Today I visited Buckland Abbey in Devon to see an exhibition about Sir Francis Drake.
Francis Drake was born in 1543 in Tavistock, the town where I am staying, so he is very much a local hero. And, like many famous people from history, not all the stories about him can be believed.
Apparently it wasn’t Francis Drake who introduced the potato to Europe – they were brought from Peru a few years earlier by Spanish explorers.
Did he insist on finishing his game of bowls before sailing to repel the Spanish Armada? Maybe, but only because he knew the local tides and judged it was not immediately safe for his boats to set sail. And I thought it was because he was totally laid back and a cool dude.
In Henry Newbolt’s famous poem “Drake’s Drum”, I only realised today that for years I have been misquoting the second line. I thought it was “Captain, art thou sleeping down below?”
If England is ever in peril then Drake can be summoned to protect his country by banging on his drum. I would so love this to be true but I wasn’t able to put it to the test. The original* drum, which I’m told was kept at Buckland Abbey until just a few months ago, is now under lock and key with Plymouth Museum. Now we’ll never know!
* It appears that what the volunteer guides assured me was the ‘original drum’ may in fact only have been a replica. The true drum is apparently stored elsewhere, in a hermetically sealed case, somewhere in central England. I’m imagining a vast storeroom where magically charged artefacts are stored, as in ‘Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark”.