Fran­cis Keith Drake - beloved fa­ther

The Oban Times - - Births, Marriages & Deathsthursday - OBIT­U­ARY editor@oban­

LIFE is full of lit­tle ironies. They of­ten es­cape ob­ser­va­tion. One such irony is that Fran­cis Keith Drake, a di­rect de­scen­dant of Sir Fran­cis Drake, should have spent so much of his life in Tober­mory, on the He­bridean Is­land of Mull. Tober­mory, it will be re­mem­bered, was the fi­nal rest­ing place of one of the Span­ish galleons of the Great Ar­mada, which was forced to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the Bri­tish Isles to try to es­cape, only to fall vic­tim to win­ter storms and the treach­er­ous rocks and reefs off Scot­land’s west coast.

De­spite his il­lus­tri­ous an­ces­try, ‘Keith’ al­ways pre­ferred to be known by his mid­dle name, and if any­one­brought up such a con­nec­tion, he quickly changed the con­ver­sa­tion.

Born into a naval fam­ily in Wey­mouth, his fa­ther, Fran­cis Derek Drake, was in the Royal Navy fol­low­ing a cen­turies-long, Drake fam­ily tra­di­tion. Keith’s first school­ing was in Malta, then, fol­low­ing a spell in the home coun­ties of Eng­land, he was given his first ex­pe­ri­ence of the West High­lands as the fam­ily lived for a spell in Lochgilp­head.

No one ac­tu­all re­mem­bers Keith be­ing taught to sail; rather the art of sail­ing seems to have been in his genes.

As his DNA would dic­tate, he en­listed in the Royal Navy at age 16, be­com­ing a sail­ing master on the sail train­ing ship Roy­al­ist by 19, teach­ing oth­ers the sail­ing skills and dis­ci­pline so nec­es­sary for a life at sea. De­spite Keith’s fa­ther be­ing the ship’s cap­tain, such was the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the duo that no one who sailed with them was aware of their re­la­tion­ship.

Fol­low­ing a five-year spell with the navy in In­dia, Keith re­turned to Eng­land and gained a pro­fes­sional div­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion and started his own busi­ness in un­der­wa­ter con­struc­tion as well as hand div­ing for scal­lops and other seafood.

This brought him to Tober­mory, where he met his wife-to-be, and life-long fel­low crewmem­ber, Rhoda MacLeod of the well-known Tober­mory fam­ily of that name. To­gether, they founded the fa­mous Tober­mory Cho­co­late Fac­tory. From then on, one of Keith’s many pas­sions was as the firm’s master choco­latier.

Keith was a crewmem­ber on the Tober­mory Lifeboat, of­ten seen com­ing off an all-night shift, and go­ing straight to the shop to make cho­co­late for the day ahead. In 1993 he was awarded of­fi­cial Cer­tifi­cates of Com­men­da­tion from the Royal Hu­mane So­ci­ety and Chief Con­sta­ble, for sav­ing a man’s life who had fallen into Tober­mory Bay.

More re­cently, Keith and Rhoda bought the derelict old church on Tober­mory’s Main Street, ren­o­vated it and opened it as The Gallery craft shop and eatery.

Keith was ap­proach­able, knowl­edge­able and help­ful if one cared to lis­ten. He al­ways had an in­fec­tious and dis­arm­ing smile, which could leave all he en­coun­tered in­stantly speech­less. He pos­sessed a wickedly dry sense of hu­mour, and was able to give and take the ban­ter of the is­lands.

Keith died sud­denly and un­ex­pect­edly at his beloved home Er­ray House in Tober­mory, on an oth­er­wise quiet Sun­day morn­ing. He had just cel­e­brated his 60th birth­day a few weeks be­fore. He is sur­vived by his wife Rhoda, and three sons, John Fran­cis, Rudi and Matthew, as well as his mother, Joyce. His fu­neral ser­vice at Tober­mory Parish Church on Au­gust 7 was a joy­ous cel­e­bra­tion of his life, with not a dry eye among those in the con­gre­ga­tion – tears of mirth mixed with tears of sad­ness. He was fit­tingly car­ried from the church to a rous­ing ren­di­tion of A Life on the Ocean Wave (Henry Rus­sell 1838) by the church or­gan­ist with full sound ef­fects, and clos­ing one’s eyes, one could see and hear the massed band of the Royal Marines.

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