years - but because he has become part of us by affinity and understanding. We liked him; he belonged to our world; he didn't try to run us into uncongenial moulds...
"We have a much clearer understanding now of our school's particular mission by seeing it exemplified in his personality... we shall remember him not so much for what he did as for what he was. It was his personality that captivated us.
"Our memories of him will be of someone who knew how to handle a rugger pill, how to shoulder a ruck-sack, how to smoke a pipe, how to express disapprobation, how not to play cricket... We shall remember his charming swagger as he strolled the playing fields, the flying of his coat-tails as he chased a kid across the quod (sic), the absurd way his gown would slip off his left shoulder, the way he tossed back his ruffled hair... his way was that of someone who found life delightful as well as purposeful, an adventure as well as a problem, with a challenge in it to keep young as well as to grow wise..."
"...life, like a musical instrument, may be lightly handled in two ways: there is the light touch of the sentimentalist, and the light touch of the master musician. The first is soft and enchanting merely, but behind the second is a reserve of strength. We hope you take our parable. E.S. was no sentimentalist. He knew boys too well to subscribe to the spiritual-comet-theory; for him they most emphatically did not come 'trailing clouds of glory.' But he sympathised with them deeply enough to make it a chief part of his aim to lighten the 'shades of their prison house'! The virtue of his brightness and boyishness lay just in this, that they were based on solid attainments both in experience and scholarship..."
"He will go far, even if he doesn't go high. That is not a distinction without a difference. To go high presupposes a certain pedagogical inflation which is incompatible with our conception of E.S.; but to go far requires just that impetus and energy which was characteristic of all his work.
"We must not grudge him to Outer Darkness; rather we send him forth as our own particular apostle with the special mission to tread on the corns of a decorously inhuman pedantry. May he tread hard and with precision! May his boots not be rubber heeled!"
Fine praise - and even 40 years later, in another school on another continent, these observations of his character, even with the passing of the years, still rang true.
Eric's enrolment by the Teacher's Registration Council did not occur until 1 February 1927 (see Findmypast.co.uk), after he had left his first job at Eltham College, and perhaps to conform with official requirements for his future visit to the U.S. and Scholarship at Yale University. It recorded the following details:
Eric Sowerby DRAKE, 6 Pembroke Studios, Pembroke Gardens, W.S.
Attainments - B.A., First Class Hons, English, French subsidiary. University of London Teacher's Diploma.
Training in Teaching - London Day Training College, W.C.
Experience - War Service, 1917-1919. Assistant Master, Eltham College, S.E.9, 1921-26. Private Teaching, 1929-
Register Number 74174.
ERIC GOES TO AMERICA, AND FINDS A WIFE.
Eric arrived in New York on the ship Arabic from Southampton (departed on 17 September 1927), aged 28, single, British Citizen born at Chou Ping, China, on a Visa issued in London on 5 August 1927, his last permanent residence being Harrow, England.
Lloyd WADDY  mentioned Eric's time in America, evidently having won a Commonwealth Fund Scholarship to the School of Drama at Yale University. WINNINGTON (2009, page 50), also noted that he was at Yale from 1927 to 1929.
Indeed, WINNINGTON (page 233, end-notes) records that Eric wrote to him in 1978, stating that it was while he was at Yale that he:
"...conceived the ambition of 'doing for the fine arts what Community Theatre had done for Drama in the USA'..."
WADDY further recorded that he was a cowboy in Wyoming - perhaps during his vacations, although it is just a little difficult to shape a mental image of that from my time with him, then in his 60's; and that he also spent time in New York, which was rather inevitable, I suspect.
But he also spent some time at Columbia University, which is, of course, in New York. His entry in the Staff lists at The King's School recorded his post-graduate work at Yale and Columbia. He was later "stung" into publishing an item in the King's School Magazine, in 1954, to mark the bicentenary of the founding of the King's College, which was closed for 8 years during the Revolutionary War of American Independence, reopening, sans the Royal Crown in its emblem, as Columbia University.
His first marriage took place in Norwich, Connecticut, on 17 October 1929, to Eloise Crowell SMITH.
Eloise was born at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 8 December 1903, a daughter Leonard Owen SMITH and Jane CROWELL. They were all enumerated at Norwich, New London, Connecticut, in the 1920 Census.
Eric took his new wife to England, arriving in Liverpool on 28 October 1929 on the R.M.S. Laconia from New York. Their destination address was "Yaver," Mottingham Lane, London, S.E. - Eric was aged 30, Schoolmaster; Eloise was 25, a Student.
His old school magazine recorded in 1930 that he was in Germany, taking in, among other things, "sweet philosophy."
And it may have been about this period that he spent time in Fleet Street in Journalism, as also mentioned by Lloyd WADDY in 1988.
One record does exist of Eric's foray into literary criticism, in the form of his review of the book "Plays for the Young; The School Drama in England," written from a modern American perspective by T.H. Vaile MOTTER, and published in New York in 1930.
Eric S. DRAKE's review of it appeared in The Saturday Review of Literature (an American weekly magazine that grew out of an earlier Saturday Supplement to the New York Evening Post), on 26 September 1931, at page 151. In it Eric observed that:
"There is a revival in Drama in English Schools, but it is not wrapt up with the individual School, often with the individual headmaster, as it was in the beginning...
"Mr MOTTER seems to have missed the new orientation, which is based on a very different view of the child and of life from that of the traditional "public" school, and no less important to the audience. It makes such a vital appeal to the child's imagination that is looked on as somewhat uncanny and not quite respectable, and for that very reason is suspect even in Schools which pride themselves on their dramatic traditions. It is not a fulfilment of their traditions, but a disruption both of them and of the whole scholastic philosophy on which they are based."
MOTTRAM evidently bemoaned having had to endure a school performance he had seen with a "blushing youth" cast as Caliban. Eric snorted back:
"This plausible sneer does not alter the fact, though it may obscure it, that it has been demonstrated that boys of twelve and thirteen (i.e. in the maturity of boyhood, not in the monkey stage nor in the blushing adolescence) can act adult plays, and especially SHAKESPEARE, with an intensity and an abandon that are quite startling. To deny this is as sane as denying that boys of the same age can sing adult's songs and with anthems with a loveliness and penetration that are the despair of adults themselves."
The article is not accompanied by any notes identifying who this Eric S. DRAKE actually was, but I think there can be no doubt. This was our Eric the subversive. Our Eric the champion of the child's capacity to do great things when guided and encouraged. Here was a philosophy that Alain PHILLIPS would recognise another 30 to 40 years later.
And I see that Eric had a special category for some of his pupils (perhaps even myself in my junior forms under his tutelage - shock! horror!) - the "monkey stage"!
A BRIEF ENCOUNTER WITH MODERN DANCE.
In 1932, Eric and Lisel became involved briefly in the modern dance scene in London, and with the career of Leslie BURROWES in particular.
Larraine NICHOLAS, in her "Leslie BURROWES: A Young Dancer in Dresden and London, 1930-34" [The Journal of the Society for Dance Research, Volume 28, Number 2 (Winter 2010), pages 153-178], had this to say about BURROWES' difficulties in launching a career as a dancer in London in 1932:
"An important alliance coming out of the first recital was that Lisel and Eric DRAKE, an American artist and her British husband, attended, were impressed, and offered to help manage her. Their reactions to the dance scene in London are useful evidence of cultural differences. Although I have not been able so far to flesh out their biographies, they claimed knowledge of the modern dance scene in both New York and Germany and were disappointed '... to find how little the modern dance movement has penetrated into England.' Lisel apparently had experience as a dancer and designer and was currently studying with the scenic designer Vladimir POLUNIN at the Slade School. Eric was interested in lighting dancers. 
