Brian Drake fondly remembered by Sidmouth Cricket Club

Sidmouth Cricket Club at The Fortfield

Sidmouth Cricket Club at The Fortfield - Credit: Archant

Cricket fan, family man and work colleague of the powerful. Brian Drake was all these and more in a long life, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.

Widower Drake, who retired to Sidmouth nearly 30 years, died recently aged 88.

Drake's quickly immersed himself in the affairs of Sidmouth Cricket Club as a player and later administrator.

As an experienced player - he has appeared for Coventry and North Warwick and East Horsley in his heyday - Drake started a 3rd XI with the aim of preparing young players for senior cricket.

The team Drake started in 1993 produced eight regular members of the Sidmouth 1st XI that won the Devon League Premier Division title in 2008.

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Anthony Griffiths, the Sidmouth secretary and a member of the title-winning squad, said Drake's input could not be underestimated.

"For many years Brian and one of two other elder statesmen with driving licences ferried teams of teenagers round East Devon as part of their cricket education," said Griffiths.

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"At first they got thrashed most weeks, then they started to mature and made their way into the 2nd XI and on to the first team.

"When we won the Premier Division in 2008 the majority of the team had started out with Brian in the 3rd XI. That side, with one of two arrivals and departures, won the league three years running and a couple of Devon Cups too."

Drake served Sidmouth CC as chairman between 2001 and 2003.

Griffiths said Drake has left an indelible mark on the club in more ways than one.

"It was Brian's idea to turn the ground into a camping site during Sidmouth Folk Week and the revenue we derive from that is about 30 per cent of what it takes to run the club every year," said Griffiths.

Brian Drake was born and educated in Maidenhead. He met wife-to-be Pat while at school and the couple married in 1953.

After leaving school and starting to train as a quantity surveyor, Drake was called up for National Service in 1951 and spent two years serving with the Royal Engineers, mostly in Germany.

"My father spent most of is National Service in Hamburg, demolishing anything the Nazis left behind, said son Tim.

"He learned German while he was there and came out as a corporal."

A part of the services - an interest in military history and in particular battlefields - stayed with Drake for the rest of his life.

Back in Civvy Street and not long married, Drake moved to Warwickshire where he was involved in major post-war rebuilding projects, notably reconstruction work in Coventry city centre, which was devastated by German bombing in 1940.

During 30 years in the public sector, quantity surveyor Drake worked on major building projects for the Scotland Office, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defence.

Drake was head of allocating resources across the Ministry of Health, which meant working closely with cabinet ministers.

"Dad got on well with Barbara Castle, but found David Owen harder to work with," said Tim.

Drake left the public sector in 1982 and set up his own practice in Godalming in Surrey. He retired in 1992 and moved to Sidmouth with Pat, where the couple already had a holiday home.

Said Tim: "Dad found Sidmouth when he was on tour with Coventry & North Warwick CC in the 1950s and never stopped coming back. He would take five weeks holiday every summer and play as much midweek cricket as he could for Sidmouth.

"He was mainly a bowler - dad liked bowling his away swing up the hill at Sidmouth - and had an effective slower ball and a good Yorker. As he got older he turned to off-spin."

In his prime Drake was a good enough bowler to take nine wickets in an innings for East Horsley.

Tim inherited his father's love of cricket and passed it on to his own son Philip. All three played a mid-week game for Sidmouth around 20 years ago during the twilight of Drake's cricket career.

Cricket was just one of Drake's sporting interests. He played football for Maidenhead Town, hockey for East Horsley and golf at Sidmouth GC.

Once Sidmouth became the Drake family home a new holiday hideaway was acquired in the West Indies, where Brian and Pat would spend the worst of the British winter.

Pat Drake died in 2017. The couple, who had been married for 64 years, had two children: Tim and Sue. The extended family includes three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Brian' funeral will take place at the East Devon Crematorium, Whimple at 12.15 on Friday, November 1.

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