Garage owner tried to repay debt to mentor

The former W Eves garage on New Quay Road
The former W Eves garage on New Quay Road

A Whitby man who worked his way up from humble beginnings to become one of the town’s most prominent businessmen, died last Tuesday.

David Duke, owner of W. Eves and Co (Service Stations) of Whitby which includes Four Lane Ends service station, passed away aged 70.

Mr Duke, who lived in Briggswath for the last 37 years, was the son of a fisherman. His first home was Sundial Cottage on New Quay Road, next door to a small garage and petrol station owned by William Eves.

Mr Duke’s son, Alistair, said: “My Dad became a familiar face around the garage and the owner, William, used to give him little jobs to do.”

Mr Duke attended Mount School in Whitby, where he was a capable student, so it came as a shock when he failed his 11 plus exams.

However, by this time William Eves had become a family friend and, with David’s own father often away at sea and William having no children of his own, he began to encourage and guide the youngster.

Mr Eves even offered to pay the fees so David could attend Fyling Hall School, an offer he accepted with enthusiasm.

He attended Loughborough University to study Chemical Engineering, and upon graduating secured a plant manager role at ICI Billingham.

But just a year into his career, William Eves passed away and unexpectedly left Mr Duke the New Quay Road garage and forecourt business in his will.

Alistair said this generosity would become a huge factor in his father’s life, who spent his career attempting to repay the debt he felt he owed his sponsor. He explained: “He lived his life trying to ensure that the debt that he felt to William, the leg up he had been given, both as a sponsor of his education and later on being gifted this business which he didn’t expect, that William’s legacy would not be forgotten.

“I don’t think that his benefactor would be disappointed with his efforts.”

For the next 21 years he would work at ICI and run the W Eves business side by side.

Mr Duke met his wife, Pam, at school aged just 17 and the couple were married in 1967.

The couple would spend all their adult lives together.

Mr Duke leaves behind Pam, their children, Andrea, Alistair and Karen and four grandchildren, Sophie, Andrew, Katherine and Ian.