"They were not impressed by the burgeoning London ballet scene. In the effort to understand its fragile economics but distinguished following, they had been to talk to RAMBERT's husband, Ashley DUKES, and watched a Ballet Club evening at the Mercury Theatre but, '... It was so completely bad that it has made us decide to muscle in on things ourselves with such limited resources as we have.' .
"The DRAKEs supported BURROWES in her second recital in July 1932 at the Fortune Theatre although they had already pronounced how disappointed they were with England. 
"Thanks perhaps to the DRAKEs, more press reactions can be found for this concert, including the well-known music critic, and chairman of the Camargo Society, Edwin EVANS. According to Eric DRAKE, she smashed the bogey that ballet enthusiasts always bring up, that '... modern' dancers have no '... technique.' 
"59. National Resource Centre of Dance [NRCD], LB/N/10, Letter 13 December 1931, Lisel DRAKE to Leslie BURROWES.
60. NRCD, LB/E/1/2, Letter 19 February 1932, Eric DRAKE to Leslie BURROWES.
61. NRCD, LB/N/10, Letter 26 May 1932, Eric DRAKE to BURROWES.
62. NRCD, LB/E/1/2, Letter 15 July 1832, Eric DRAKE to Leslie BURROWES and follow-up letter, undated in LB/N/10.
63. Eric DRAKE had taught English to PEAKE at Eltham College. See John BATCHELOR, 'Mervyn PEAKE: A Biographical and Critical Exploration' (London, Duckworth, 1974) pp. 18-21. PEAKE's wife, Maeve, attended classes with BURROWES."
From my years in the theatre community, I have become acquainted with the names of some of the leading lights in the world of dance and ballet. None of the names in the above little cameo of Eric DRAKE's interest did I recognise - but when I researched their connections, there they were, just one step away, as the following brief mentions show:
A. Leslie BURROWES, born in 1908, trained under Margaret MORRIS from 1924, and in 1928 became the first dance teacher at Dartington Hall, a progressive school and community in Devon. Dorothy ELMHIRST, Dartington Hall's philanthropic owner, subsidised Leslie's further dance education in Dresden in 1930, under Mary WIGMAN, and in 1931, she became the first British woman to receive the WIGMAN School's teaching certificate. In 1933 she opened her Leslie BURROWES Studio of the Dance in the Chelsea home she shared with her husband, the oboist Leon GOOSSENS. ["Pioneer Women: early British modern dancers," author not stated, National Resource Centre for Dance, University of Surrey, on their www.ahrc.ac.uk web-site].
B. Vladimir POLUNIN was married in Saint Petersburg in 1907 to English artist Elizabeth HART (1887-1950); they went to London and worked as scenic artists, eventually designing and painting sets for Sergei DIAGHILEV and his Ballet Russes during their regular London seasons. They had a studio in Floral Street, Covent Garden, where Pablo PICASSO worked for ten weeks in 1919 while designing the sets for DIAGHILEV's production of "The Three Cornered Hat."
C. Ashley DUKES (1885-1959) was an English playwright, critic and theatre manager, and founded the Mercury Theatre in renovated premises in London in 1933. He was married in 1918 to Marie (Mim) RAMBERT, a Polish dancer who trained in Paris, was invited to Berlin by DIAGHILEV to work with his Ballet Russes company, and there worked with NIJINSKY; she went to England in 1914, and studied under Enrico CECCHETTI; she founded a ballet school at Bedford Gardens, and then created her own company, the Ballet Club, which in 1926 became the Ballet Rambert; the majority of her works were produced at her husband's renovated Mercury Theatre - but the physical constraints of that "theatre" were substantial, the stage being only 18 feet deep, with a proscenium height to match.
D. Edwin EVANS became Chairman of the Camargo Ballet Society, which was founded in 1930 to further development of British Ballet (with the economist John Maynard KEYNES as his treasurer). The Society facilitated the creation of new English ballets, and its first subscription performance took place in October 1930 at the Cambridge Theatre in London... The dancers for these and later performances came mainly from the fledgling companies of de VALOIS and Marie RAMBERT... In the summer of 1933, the Society was dissolved. [Guide to the Camargo Ballet Society Collection, 1927-36, Royal Ballet School, White Lodge Museum.]
My life in theatre taught me another thing. Spoken word drama, and to a lesser extent opera, has a requirement that, in order to facilitate and enhance the audience's comprehension of the words being delivered by the means of lip-reading, the front-of-house lighting must be uniform wherever the actors faces might move about the stage - no shadowy bits, all of uniform intensity, with an element of back-lighting to improve the characters' depth of field, in a colour balance (steel blue or Cinemoid number 17) which mixes with the flesh-tones from the front-of-house wash (straw or Cinemoid 3, for just one example, unless lighting African skin-tones, or ageing leading ladies, when the use of Pale Lavender or Cinemoid 36, affectionately known in the trade as "Surprise Pink") to produce an overall mix of white on the stage floor. There is no such requirement in dance, and so a lighting designer has greater freedom - traditionally, as I learned by first hand experience, dance lighting rigs made much greater use of side-lighting, especially from the wings, but just over the heads of exiting dancers. It would appear that Eric probably understood these variable requirements very well, and perhaps enjoyed the greater freedom of lighting dancers.
But whatever details of Eric's life might be lacking from this survey to this time, of a young man just turned 34, it is clear that the next important phase of his career, his engagement with the world of fine arts, was about to begin in earnest
ERIC AND THE ARTISTS COLONY ON SARK.
Eric was involved in the establishment of an artists colony on Sark, one of the Channel Islands, and the building of a gallery there for exhibiting their work. This small colony of artists is said to have "...lived in holiday huts around a purpose built modernist gallery of pink and blue concrete" [see the Utopia Britannica web-site].
Peter WINNINGTON , at page 64, wrote that Gordon SMITH, otherwise known as Goatie:
"...heard from Eric Drake, who had returned from the United States and was announcing his intention of setting up an artists colony on Sark..."
And again, at page 76, he wrote that:
"...Eric DRAKE's ambition was to build on these antecedents and make Sark a famous centre for the arts. To do this, he had to gain the support of the Sarkese, who much resented the colonial attitude of English visitors and feared that his project would reduce the income they derived from serving morning and afternoon teas and hiring out boats. On the contrary, argued DRAKE, his gallery would draw a better class of tourist, and he invited all the islanders to join in the social activities (such as the evening dance-suppers that he planned) on an equal footing with the visitors and residents. That earned their approval, and he started planning. Ultimately DRAKE was so well accepted by the Sarkese that they initiated him into their lodge, the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes.
"His negotiations with the islanders were still in progress when Mervyn and Goatie visited him in the summer of 1932..."
Electoral Registers record Eric Sowerby and Eloise Crowell Smith DRAKE at 10 Saint Loo Mansions, Flood Street, Chelsea, in 1932, suggesting he did his negotiations in Sark while still maintaining a residence in England.
The project was evidently not without some initial resistance, and ongoing complaints, from some of the local Sarkese, which may have had more than just a little to do with what Malcolm YORKE ["My Eyes Mint Gold," 2002], at page 61, wrote, indicating that for enticements, including:
"...pints of beer, some of the Sarkese could be persuaded to sit for artists, but only with their clothes on. It was on this idyllic but inaccessible speck of land that Eric DRAKE proposed to set up an artists colony and a modern art gallery."
Indeed, there are some reports of nudity among the artist group, and one of them, Eric's former pupil at Eltham and his "guest" on Sark, was known to have painted on occasions wearing not much more than a large gold ear-ring and a cape.
That was Mervyn PEAKE, another son of Missionary parents who was also born in China, and educated at Eltham College. At one time he lived above the gallery in a small studio at the top of a prominent circular staircase.
