Home | In Drake's Wake

The Drake Exploration Society

The founding of the society

Michael Turner

Due to receiving wide media coverage for wishing to locate Sir Francis Drake's Cophin of Lead, I received letters from people interested in Drake. This encouraged me to form the society. Our organisation does not exist to promote the coffin search, which is a contentious issue at large; and opinions even vary between the membership. Consequently, I only present it under my personal project of In Drake's Wake.

- Michael Turner

Michael Turner is a secondary school supply teacher of PE and humanities founded The Drake Exploration Society on 9 November 1996 at the Golden Hind Chair in the Bodleian Library Oxford, England. Since 1980, Michael has documented pictorially, the life and voyages of Sir Francis. Uniquely, Michael began to project visually Drake's world. Two of his illustrated lectures include addressing Britain's largest lecturing body, The Ashridge Circle and the illustrious Royal Geographical Society. Presentations have been extended to primary school pupils, so that children will always remember Drake's impact upon our history. Michael's work and desire to locate Drake's Cophin of Lead, have attracted much regional, national and international media coverage. This culminated in a BBC2 documentary that he called In Drake's Wake and was screened 400 years after the death of Sir Francis. Since 1991, media attention has brought Michael into close working contact with two special Drake scholars. They also contributed towards honouring Drake's memory by contributing to an inscribed lead plate, which Michael delivered to the seabed near Drake's resting place. These scholars were present at Oxford and advised Michael in setting up the Society. They are known as the original members.

- Susan Jackson

In 1991, after receiving national press coverage for his interest in locating Drake's lead coffin, secondary school history teacher Susan Jackson contacted Michael. He soon discovered that Susan was the world's most read Drake scholar, with 556 books to her credit. The weight of these books meant that her upstairs bedroom floor had to be reinforced! With the mentality of a true historian, she is nothing short of a walking Drake encyclopaedia. Her knowledge on Elizabethan England is first rate. Susan has studied the politics and the personalities. She speaks about each protagonist as if she virtually knows them. This is enhanced by her extensive fieldwork and unique discoveries in the Plymouth area. Since 1981, Susan has spent four weeks of every school summer holiday in Plymouth researching Drake. No recorded or perceived Drake location or activity has been omitted due to her meticulous archival research and extensive Drake-ing in the west of England. Michael is deeply impressed by Susan's skilful transcription of The Plymouth Black Book and The Widey Court Book. Susan is a true historian and her knowledge of Drake's domestic life, forms the bedrock of his fourth book Drake's Wake In England. Susan has been invaluable in proofing this book. Susan has a much needed, in-depth knowledge of Drake the man. This was vented during her supporting appearance on the BBC2 In Drake's Wake and will be the Society's stance when Drake's character is publicly scrutinised. The Society is fortunate to have such a committed, single-minded and uniquely qualified Drakeologist. Susan is co-author of Drake Sir Francis Drake and the Inner Temple, The Inner Temple Year Book, published 2007-2008. She presented an illustrated paper to the Naval Research Association and Friends of St Anne's College, Oxford, May 2008, which won the Admiralty Library Sir Robert Craven Prize. In 2011, Susan lectured at the Old Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Susan Jackson receiving her award

Susan Jackson receives the Admiralty Library Sir Robert Craven Prize

- John Thrower

John Thrower is a retired government scientist. John's scientific approach enriched Michael's thinking, when he joined him twice on expeditions in Panamá. John has conducted an unprecedented scientific study on Drake's robbery of the Spanish mule train. His book identifies the site of the robbery and the value of the treasure. John has enjoyed the honour of delivering an illustrated lecture to the prestigious Hakluyt Society that has published much of the Drake primary sources. In 1999, John conducted a survey of the site of the famous 16th century treasure port of Nombre de Dios, which lies today unmarked, neglected, and in danger of destruction. Francis Drake attacked this port in 1572 and 1596. John presented the results at a meeting at the Library of Congress, Washington in 2000. The survey, which mapped the Colonial site for the first time and pointed to the unique potential for archaeology, was published in the journal Terrae Incognitae in 2001. It is thus pleasing to report the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia will now conduct a full archaeological investigation. John's original approach to Drakeology, included being photographed drinking Plymouth beer at Drake's anchorage in Costa Rica. This illustrated article appeared in the West of England regional press and in the Yorkshire Post. John frequently visits the lesser-known Drake sites in England. John drew all the maps for Michael's books and technically proofed the text.

