You may have heard of Sir Francis Drake, you know the chap, bearded, Elizabethan ruff, bit of a rogue. Famous amongst other things for being the first Englishman, (and third overall) to circumnavigate the globe on his ship the Golden Hinde. For his phlegm in not taking dire threats too seriously,
“There is plenty of time to win this game, and to thrash the Spaniards too’.
Though Drake could and did defeat the Spanish, in those days the adversary was not at home, and was not liberally funded by the taxpayer.
He was also a military hero, a politician (three times elected to Parliament), a pirate, an explorer, who claimed the Western seaboard for England after landing at what is now Drake’s Bay north of San Francisco in 1579. Later the preserver of England’s independence and reformed religion for his performance during the Spanish Armada. The man who singed the King of Spain’s beard by setting fire-ships into Cadiz harbour. His importance to the myth of England is made clear in the legend of his drum, whose roll, we are told, will be heard if the country is ever in mortal peril.
But all that is of no consequence, because between 1563 and 1568 he served as a crew member on 3 or 4 slave voyages. Therefore he is to be canceled.
The cancellation is happening in the old London Borough of Deptford, now part of the Socialist republic of Lewisham, whose schools were, in the 1930s, named after figures from history associated with the south east London borough. Deptford had been the home of the Royal Navy in Tudor times and Drake as a senior Admiral had spent much time there.
This week the Sir Francis Drake Primary School, has announced the results of a name change consultation in which 85% of the 480 people who took part decided to rid themselves of the shame of having his name associated with the school. The children, all 230 of them, the parents and the ‘local community’ were invited to take part, though the consultation was not advertised.
In 2021 a similar attempt by Goldsmith’s University a few hundred yards down the road to remove a statue of Drake was foiled by a public consultation. Here on what was Deptford’s old Town Hall,
“When Deptford Town Hall was opened as a centre for local civic administration in 1905, the historical figures depicted in the statues were seen by the great majority of people in Britain as national heroes who should be celebrated. Their inclusion on the building represented the wishes of local people, with Deptford still a major maritime centre for the country at that time”.
Clearly the University had already decided that Drake is no longer a national hero in this post BLM world, so went along with its consultation in the certain conviction that they would be able to rid themselves of Drake (Oh and Lord Nelson).
The consultation for the Primary school is unknown, but one can be pretty certain that it was similar to the University’s and was targeting the children all under 12. This is a borough where those identifying as English (in England’s capital city) has dropped over the last decade from 36.5 to 7.4%. Suggesting a significant ethnic switch in the area (those identifying as British has shot up from 33% to 59%).
The University consultation on the subject had described Drake in what might be considered a leading fashion.
“Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540 - 1596) made at least three royally sponsored trips to West Africa to kidnap Africans and sell them. Elizabeth I awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581, which he received on the Golden Hind in Deptford”
Not only does it entirely miss out on his entire career, except his youthful (and merely as ship’s crew) experiences breaking the Iberian monopoly in the slave trade, but almost suggests that he was knighted for his slaving. He was knighted for his circumnavigation (and for the fact that Queen Elzabeth’s half share in the profits on the Golden Hinde’s cargo of Spanish treasure and spices was greater than her entire annual income).
The University's flirtation with self hate was driven by a radical Marxist group of students who had occupied the old Town hall and were making the standard BLM demands,
“(Ex: Mandatory anti-racism training for ALL staff, including the Goldsmiths Senior Management team, for local residents of Lewisham borough to have access to Deptford Town Hall, Removal of the slave trader statues, Overhaul of curriculum, alongside a race audit on how best to decolonize the curriculum amongst others).”
Of course one thing must be clear according to these demands,
Despite all this, the consultation, made public by organisations such as Save Our Statues resulted in a comprehensive defeat of the plans. Not that the University accepted their defeat lying down.
85% of the consultation said no change 13% said bring them down
7% supported large, visible interpretive panels - saying Drake was a slaver, and little else
16% Interpretation panels and resources for local schools explaining their history
They ignored these results from the online consultation of 5,000 responses. No, they said, the postal consultation of 122 responses was better.
58% wanted to keep the statues, 31% wanted to remove them
13% large, visible interpretive panels
26% Interpretation panels and resources for local schools explaining their history
“The College is starting work immediately on installing free-standing explanation panels on the window ledges beneath the statues and developing a civic and schools engagement programme and a grant for local artists of colour to explore the issues raised by Deptford Town Hall and its statues.”
A year after the college ignored the results of the consultation and started doing much of what it wanted to do in the first place, including outreach into local schools, we see a school less than a mile away having a similar consultation, where the majority of voters are under 12.
Unsurprisingly all this taxpayer’s money has been well spent. For though Sir Francis Drake did not fall, he has been erased.
It is worth noting that the school’s recent Ofsted Report (the official study into the school’s performance) is positive though it did note area’s which could be improved,
“In a few subjects, such as history and geography, leaders are not as far forward with the implementation of their planned curriculum. This means that, although pupils are learning well overall, their knowledge is not as deep as it is in other subjects”.
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