It is well known that artists colonies were established to afford artists some ease and comfort in their lifestyles in order to enhance their creativity. The more prudish members of society might have viewed some aspects of that lifestyle as "bohemian," even louche. I make no judgement on that, and observe that the 1930's were probably less "prudish" in general terms than any other decade prior to the 1960's. But I do note that years later, when Eric re-established his teaching career in one of the more conservative "Greater Public" Schools during the more prudish times in 1950's Australia (see further below), it appears that he did not take too many of his Common Room colleagues (if any at all) into his confidence about his Sark experience.
Eric later wrote of Mervyn PEAKE, as Francesca BELL recorded in her doctoral thesis "The Salvaged Image", May 2001 (University of Newcastle, Ourimbah), probably quoting from Eric's articles in Mervyn Peake Review ("Lost Archives" in issue 4, or Rented Room in issue 9), with an arresting analogy:
"What lies behind Mervyn is too big to be just a cult, or a protest, or what have you. It is the base of a surprising pyramid, a lotus with its roots in the primeval slime and its head in the sun."
Others artists in the Sark group were Eric's wife Lisel, Brenda STEATFEILD, Janice THOMPSON and Antony BRIDGE - their works were displayed at Sark, and several London Galleries, including the Redfern Gallery and the Cooling Gallery.
John BATCHELOR, in his "Mervyn PEAKE: a biographical and critical exploration" (Duckworth, 1974), at page 18, wrote:
"Mervyn PEAKE and Gordon SMITH went on a holiday together to Sark in the Channel Islands, in the summer of... 1932, and PEAKE's appetite for islands was further whetted by this visit. Eric DRAKE, who had taught PEAKE English at Eltham College, was living on Sark. His American wife, Lisel, had helped him to found an art gallery on the island, and he proposed to Mervyn and his friends Tony BRIDGE and Brenda STREETFIELD, that they should go to the gallery and work there during their summer vacations from the R.A. Schools..."
BATCHELOR observed further, at page 20, that:
"Eric and Lisel DRAKE provided the money for both the gallery and the artists, and the whole venture was really created and sustained by them. In reality, the students were their guests, but Eric DRAKE organised things so that they could feel they were independent..."
Eric and Lisel designed the gallery, and he incorporated some novel advances in natural lighting, from ideas he gained during his time at Yale, in particular the principles of stage lighting developed there by Stanley McCANDLESS. And Mervyn PEAKE helped to build it.
I'm not sure who chose the pink and blue colour scheme!
and his first wife Lisel (lower right corner), relaxing on Sark.
Image courtesy of Peter WINNINGTON.]
The Gallery was officially opened in late August 1933, with many in attendance, including the Dame of Sark, who officiated.
An exhibition of the work of the Sark Group was held at the Cooling Galleries, in New Bond Street London, opening on Tuesday 8 May 1934. Several reports on the exhibition were carried in the English Press, including one in the Cornishman [Thursday 10 May], which did not identify the reporter, but stated that:
"The paintings are the work of the Sark Group, a colony of five artists who have, in the words of a London critic, 'stolen a march on the Royal Academy'... Miss Brenda STREETFEILD... Mr Borlase SMART of St Ives...
"Three of the colony are English, and two American. All are young people who are weary of what they declare to be the snobbery, inanity, and herding instinct of art coteries. Their pictures are powerful delineations of Sark characters executed with a total absence of pretence.
"Mr Eric DRAKE, a travelled Englishman, who has graduated at three universities and studied all the arts, is responsible for the movement. With the aid of his friends, who worked as builders and labourers, he built an art gallery, with studios above, out of a tumble-down fish-and-chip shop.
"Mervyn PEAKE, another member, was until a few years ago one of the most promising students at the Royal Academy Schools. Then, he ran away from civilisation to land at last in the Channel Islands, where he lived in a bar that leaked, worked in a potato fields at 8d an hour to earn enough to buy food, fished in the sea, washed his own clothes, and lived more or less like a modern Crusoe.
"Sark is three and a half miles long and one and a half miles wide. Its 500 inhabitants have no motor-cars, no electric light, no gas, no sewerage, and no cinema."
I have to say that I see very little resemblance between the above photo of the Gallery on Sark and a "tumble-down fish-and-chip shop"!
In a later edition of the same newspaper [20 September 1934], under the headline "The Sark Group," mention was also made of:
"...Mr Anthony BRIDGE, who is well known in Cornwall... Mervyn PEAKE's 'Houses and Trees'... some delightful landscapes of Majorca by Miss Lisel DRAKE..."
This report also mentioned the founder of the colony:
"Mr Eric DRAKE, B.A., M.R.S.T., F.R.S.A., etc, a young man in the twenties who has lived in many countries, speaks several languages fluently, and has an amazing fund of scholarship."
Another paper, the Portsmouth Evening News [Sat 28 April 1934] had previewed the exhibition with this report, under the headline "Art of Sark"
"I suppose few people know that there is an art galley in Sark. But if you mention the Channel Islands to Mr Eric DRAKE, Director of the gallery, you will find him enthusiastic about it.
"He is so keen, in fact, that he has arranged an exhibition of some of the paintings at the Cooling Galleries...
"The idea of the group, I understand, is to encourage Island talent, no matter in what position the talented one may be. If a promising young artist can afford to pay for a room near the studio, they may do so, and thus be close to the artistic centre all the time. If he cannot, but still wants to paint, he can get credit, and do manual work, such as gardening, at ordinary Sark wages, in between his spells of artistic creation."
Electoral Registers later record Eric Sowerby and Eloise Crowell Smith DRAKE at 6 Pembroke Studios, Earl's Court Ward, Kensington, in 1933 and 1934. Perhaps they failed to advise the Electoral Office of the departure, or they may have kept a London address anyway.
Eric S. DRAKE sailed from Southampton on the ship Tanganyika, on 16 December 1933, bound for Laurenco Marques; his last address in the U.K. was Rembrandt Hotel, Thurloe Place, London S.W., he travelled on a First Class ticket, was aged 34, and was a "Proprietor and Director of Art Gallery"; his last permanent residence was "not in the British Empire," and he intended to live in Sark, Channel Islands. Travelling with him was Eloise C.S. DRAKE, aged 29.
Eloise was recorded in two subsequent passenger arrivals lists - both in Southampton, both in 1934, both indicating her residence was in Clos Roussel, Sark, Channel Islands - the first voyage on the Usaramo from Laurenco Marques, dated 13 March; the second on the Albert Ballin from New York, arriving 29 November.
Lisel DRAKE's formal entry in the National Cyclopedia of American Biography (edited by George DERBY and James Terry WHITE, 1960), as Eloise SANEL, recorded that:
"In 1933, with Eric DRAKE, she founded and designed The Art Gallery, Sark, Channel Islands, which was operated until 1937..."
THE SARK EXPERIMENT ENDS, AS DOES ERIC'S MARRIAGE.
Eric's father died in June 1935 (see above), and he spent that summer in England, leaving Lisel and their manager in charge of the Gallery on Sark.
WINNINGTON , at page 88, wrote that tensions had already arisen among the Sark group, and that while in England, Eric received a letter from Lisel:
"...to the effect that he was 'de trop...' He returned in the autumn, and she left."
Eric is said to have stayed on at Sark for a while, and may even have had to pay his taxes owing to the Dame of Sark in the form of his own labour, working on the roads, although he admits that he may have done so from the local pub.
The artist Eric had invited to Sark, Mervyn PEAKE may not have helped the cause either, particularly when he insisted on painting the scene as one of the Sarkese was laid out in preparation for burial, which evidently offended the said Dame. One can only hope that he was wearing just a little more than the gold ear-ring and the cape on that sombre occasion!
There are some suggestions that Eric was on Sark until just before the Germans took control. There are reports that the Gallery itself became a brothel under the German occupation. I find no evidence to support these assertions. But by 1946, it had become a shop.
