Search

Cowman, soldier, gambler – glimpses of an ordinary life

PUBLISHED: 11:59 11 March 2017

First World War troops. Frank Drain served in the war with the 10th Essex.

First World War troops. Frank Drain served in the war with the 10th Essex.

Archant

From serving in the First World War to winning a court trial, Prof Ged Martin tells the story of Hornchurch man Frank Drain

Frank Drain was an ordinary person.

He probably endured jokes about his surname. Experts think it’s a Viking name, or maybe Irish, from the Gaelic word for a wren.

Frank Christopher Drain was born near Chelmsford in 1890. His father Silas was a farm labourer. Frank was the sixth child, and two brothers, aged 13 and 10, were already working in the fields.

But Silas moved up in the world. By 1901, he was in charge of the horses at Maylands Farm, now a golf club near the A12-M25 junction.

In 1911, aged 21, and working as a cowman, Frank married 20-year-old Jane Perry. They would stay together for 70 years.

Frank and Jane shared a cottage at Ardleigh Green with his brother William.

Building began in Nelmes Way in 1914, and this may explain why Frank and Jane moved to Harold Wood. In 1924, his address was Queens Park Road, a street of small houses near the station.

War broke out in 1914 but, now with three small children, Frank did not rush to volunteer.

He joined the Army in April 1916, probably as a conscript: compulsory military service was introduced in March.

In November, Frank’s unit was ordered to France.

Probably based at Warley Barracks, his desire to see his family for maybe one last time was too strong. He was arrested for being absent without leave.

1917 must have been the worst year of Frank’s life. His unit (the 10th Essex) was in the thick of the fighting. In September, they attacked at Poelcapelle in Belgium, driving the Germans back almost a mile.

But in thick mud, they could not consolidate their gains, and lost ground. Sometime in this melée, Frank Drain was wounded.

He was brought home in December, but seems to have returned to active service later: he was not demobbed until September 1919.

One day in June 1922, Frank was having a beer in the Coach and Bells, a High Street, Romford pub, demolished in 1966.

In those days, you could have a flutter at a race meeting, but off-course gambling was illegal – there were no betting shops.

Undercover police had seen bookies taking bets in the pub. They staged a raid – and Frank happened to be there. He found himself in court again – but on what charge?

Defending the landlord – who faced the loss of his livelihood – was top barrister Sir Henry Curtis-Bennett. He lived near Chelmsford and was planning to stand for Parliament, so it was both convenient and good publicity for him to take the case.

As a defence counsel, Curtis-Bennett specialised in counter-attack. He challenged the prosecution to prove that the landlord knew about the illegal betting.

His favourite trick – lawyers called it “doing a Curtis” – was to scoff at the charges against his clients, and demand they be dismissed.

He did a Curtis for Frank Drain.

There was no law against visiting a pub, even during a police raid. Frank might as well have been arrested “for being there when there was an earthquake or a thunderstorm”.

The laughter in court told Frank he was safe.

Frank and Jane died in 1982. Havering residents to the end, they linked the modern borough with its farming past.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford News Stories

26 minutes ago

Shockwaves have been sent across Collier Row today as residents try to come to terms with the ‘disgusting’ murder of a 15-year-old boy after a birthday party.


40 minutes ago

Neighbours in Harwood Avenue have decided to take part in the capital wide competition for the first time.

Now that Brexit is finally getting under way, the Conservative government is keeping its promise to the British people by investing in our NHS.

Yesterday, 14:32

A man who followed a Rainham OAP driver and stole her car and threatened a mum at knifepoint while she was dropping off her children at school in Seven Kings has been handed six years in prison.

Yesterday, 12:00

A man has fractured both his ankles after a 70-year-old mobility scooter driver collided with him in Harold Wood.

Yesterday, 12:00

I saw huge moth and presumed I’d shrunk

PROMOTED CONTENT

The next step in renewable energy could be right beneath your feet as you walk through a Romford shopping centre.

There are many reasons people decide to join a gym. Some want to pack on muscle for strength, train for endurance, or lose weight. But did you know it also does wonders for your mental health? Two members at Romford’s Better Gym in the Market Place talk about their personal fitness journey and the importance of replacing bad habits with good ones.

Sean Watson, director at the family-run St Michaels Homes which runs Howard Lodge and Dudbrook Hall, answers the common questions people have about care homes.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now