Susan and John have accompanied Michael to Panama once and twice respectively. Susan has been Drake-ing with Michael in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

Both Susan and John have committed themselves financially by contributing towards Michael's £70,000 outlay by investing in copies of his then unpublished manuscripts and attempting to replicate his slide archive. Therefore, all the above named are at one in promoting Sir Francis objectively, academically, practically and visually. Their four years' of working together before The Drake Exploration Society was conceived, qualifies them as the original members and to stimulate the perennial growth of the Society by attracting and retaining membership.

- Harry Wilson

Harry Wilson a Geordie by birth, born in 1923 is an engineer, from apprentice to draughtsman, but has spent the major part of his life as a salesman. This career began by selling a range of technical engineering products and culminated in being appointed Sales Director of the excavator manufacturing company JCB. Harry later formed the Turbex engineering company that manufactured products for the motor industry.

Currently, Harry spends the bulk of his time travelling and writing short stories, radio and stage plays. His acting experience in his early twenties equipped him to write for the stage. His historic play covering the incarceration of Mary Queen of Scots in Staffordshire - "Axe Must Fall" was produced at Stafford Playhouse in 1998.

His first real interest in Sir Francis Drake surfaced around 1980 when he purchased George Malcolm Thomson's Drake biography which quoted Drake as a heroic genius and the greatest of Elizabethan giants. Realising that Drake's public image was under-valued, Harry contacted Michael Turner who was forming the Drake Exploration Society. Harry attended the founding ceremony at Oxford in 1996.

Harry has visited the following Drake locations: Puerto San Julian in Argentina, the Sagres Peninsula, Portugal and in 2006 Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland.

- Brian Whipp

Since 1980 I, and my good lady Monica, who represents Lady Drake, have been bringing Sir Francis Drake and the Elizabethan period to schools, the general public, holiday-makers and the media. The latter includes: newspapers, magazines, national and regional BBC and ITV television. We have appeared on German, Polish, Russian, Australian and New Zealand television. It has been gratifying when foreign tourists have approached us stating that they have watched us on television.

Brian Whipp, dressed as Francis Drake, bows in front of the Queen

Brian Whipp, as Francis Drake, is presented to Queen Elizabeth II

In 1999 I was presented to our Queen Elizabeth II. I bowed as Sir Francis Drake and said, "Ma'am I bring thee greetings from Elizabeth Regina and compliments on how you represent this land of ours." The queen replied, "Oh! Oh! Oh!" She then enquired why I represented Drake. I replied, " Ma'am we cannot have a Queen Elizabeth on the throne without a Sir Francis Drake can we?" Wagging her finger under my nose she stated, " No we can't can we!?" I have also been presented to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Dr John Sudgen is the best Drake biographer since the 19th century historian Sir Julian Corbett. John Sugden told me that we work as a team. "History can be accessed through books and research is a lonely life. However you Brian and your good lady, take Drake in the flesh to the people and to the impressionable children, who will certainly know who Drake was after they have met you. Your mass audiences of this century have a glimpse of how Eliazabethans lived with their religion, politics, dress and etiquette. Furthermore your visual image cannot always be summed up in words."

It has been rewarding when twenty year olds approach us and state how they still remember us from when they were primary school children. We do our fair share to ensure that children know who Sir Francis Drake was.

In 1587 off Cape Sagres in Portugal Drake wrote, "Ther most be a begynnyng of any great matter, but the contenewing, unto thend untyll itt be thouroghly ffynyshed yldes the trew glory..." This statement is as true today as it was then and this is what my good lady and I are trying to do. God bless thee all.

Honorary Members

- Sir David Nicholas CBE

A retired Chairman of ITN, Sir David Nicholas learned of Michael's interests to locate Sir Francis Drake's Cophin of Lead and has played a significant part in publicising the notion that Drake should at least be found and if possible be repatriated. Sir David very kindly supported Michael when he was awarded an Honourable Mention in the 1993 International Rolex Awards for Enterprise and a Rolex chronometer at a ceremony in London. This was for his work on raising the awareness of Drake in his Cophin of Lead and for the feasibility of finding Sir Francis. Sir David has been our patron from the onset.

- René Gómez

Director of SCUBAPANAMA. Since 1991, René Gómez has given free hospitality to Michael, Susan and John in Panamá. He provided complimentary dives to Michael in his efforts to analyse the area where Drake rests off Portobelo. This generosity was extended when filming underwater for In Drake's Wake. In summary, he has ensured that all our Drake field studies in Panama were free, action-packed adventures.


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