Lisel sailed off into the sun-set. Whether she did so with the gallery manager Eric had left in charge is not clear, but that is a possibility. She spent several years sailing in the Mediterranean and cruising about Northern France ports, and finally headed for home. Well, it was Florida, actually. She was recorded in the Palm Beach Post of 21 September 1939, as the "...feminine skipper" of her small yacht Agwam, which she had been forced to put into dry dock for repairs; and as she was unable to spend the summer in Bahaman waters as she had planned, she decided instead to charter a schooner and sail to Havana for about 10 days. Eric is nowhere mentioned in the report.
Eric Sowerby DRAKE and Eloise C.S. DRAKE were formally divorced in Dade County, Florida, in 1941 [Cert. No 1117; Volume 163].
Eloise was married secondly, at Clearwater, Florida, in July 1942 (this event may well have precipitated the 1941 divorce proceedings), to Sanel BEER; she died in Miami, Dade County, Florida, on 5 September 1978; she is recorded in the National Cyclopedia of American Biography as artist and author, with exhibitions or her paintings, in oils and watercolours, in many group shows, including one in the Redfern Gallery in London in 1937; and her first showing in America was in 1952, at the Eve TUCKER Galleries, Miami Beach, Florida.
At this stage, it is not clear what Eric did between the ending if the Sark experiment, sometime between 1935 and 1937, and the outbreak of another World War.
However, in the 25 September 1939 Register of England, images of which are viewable on the findmypast.co.uk web-site, we find that Eric Sowerby DRAKE, whose date of birth was recorded as 22 December 1898, was residing at the George Hotel, Wellington Street, Aldershot, in Hampshire, as "Partner of Fine Art Gallery in Club, Temporary Camouflage Officer, R.A.F.," and married. With him in the same "household" was Vanessa F. DRAKE, born 2 December 1910, also married, and "Assistant Organiser of Patriotic (and) Refugees Appeal." Other "residents" were Sydney Arthur ELLIS and Diane Louise ELLIS, the Hotel Manager and Manageress, as well as a Hotel Waitress, Chambermaid and Barman.
There is no doubt that this is our Eric. But there is no record in English Marriage Indexes for a marriage between these two in the previous 5 years - as one might expect since Eric was not formally divorced until 1941. Perhaps Vanessa was the wife of another Mr DRAKE, and just happened to be residing in the same hotel? Perhaps she was just pretending to be Mrs DRAKE.
ERIC SERVES IN ANOTHER WAR - IN CAMOUFLAGE.
Lloyd WADDY  recorded that Eric was in Farnborough by the start of the war.
Indeed, published R.A.F. Staff Lists for the Royal Aircraft Establishment at South Farnborough, Hampshire, for December 1939 and April 1940, both record E.S. DRAKE, B.A., as their Camouflage Officer.
This institution grew out of the former Royal Aircraft Factory of W.W.1, and during W.W.2 the staff, in both research and technical departments, were fully engaged in work on engine problems in R.A.F. aircraft. It was renamed the Royal Aerospace Establishment in 1988.
Eric served during the better part of the remainder of the second World War as an officer with the Camouflage Directorate, but exactly when he went to Leamington Spa with them is not yet clear.
Image courtesy of the alwaysimages.co.uk web-site.]
Fergus DURRANT wrote a detailed account of the Directorate, its establishment, and its activities in Leamington Spa, which was published in the Winter 2008 edition of the magazine ArtSpace, at pages 29 to 32, and viewable on the www.lsa-artists.co.uk website:
"The Civil Defence Camouflage Establishment, over 150 artists, film set designers, photographers and technicians, who had been recruited and shipped to Leamington to join local carpenters, tradesmen and secretaries... had been given the job of camouflaging Category 'A' factories and infrastructure vital to the war effort. They had also been given the job of Naval camouflage as well...
"In the months up to the start of the war in September 1939, the Camouflage Advisory Panel had already met several times... The Camouflage Panel, based at Whitehall, oversaw camouflage work all over the country... Leamington was not the only unit...
"By September 1939, the research section was already in Leamington, based in "The Gable," a large Victorian manor in its own grounds... just outside Leamington on the Kenilworth Road. It was here that the serious scientific work was done...
"By November 1939 the Unit had commandeered the Leamington Art Gallery and Museum, along with the Regent Hotel, and the roller skating rink in the colonnade that had been the home to Leamington's circus, now the site of the Loft Theatre."
The Directorate had its Control Offices in the Regent Hotel, and comprised two wings, the Naval unit, which worked in the town's Art Gallery and Museum on camouflaging warships at sea, and the Civilian or Factory unit, which occupied large premises at the Rink. There, a force totalling up to 250 was assembled, and worked in secret on aspects of military and civilian camouflage - there they made large mock-ups of buildings and military installations to test their proposed methods, as described by WINNINGTON [2009, page 276], for:
"...making factories look like fields, and fields like factories."
The original heads of staff at Leamington were Captain Lancelot M. GLASSON, M.C., the Chief Camouflage Officer; Christopher IRONSIDE was in charge of the Unit's work at the Rink; and Commander YUNGE-BATEMAN had charge of the Naval Section at the Gallery.
DURRANT also gave some detail of the operations of the Directorate:
"The work at the Rink involved factory camouflage. The unit had been given a Tiger Moth two-seater which was flown by a republican pilot from the Spanish Civil war...
"Once the sketches and photographs were back at the Rink, they would be converted into 3D model done to scale, and made so it could be viewed from around 6,000 feet. It would be placed on a large turntable and viewed in different light conditions that mimicked day/night and the angle of the sun in different seasons. Viewing platforms allowed the onlooker to have a bird's eye view or oblique view, and soon into the war they had bomb sights from downed German bombers fitted to the viewing platforms so that they could simulate the bomb aimers viewpoint. Virginia IRONSIDE... said of the Rink that it 'had been converted into a giant studio' where 'artists slaved over enormous turntables on which they had constructed models of factories and aerodromes, lit by ever moving moons and suns attached to wires'...
"In the Art Gallery, a shallow tank was constructed, and using Jane's Fighting Ship reference book, the carpenters made exact scale models of naval ships. Then with a giant spot-light imitating the sun, and small fans to ripple the water, they placed the ships into different backdrops and environments - North Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, etc... they constructed a haze machine that imitated atmospheric conditions at sea over long distances...
"The unit toiled away for most of the war, but after 1942, when German raids on Britain became less intense, the priority for factory camouflage was not so urgent."
There is an interesting abstract from an untitled book, displayed on the www.docstoc.com web-site in a post by "fjhuangjun" dated 25 March 2010, under the title of "Chapter 22. Leamington Spa."
It contains some interesting personal observations, made by a woman who is identified on another web-site (www.ericschilsky.co.uk) as (Mrs) Felicity FISHER, formerly SUTTON (and a daughter of artist Peggy SUTTON):
"In May 1941 I went to Leamington Spa to take up the job of Junior Technical Assistant in the Department of Camouflage... I was to present myself at the Headquarters which were in the Regent Hotel... On Monday, I turned up at the Naval Section which was stationed in the town Art Gallery, a cruciform building with good lighting from above the glass ceiling. Commander BATEMAN was my boss... Senior Technical Assistant Helen RAE... in the Camouflage studios.
"It was, looking back quite calmly, a very odd set up in both sections of the Camouflage Directorate. Here were gathered about 80 artisans and craftsmen who, for some reason or another, were physically unfit or past calling-up age to be in the Forces fighting for our survival an Land, Sea and in the Air. They were a kaleidoscopic collection of all different shapes and sizes and ages. Many of them had spouses, either with them or left behind at home somewhere in England. The curious thing that occurred, during the four years that I was there, was the extraordinary re-arrangements of these married couples...
"There were some outstanding personalities...
After detailing some of the "re-arrangements" among the married couples that she had observed, Felicity noted that:
"Janna, who was happily living with Mr BRUCE - who was in another part of the country - finally moved in with Eric DRAKE..."
