It's passing strange how, in my old age, there are times when I start thinking about something that has not entered my life in any way, shape or form for many years. Although, now I come to think on it, that may well have been happening for many years and it is only now that I have the time to notice it. Anyway, for some strange reason, the legend of Drake's Drum came into my mind this morning as I wandered idly through the trees while walking the dog, so I may as well tell you the story - just in case you have never heard it before.
It was back in the days of Good Queen Bess... Though why she was called good is something I have never found out. As I was saying, it was in the days of Queen Elizabeth I , so we are talking of the late 16th century. Francis Drake was born in about 1540 and went to sea at an early age. In 1567, he was with a fleet led by his cousin when they were attacked by Spanish ships and all but two of ships in the English fleet were destroyed. From then on, Drake was an implacable enemy of all things Spanish. Just five years later, he led a marauding expedition against Spanish ports in the West Indies and returned to England with a cargo of Spanish treasure and a reputation as a brilliant privateer. Diplomatic relations between England and Spain became poor for a number of reasons and in 1588, the Spanish king sent an armada of ships to invade England. The legend is that the commander of the English fleet, Francis Drake - by then Sir Francis Drake - was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when the armada was sighted unexpectedly. Drake declared laconically that he had time to finish the game before setting sail. When he did, he routed the Spaniards.
Drake died of dysentery off the coast of Panama but before then he had become the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world. The drum he is said to have carried on that voyage was still on his ship when he died and he is supposed to have ordered that it be returned to England and kept in his home, Buckland Abbey where in times of trouble it should be beaten to recall him from heaven to rescue the country. In 1938, when Buckland Abbey was partly destroyed by fire, the drum was rescued and taken to safety at Buckfast Abbey. Plymouth was devastated in the air raids
that followed, reminding some of the ancient legend that “If Drake’s
Drum should be moved from its rightful home, the city will fall”. The drum was returned and the city remained safe for the rest of the war. The drum was most recently reported to be heard in 1940 at the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II.
The drum is still on public display at Buckland Abbey.
The view to the west from the Roman Camp, looking across the golf course and Patcham, on Boxing Day.