BBC reporter

Born: April 29, 1942;

Died: August 28, 2019

CHRIS Drake, who has died aged 77, was an outstanding reporter who over his many years with the BBC provided succinct and accurate news in some of the world’s most troubled hot-spots – notably Northern Ireland where he covered the events of Bloody Sunday in 1972. Drake got an interview for Radio 4’s The World at One with an officer in the Parachute Regiment which went some way to explain what happened on that traumatic day.

Christopher Hallam Mylverton Drake was brought up in Exeter and on leaving school joined the local newspaper before going to Fleet Street to work as a reporter on the Daily Mirror.

He moved to BBC News in 1969 where one of his first interviews was on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend. He was sent that year to interview Paul McCartney at his home on the Mull of Kintyre as the Beatle wanted to reassure his fans that he was not, contrary to reports, dead.

His most important scoop came after the first day of the Bloody Sunday riots. Drake was approached at the end of the day by a member of the British Army press corps who was keen to get their interpretation of the day’s events into the public domain. The press officer knew and trusted Drake and set up an interview with Maurice Tugwell who had spent the day with Major General Robert Ford, Commander of Land Forces in Londonderry.

From 1972 to 1974 Drake was part of the BBC team in Washington covering the Watergate scandal. He attended the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami and got access to President Nixon’s speech a day early. Officials chased him round the city to stop him leaking the information but the BBC carried it in their evening bulletin. Drake also interviewed Muhammad Ali several times.

In 1975 he was transferred to Beirut to cover the civil war. It was a traumatic time and, on one occasion, he had to rescue the wife and the child of a colleague from an area under fire. Drake drove through the war-torn and strictly divided city to save them.

Beirut was a challenging appointment. Drake had to give succinct reports on the complex social issues and explain the various warring factions. Getting around Beirut was difficult and filing reports hazardous. His items to the BBC News and the World Service were always balanced and exemplary. He was awarded the OBE.

Drake left the BBC in 1983 to live in Limassol where he ran a business servicing agency for foreign journalists. He was back in the news in 2013 when there was unrest in the banks on Cyprus with the local authorities who drew up plans to prevent funds being taken out of the country.

Drake was generous with his advice to journalists who had just arrived in Beirut. He retained a delightful sense of humour and was excellent company at meals and social events. In the hotel where the correspondents stayed Drake kept a grey African parrot called Coco for ten years. Coco provided realistic impressions of incoming whistling shells. It was shot by gunmen in 1987 but Drake had already retired to Cyprus by then.

After Drake was diagnosed with cancer, he remained positive and cheerful. He is survived by his two nieces.