Well, Miss SUTTON got the bit about Mr BRUCE wrong, as BRUCE was, of course, Janna's maiden surname. And her imagination might have been a little creative - that Eric and Janna took separate lodgings later in London (see below), before they were married, suggests that it is just possible that what she saw was Janna simply moving into digs under the same roof as Eric, perhaps in adjacent rooms, all under the watchful eye of a prying Landlady.
But Felicity did provide some details of how her branch, the Naval unit, operated, as well as, I now see, clandestinely identifying herself, as "that Miss SUTTON":
"A tank of water took the place of the raging seas and various 'weathers' and times of day or night could be switched on by 'that Miss SUTTON' and the vessels conned through binoculars from a black box in the centre of the gallery The effect of reality was astounding. Weather conditions were simulated with dimmed light and a fan (Mountbatten Pink, or Maiden's Blush, was found to be as effective as any camouflage in Northern waters).
"Victorine and I made exact machine drawings from 'Jane's fighting Ships' of plans and elevations of battleships... These were printed. Then we copied onto these prints exact replicas of camouflage designs from the models painted by the Officers. These plans and elevations were sent to the Dockyards with correct colour cards by special courier, Seamen were slung over the ship's sides and painting began."
And there was gossip, including the mention of a woman named Bettina, a former model and dancer, who was married to another Eric in the Directorate (the sculptor Eric SCHILSKY); Felicity described Bettina as being, "...plainly, a little neurotic," recording that:
"...one terrible morning, when Victorine and I were taking our jackets off in the cloakroom, Janna BRUCE, physically rather a bruiser with 'blonde' hair and an abrupt manner, burst into the place saying 'I 'm sorry to have to tell you that Bettina died last night.' Poor darling, she had gassed herself..."
This tragedy resulted in the unavoidable involvement of the local Police and a Coronial enquiry.
Felicity's close friend and drawing colleague, Victorine FOOT, would later marry Bettina's widower, the other Eric, the sculptor. Just for the record.
In April 2008, an item appeared in a Leamington Spa newspaper, concerning a Heritage Lottery grant which a local Community theatre group and the local Artists Studio planned to use to:
"...celebrate the work of the Civilian Camouflage Directorate...
"Surveying factories and installations from the ground and air, the unit created models and designs that could be viewed in all weather and light conditions. The men and women used a large turntable with viewing platforms and giant water tanks constructed in the building that is now the old art gallery and museum in York Road."
The plan was to recreate the turntable, the blue-prints of which had evidently survived. Fergus DURRANT (see above) was evidently part of one of these groups.
The article also mentioned that several big names in the art world in Britain had worked at the Directorate there during the war, including Christopher IRONSIDE (who designed Britain's decimal coinage) and Wilfred SHINGLETON (who won an Oscar in 1946 for his work on Great Expectations). So too did Robin DARWIN, a grandson of the great Charles of "Natural Selection" fame.
Further names can be added to this list, from a Press Quote on the www.ericschilsky.co.uk web-site, taken from Virginia IRONSIDE's book "Janey and Me: Growing up with my Mother" (Virginia was Christopher's daughter), as follows:
"...the Camouflage Unit teemed with men who would become huge artistic cheeses in the years after the war. They were the painter Tom MONNINGTON and the architect Hugh CASSON (both future presidents of the Royal Academy); Richard GUYATT, the graphic designer (future rector [sic] of the Royal College of Art); Eric SCHILSKY, the sculptor; and Edward WADSWORTH..."
These two separate listings may represent the two divisions of the Directorate.
Eric was already recorded in his mother's probate grant in December 1939 as a camouflage Officer, so he had evidently joined up early on.
We know that Eric's future second wife Janna BRUCE also worked for a Camouflage Unit during the war. I had wondered if they may have already met through fine art circles, but WINNINGTON records that they met while working for the Camouflage Directorate - although the marriage did not take place until October 1946, several years after Eric had left for his second stint in China, and immediately before he went out again, for the last time.
And Lloyd WADDY  mentions that it was while:
"...hanging out of a bomb-bay in a less than serviceable bomber, checking the success or otherwise of the camouflage, that Eric looked up and met Janna BRUCE."
Lloyd WADDY also gives us an interesting insight into Eric's relationship with Janna at about this time, after they left Leamington. They apparently went their separate ways to rent rooms, only to find they were both quite close to each other's, in the same building in Blackheath, which just happened to have been the old School for the Sons of Missionaries, and where Eric had lived as a schoolboy from 1905 until 1912. While Eric was in China, a German bomber missed his target, and demolished part of the building's roof, but not injuring Janna, not then yet married to Eric.
It appears likely that Eric served with them until the latter part of 1944, when the Directorate facilities at Leamington, presumably having served their purpose, were closed down.
He was residing at "Tall Trees," Hyde Place, Leamington Spa, in January 1944, when he was fined 2 pounds for breaches of the Lighting Restriction Order (a Blackout Offender) [Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, Friday 21 January].
ERIC GOES BACK TO CHINA.
There is another snippet from a google.book search, this time from "The Sowerby Saga; being a brief account of the origins and genealogy of the Sowerby Family of..." by Arthur de Carle SOWERBY, 1952, at page 62, where we find that one of Eric's brothers was in:
"... Nationalist China, holding out against Japan. Later he opened a post in Hsian-Fu (sic), capital of Shensi Province, and one of the ancient capitals of China, and did most of his work from there - - right under the Japanese guns, so to speak. He was joined there by Eric Sowerby DRAKE, his younger brother and the youngest member of the family, who had been sent out, after serving most of the war with the Camouflage people. That was in 1945, when he held the rank of Captain..."
I am unable to determine, from the truncation caused by the snippet nature of it, whether this last statement referred to Eric, or to his older brother.
But the identity of the brother is established by WINNINGTON , in an end-note on page 276, who wrote that:
"When the centre at Leamington closed in 1944, DRAKE was called out to China by his brother Burgess in the intelligence Service, spying on the Japanese."
And, as it appears that Burgess by then held the Army rank of Major, it follows that Eric himself was therefore probably the Captain.
ERIC'S SECOND MARRIAGE.
Eric's second wife was born Alice Joyce BRUCE, at Chatswood, Sydney, on 26 March 1909, the daughter of Alexander BRUCE, a Wool-buyer, and Alice DAVENPORT. She was on the Electoral Roll for 1935, living with her parents at Pibrac, Pibrac Avenue, Warrawee, the house in which she and Eric would eventually reside from 1950 until their deaths.
She signed her artworks as Janna BRUCE. She had studied at Datillo RUBBO's art school in Sydney, and from 1936 to 1938 at the Westminster Art School in London; she also studied at the Academie Ranson in Paris.
Janna had been in England since 1936, and their marriage took place in London in October of 1946, and registered at Chelsea, December quarter [Volume 5c, page 621].
She travelled to Sydney very soon afterwards, evidently on her own, and her arrival was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday 3 January 1947, as follows:
"An Australian who returned from the U.K. in the Otranto, Mrs J. Sowerby-DRAKE, formerly Miss Jana BRUCE of Wahroonga, has been art student, camouflage expert and film producer during 10 years abroad in Europe and England.
"During the War, Mrs Sowerby-DRAKE took a job with a camouflage unit. Later she was given direction of a film unit and made responsible for production, from scripts to editing, of documentary and educational films for the Army. Mrs Sowerby-DRAKE is en route to China to join her husband, who has been appointed adviser in English studies to the British Consulate in Nanking."
ERIC RETURNS TO CHINA FOR THE LAST TIME.
Eric sailed from Liverpool on 9 December 1946 on the Empress of Scotland bound for Shanghai. He was aged 47, his last address in the U.K. was 18A Alderbrook Road, London S.W. 2, he was employed as a British Council Officer, and he stated that he intended to settle permanently in China.
Again, not much detail has come to hand about Eric's third and last visit to China. From the previous and the next newspaper reports, it is evident that he went out initially either as an adviser in English Studies to the British Consulate in Nanking, or as an educational officer for the British Council in China, or perhaps they amounted to the much same thing.
He does appear, at a later time, to have been appointed to an academic post at Amoy University, Nanking, as Professor of English. Amoy is now known by the name Xiamen.
He was further described, by e-mail from the Archivist at T.K.S. (probably repeating information recorded in his eulogy), as having been:
"...an Intelligence Officer 1944-46 in China and Government Adviser in English Studies in the Chiang Kai-Shek Nationalist Administration and Education officer with the British Council in China 1946-49."
His arrival in Sydney, with his second wife Janna, was reported in the daily newspaper, the Sunday Herald (Sydney) on 7 August 1949:
"The destroyer was moored during the night, and eventually Mrs DRAKE, who, with her husband arrived in Sydney yesterday in the Shansi, said she became bored with it all and went to sleep.
"Professor Sowerby DRAKE was professor of English at Amoy University, and his wife, formerly Miss Janna BRUCE, is a well known Sydney artist. When her husband was educational officer for the British Council in China, she travelled with him all over the country, sketching as she went."
Once again, 49 years after his first scrape with danger, Eric yet again had found himself forced to make his way down a Chinese river to safety on the coast, and a passage by sea, this time to the Antipodes.
H.M.S. Amethyst, under orders to replace H.M.S. Consort on guard duty at the British embassy in Nanking, had sailed up the Yangtze River from Shanghai on 20 April 1949, and was fired upon by Peoples Liberation Army forces near Tiangyin, suffering casualties and damage as she returned fire; support from upstream by the Consort, and from downstream by H.M.S. Black Swan, was unsuccessful, and for 10 weeks, P.L.A. forces kept the Amethyst under guard near Fu Te Wei; she made another run for it on the night of 30 Jul, following a passenger ship which absorbed the P.L.A. fire and was sunk with many civilian casualties, and made her rendezvous with Consort near Baoshan at 5.25 a.m. on 31 Jul; and passing the P.L.A. forts there without being sighted, they were out of harm's way by 7.00 a.m., and had cleared the river mouth by noon; they then sailed for Hong Kong. This became known as the Amethyst Incident, or Yangtze Incident, referred to above.
ERIC SETTLES IN AUSTRALIA.
Eric and Janna moved into her old family home in Pibrac Avenue, Warrawee, sometime after their arrival in Sydney.
In August 1949, Eric was cited by the Worker, Brisbane, under an article headlined "Coms Won't Hold China, Says Editor" as follows:
"A British educationist, Mr Sowerby DRAKE, a professor at Amoy University, China, said that the Communist authorities were re-organising every university of which they had gained control. 'They are concentrating on Medicine, Law, Commerce, Economic and Sociology faculties,' he said. 'These subjects are usually taught in English, and that practise is being reorganised. They are advertising for students to do a months course in what amounts to indoctrination in Communist principles.' Mr DRAKE said that he was familiar with the Yangtze River, and he considers the escape of the Amethyst down the river was 'nothing short of a miracle'."
It is, of course, no real surprise that an Englishman who had advised the Anglo-sympathetic Nationalists under Chiang Kai Shek on educational matters, and had held an academic post there under that regime, should see the understandable "reorganisation" - or de-colonialisation - of tertiary education by the ensuing Communist regime as indoctrination. But it is interesting the Eric was being reported saying that, and in a presumably leftist Worker's newspaper.
I could find no further reference to indicate whether Eric was the Editor in the headline.
Eric revived his teaching career in 1951, joining the non-residential staff of The King's School in Parramatta, as an Assistant Master in the English Department. The Head Master was fellow Englishman Herbert Denys HAKE, but there is no indication, or even suggestion, that the two knew each other before Eric arrived at King's.
But he fitted well into HAKE's plan for the school, as Michael D. de B. Collins PERSSE's biography of HAKE, published in the Australian Dictionary of Biography [Volume 14, 1966], makes clear:
"HAKE set about a gradual liberalization... which (his) predecessor C.T. PARKINSON had failed to achieve.
"World War II delayed reform, as did the conservative staff appointed by PARKINSON's predecessor, E.M. BAKER. After 1946, HAKE chose younger men, some from England, who brought a more moderate style without rejecting the 'healthy hardiness' seen as the school's chief characteristic. Helped and encouraged by [his wife] Elizabeth, he fostered music, drama and art..."
I imagine that HAKE, had he seen Eric's credentials written up in an application, may well have decided, sight unseen, that this was his new man for English and Drama. But WADDY (1988) records a somewhat different story:
"Janna asked the rector's wife to arrange an interview for a position as a master at The King's School, Parramatta. While she sat in the park, Denys HAKE appointed Eric to the staff. It was a momentous appointment for the school, and a happy one for Eric."
Eric's temporary appointment was made permanent in 1952.
It was customary for Masters at King's to coach at least one sporting team, but there is no indication in School Magazine records that he coached anything more serious than the Debating Team.
Masters often found themselves involved with one or other of the Boys Houses, and it does appear that Eric may have been an Assistant to the House Master of Macquarie House Senior, a House for Day-boys (non boarders).
His involvement with the Debating Society began almost as soon as he arrived, when he was invited to take on the responsibilities of Master-in-charge of the Society at the first meeting of the year, held on 5 April 1951 - to which request he agreed. His arrival in the Society coincided with a substantial increase in interest and membership, and it is evident that the two events were not unrelated. He made a regular habit of staying back at School on Wednesday nights to attend their meetings, and offer guidance - not all non-residential masters were so keen to do that.
Eric quickly turned his attention to another aspect of school life, or created a greater impetus for it - he produced the Macquarie Senior House contribution to the Dramatic Evening held in the School Dining Hall:
"...towards the end of last term."
A Tragedy by James BRIDIE, entitled "The Pardoner's Trail," with a cast of 4 characters, was:
"...so good that a second performance was staged the following evening. Congratulations to Mr DRAKE for a fine production" [School Magazine, December 1951, page 11].
The date of the Evening was not recorded, but I expect that it probably took place in Term 2, and not too close to final exams.
The success set the stage for the future - in May 1952, the report of the Dramatic Society (School Magazine, page 47) included the news that:
"Mr E.S. DRAKE has been appointed to take control of all Dramatic work throughout the School."
The report added that:
"His wide knowledge of the wonders of Dramatic Art and his study of the subject in England and America abundantly equipped him for his work, and his own enthusiasm is unbounded."
An earlier report in the same Magazine (page 29) had observed that:
"...the School timetable has been re-arranged so that Wednesday afternoon can be devoted to a wider range of activities. These include... Drama, and other forms of artistic expression."
It would surprise me if Eric DRAKE had not contributed towards this decision.
And in December 1952, the School Magazine (page 12) reported that:
"Mr DRAKE and the Dramatic Society presented a full production of 'Antigone' to a highly appreciative audience in the School Library on August 18th."
In that year, he also delivered to a meeting of the Dramatic Society (page 35):
"...an extremely interesting address on the history of Theatre, illuminated by Epidiascope enlargements..." and they thanked him for "...his interest and enthusiasm..." and "...for the loan of some valuable lighting equipment which he has purchased for us."
In 1953 it was a Shakespeare, the Scottish play, cast from members of the Dramatic Society, and directed by Eric.
Fortunately, the program of improvements to the Dining Room stage was completed in time for this production, including the installation of curtains, a cyclorama, and a demountable stage extension. Again, it would surprise me if Eric DRAKE did not play a significant part in getting these improvements placed on the School's agenda.
And in 1954, "The River Line" by Charles MORGAN, was also staged in the Dining Hall. This one drew praise from the Headmaster, H. Denys HAKE, in his Annual report to the School on Speech Day [and published in the School Magazine of May 1955]:
"Those who were present at the presentation of "The River Line" in the Dining Hall or "The Mikado" at the Town Hall must have realised the great influence that Mr DRAKE and Mr [Cedric] ASHTON have already exerted on our Dramatics and Music. Both performances were of an excellent standard. Dramatics and Music are coming more and more to take their rightful places in the general life of the school."
And that was in a School with a very long tradition of sporting excellence and with a very strong Military Cadet culture. Very well done indeed, Messieurs DRAKE and ASHTON!
In 1955 he produced "The Lady is Not for Burning" by Christopher FRY. Then in May 1956, it was ANOUILH's "The Lark" translated by FRY, as well as Eugene O'NEILL's "Where the Cross is Made" (featuring a young Bruce BERESFORD as one of the ghosts of departed seamen).
And in 1957, he produced COCTEAU's "The Eagle Has Two Heads" (in which his eulogist, a young Lloyd WADDY, played the part of the Chief of Police).
Perhaps his most successful venture came in 1958, when he produced an acclaimed version of the Three Theban Tragedies of Sophocles, with Eric furnishing his own translation of the original. The Headmaster heaped even higher praise upon it in his Speech Day Report:
"Perhaps the most outstanding single event in the school year was the production of the Theban plays of Sophocles in April. The inspiration was entirely E. Sowerby DRAKE's. It was he who conceived the idea of producing the three plays as one play - a thing which has never been attempted before, as far as I know. He then sat down with Mr [Godfrey] TANNER's assistance to translate the plays into language which all could understand and appreciate - in itself a masterly performance. The whole production was executed by him to the minutest detail. It was a great feat of co-operative effort on the part of Masters, several wives of Masters, parents and boys, and an Old Boy who arranged the music - some 80 or so in number. Mr EVANS and a number of boys constructed the stage settings, Mr [Eric] JABOUR and another party painted all the scenery, Mr [Brian] DOWNEY supervised the lighting crew, and Mr TANNER helped Mr DRAKE to co-ordinate the production."
But it does look like he may have overstretched himself.
His earlier management of the Debating Society, almost from the day of his arrival at King's, he was to relinquish after five years, citing his other increasing work commitments, being succeeded as Master in charge in 1956 by Mr HORNE.
Then it was the Dramatic Society's turn. The May 1959 School Magazine identified the cause, and made the following brief report:
"There will be no school play this year owing to the strain on Mr DRAKE's health. It is hoped that this will not be the case in future years."
Later in 1959, the recently arrived Classics Master, Adrian KENT, was already Master in charge of the Dramatic Society.
However, Eric didn't entirely retire from the world of T.K.S. theatricals - in programme notes to two of Cedric ASHTON's productions of GILBERT and SULLIVAN's Operettas, he is credited with Lighting - "Ruddigore" (1958), and "Pirates of Penzance" (1959).
A later production of "Ruddigore" in 1964 was the last Cedric ASHTON's G. and S. production at King's. I played a minor role as one of the ancestral portraits that "came to life" in order to harangue and harass the main character, and this effect does require a particular skill in lighting transformations through painted gauzes before it can become an éclat. It wasn't quite camouflage, but it got close!
And his wife Janna is recorded in several school magazines as having provided expertise in the Make-up Department. As she had to pick him up at the end of the night to ferry him back to Warrawee, it makes sense that she was there for the performance as well, and making herself useful.
Eric was the Senior English Master when I arrived at T.K.S. in 1961. He had charge of the "A" class, and took us from the Removes through to the Sixth form - there was no Second form, this being the quaint way that T.K.S. then handled a five year curriculum under the old English Greater Public School form-naming tradition. The "difficulty" was resolved, and the Remove grade abolished, when the year following mine commenced, at the brand new school, as the very first First Form, under the elongated 6 year secondary scheme named for the Education Minister, WYNDHAM, who had introduced it.
Eric was one of the diminishing number of old hands who continued on when the school moved to new premises up on Pennant Hills Road, beside the old BURNS family mansion "Gowan Brae", on property most recently owned by the Presbyterian Church.
This move was a culmination of many years planning, in particular by H. Denys HAKE, from the time of his arrival at the School in 1939.
It began with the occupation of the recently completed phase one, with classes in the first term of 1962, and did not end until all the new boarding houses were constructed, and the last of the old "outlying" boarding houses had been closed. I think that was well after I had left at the end of 1965.
They were disruptive times, with boys being bussed to and from the old boarding houses until their new ones were built. But for Eric's wife Janna, being a little closer now to Warrawee, it meant that her daily chauffeuring of the unlicensed Eric probably took up a little less of her dedicated time.
On his arrival in 1951, Eric was listed as the 20th Assistant Master in order of seniority.
By 1961, he had "seen off" a number of his more senior Colleagues from the Masters Common Room - E.M. FISHER in 1953; J.S.B. DOAK and E.A.W. LOGAN in 1955; G.F. AUSTIN and M. SEARLE in 1956; A.I.M. FRASER and E.H. BOYD in 1957; E.G. "Axe" DORSCH, G.V. "Coddy" CARDINAL and J.P. PRINCE in 1960; and F.C. "Fanny" HANCOCK in 1961. Two more left after the school moved - R.G. EDYVEAN in 1962; and W.G. COX in 1963, and there was some movement among staff who had joined after Eric, who was by now 7th in seniority. There is no record of what he thought of them, nor they of him.
And like those of us who were still there in December 1964, Eric joined in farewelling the great Headmaster of the now "previous era," H. Denys HAKE - although he did not join us boys as we hauled H.D.H. from Pennant Hills Road to Futter Hall by two tug-o'-war ropes tied the front bumper-bar of his large American sedan - and yes, alright, it WAS down-hill to start with!
Alas, no more to reverently stand to attention as H.D.H. passed, on his dignified progress around the school, slowed by his built-up shoe and calliper, evidence, I gather, of a war-time injury with the 2/7th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, in India or Mesopotamia (although it may have been the result of an arthritic condition in the bone).
But his is an entirely different story, for another to tell. I cannot now remember whether the staff were like-wise expected to pause during his passing, or whether they may just have done so out of respect.
Eric retired from teaching at the end of 1971.
His departure was noted in the December issue of the Magazine for that year, at pages 10-12, having been almost "eclipsed" by another departure, that of the master of the Book-room (as I remember him, threatening to hit me with his ruler-booler if I didn't stop picking things up that weren't mine), old Robbo ROBERTSON.
A former pupil-turned-colleague, Jonathan PERSSE, commented on Eric's ability to captivate boys in his classes:
"...by having a deep and genuine enthusiasm and delight in man and his achievements in their rich diversity; by his ability to see the heart of a matter, and yet at the same time comprehend the significance of even the smallest detail; by being able to communicate something interesting and worthwhile, either directly, or through story and analogy (and what wonderful stories they were - narrative, yes, but so much more than that, an inspiration and a delight in themselves); by being himself; by treating other people as sensitive and perceptive persons."
Another Common Room colleague, Alain PHILLIPS (Senior French Master), wrote of his being:
"...one of the most distinguished minds in Australia... a true educator... with a profoundly worked out educational philosophy... an inspiring teacher..."
And as man who:
"...sees so clearly the importance of the inter-relatedness of things, and that education should be a humble quest for a glimpse of that truth... the wise man of the Common Room."
Alain (we knew him slightly less than affectionately as "Pinky") PHILLIPS mentioned Eric's extra-curricular activities, including teaching both German and Chinese lessons after normal school hours; inevitably his work in Drama; and his profound interest in music.
And a former colleague and dramatic collaborator, Godfrey TANNER, who was by then Professor of Classics at Newcastle University, noted Eric's:
"...enthusiasm for Greek Tragedy and a producer of Drama with rare courage and imagination..."
Godfrey also mentioned the two page photo spread of the Theban Plays which was published in the London Illustrated Gazette, under the title of "Sophocles Down Under," which had almost upstaged the six page spread on General de GAULLE's appointment as Premier of the French Republic! TANNER rightly considered that this was no mean achievement!
Although the other Eric (JABOUR, the Art Master) may have been responsible for the photographic appeal of the production to the London Press, TANNER observed that it was Eric DRAKE's "stubborn commitment" that got it to the stage, and that that achievement "...did much to change the tone and direction of the school."
He further recognised "...his wide range and adventurous intellect..." and added that he had "...a most human insight into the needs of the men and boys who worked with him, and a person to appreciate and encourage their efforts."
In 1980, Jonathan PERSSE, who had been a school-boy member of Eric's earliest Debating Team, and subsequently joined the staff at King's, gathered a number of Eric's poems that had appeared in the School Magazine over the years, and had them published in a limited edition of a rather slender volume, under the title of "Fact, Faith and Fantasy: poems contributed to the King's School Magazine by Eric Sowerby DRAKE, 1951-1975."
This work included three memorials to deceased colleagues, including John GRICE (Chemistry - and he materially assisted Eric with the Drama presentations), Adrian KENT (Latin and the Classics), and, of course, Herbert Denys HAKE.
A copy is among holdings of the State Library of New South Wales.
by Jonathan PERSSE, centre rear. The photo was taken by Lloyd WADDY.
Eric died on 11 June 1988, in his 90th year.
Lloyd WADDY delivered an impressive eulogy at the funeral service, which I was able to attend. Some information from it has already appeared in this tribute. There is a copy of it in the School Museum.
"... E.S.D. - To those that had the privilege of knowing him, those... initials conjure up memories of the fondest kind that echo through the recesses of the soul...
"As he lived in such unobtrusive personal humility, so undemanding for his bodily wants, so sparingly of spending anything on himself, so he has slipped away after a year of considerable suffering, his spirit courageous and sparkling to the end. And so we are left to mourn our loss awhile, and yet to rejoice in the sunshine of his effervescent love - of life, of knowledge, of wisdom - and to treasure his great vision of all things, in comity or order - his great legacy to those of us privileged to have known him..."
WADDY said further:
"In my History of the King's School in 1981, I described him as '...bestriding the Common Room like a Colossus.' I do not wish to alter that, nor the further assessment I made then: 'He has the perfect humility of the great scholar, the loving master; a man at peace through his knowledge, intellect and emotional balance.
"But Eric had two further great qualities.
"He was generous of himself to an uncommon degree. To his pupils he said: 'I shall look upon your successes as if, in some small way, they are mine own.'
"The second... was the way he lived his daily life. The only accolade which he may not have heard was in fact the highest those in the world can bestow. After a devoted marriage of almost half a century, through which Janna looked after him in every way, especially this last traumatic and painful year, it is clear Eric's genius went into his life when she could say, as she did, 'Truly, I have lived with a Saint'."
From a Funeral notice in the S.M.H., 14 June 1988, we learn that Eric's funeral service, on the following day (a Wednesday) at St James's Anglican Church, King Street, Turramurra, was appointed to be "...followed by a private cremation."
I do not know whether his last resting place is an identified niche, or he was, after being turned to ashes, and as the Crematorium subtle-speak goes, scattered.
His widow Janna joined him among the ranks of the dead on 11 October 2000. She was aged 91 years.
CLOSING WORDS FROM THE MAN HIMSELF.
When I returned from my trip to England in early 1975, I collected my posted travel diary notes from my parent's house, including the "poem" I had written. My father knew Eric well, having served his second term on the staff of the The King's School, for about the same period of time; he suggested I send Eric a copy of "Drake's England."
I thought father had gone slightly mad.
But then, and probably against my better judgement, suspecting Eric either would not remember me, or if he did, it would have been as that insufferable boy who could not deliver any of his allotted five minute lectures-to-the-class exercises in public-speaking, I did find his address, and I did send it to him.
Eric replied, with a very generous acknowledgement that he thought that I had "the real thing," and expressed the view that "...we need your generation to speak up in this new world of the visual clichés of television and the aural clichés of pop-music - but of course not by way of imitation nor of academicism, but as you have demonstrated" - and he enjoined me to "...set the Nine Muses dancing."
I greatly treasure his reply, feeling it wash away some of the embarrassment I had felt at my failures in "public speaking" in front of him and the class.
He did not pretend that it wasn't "...pleasant to have such appreciation - making one feel he hasn't entirely wasted his life. But setting aside personal feelings, which I have relegated to a poem (if it is a poem)..." he continued, and enclosed the following:
I will close this tribute with a fragment of one of my old term reports, and a rather typical observation, initialled by E.S.D. - perhaps a little less than "poignant" for what was my last report - for Form VI A., Term III, December 1965.
As far as I am aware, Eric had no children of his own.
But he had lots of boys. I estimate perhaps 75 or so at Eltham, and another 400 to 450 in his classes at T.K.S., at a very rough guess.
The Eltham boys are probably all now gone, or close to 100 if still living.
The Parramatta crowd are probably mostly still hanging around, aged from their mid 50s to their early 80's. Many of them no doubt still have fond memories of him.
I am indebted to the following, for their thoughtful and cheerful assistance:
Jenny PEARCE, Archivist at The King's School Museum, near the Masters Common Room.
Mark STICKINGS, Archivist at Eltham College, Grove Park Road, London.
Peter WINNINGTON, author of "Mervyn Peake; Vast Alchemies."
Lloyd WADDY, for the use of his eulogy, and his warm support for this project.
Jonathan PERSSE, for collecting and re-publishing Eric's poetry.
I am also grateful to The State Library of New South Wales, Macquarie Street, Sydney, for the use of their institutional subscriptions to the regular family history resources and digitalised newspapers, and the use of their computer facilities in publishing this tribute.
THREE OTHER FORMER PUPILS REMEMBER ERIC.
Madonna KING, in her article, "Teachers inspire young minds to aim high," published in the Courier Mail on 12 Feb 2011, wrote:
"...Film director Bruce BERESFORD had a similar experience. He had read little except Biggles books before meeting his high school English teacher in the 1950s. And it was that teacher, Eric Sowerby DRAKE, who opened up his world, not only to HARDY, but to Joseph CONRAD, William SHAKESPEARE and Ernest HEMINGWAY..."
Henry SHEPPARD, in his 15 February 2014 post on the Adelaide Screenwriters BlogSpot, interviewed Ned MANNING, a Teacher, Writer, and Stage, Film and Television Actor, who answered several questions as follows:
"Q. Where did you go to school?
"A. I went to boarding school at The King's School in Parramatta.
"Q. Who was the teacher who had the biggest influence on you?
"A. Eric Sowerby DRAKE. He taught me English, and performed the whole of Julius Caesar standing on his desk with academic gown flowing."
My 3rd brother Peter, another 5-year pupil of E.S.D., has just recently drawn my attention to yet another tribute to Eric Sowerby DRAKE, which was published on page 211 of The King's School Magazine of 2014. Submitted by Richard KEYS (1954), he must inevitably have been one of Eric's first pupils (probably in the IIIrd Form in Eric's first year there).
Richard observed that Eric was:
"...short in stature and somewhat owl-like in appearance, but to me he was a giant among men...
"To responsive boys, he gave a life-long love of literature and drama, and... he encouraged us to think for ourselves. An iconoclast who was not shy to express heretical opinions (eg, that the Cadet Corps should be voluntary)...
"...his finest hour was his production of Macbeth in the Dining Hall, for which he gave up his Sundays for months... he had only the hall, with a raised dais where the Masters were served their meals. He transformed that 'stage' into Dunsinane, with howling winds and eerie lighting effects... I realize now, if I didn't know it then, I was watching a master theatre director at work...
"The year after I left school, my friends... and I went to visit him... He offered us cigarettes, and in his non-conformist way, told us that going to University was a waste of time! From his point of view, you didn't need to do courses to live the life of the mind..."