Grandad Arnold Cool, 1906 to a very-old age: schooldays in Myddle, Shropshire
Copyright owned by Jay Cool,
‘The old school at Myddle’,
now a village hall’
I may well have concluded that my Grandad’s tales of his brave schoolboy heroics were the subject of nothing more than an overactive imagination, had I not had the privilege of reading a distant cousin’s account of her own childhood in Myddle, complete with a description of the local Headmaster, Mr Porch, who I now realise must have been the very same poor sod who had to put up with the antics of the unruly Arnold Cool.
Grandad, I now believe you, and here is your tale:
“You don’t know you are born these days. School in my day, back in Myddle, was a waste of time. Reading and writing was a waste of time for children who needed to be out the pennies to keep a roof over their families’ heads.
One day, I was late for school; my mother had sent me on an errand to find some firewood with which to get some warmth into our cottage. The Headmaster was furious. Out came his cane. I wasn’t allowed to go to my bench in the classroom; he made me stay at the front, whilst he shouted at me in front of the class about my good-for-nothing ways. He ordered me to bend over, and started banding his cane about. I started to bend but, quick as a shot, I leapt back up, took him by surprise and grabbed the cane. Unable to believe that I had succeeded in claiming my prize, I froze, as indeed did he. But then I looked at the eyes of the children looking at me. They were all in awe and I knew then, that I owed them something. I needed to do something. And I needed to do what I had to do for them. Too often had that beast of a man beat my brothers’ backsides with his massive cane.
I did the only thing I could. I ran. I ran out of the schoolroom door, and around the schoolyard. The Headmaster was chasing after me. But he was slow; he was puffing and panting; he was no match for me. I looked at the school gate and momentarily considered just running out of there and all the way home. But I knew mother would tell my father, and father would whip his belt out and beat me to within an inch of my life. So, I did the only thing I could do. I ran for the toilets; they were all outside in those days, in a cold and stinky brick outbuilding. The Headmaster was hammering on the door and I knew it wouldn’t hold for long. Still clutching the cane, I snapped it in half and flushed it down the loo.
That was the last time he threatened me with his cane.”
At that Grandad burst into laughter. My brother, Simon, expressed his doubts. Surely it was more likely the case that the cane had broken whilst being whacked across Grandad’s bottom, than snapped in half by Grandad?
Thinking myself clever, I put forward my own evidence for the opposition: How could the toilet have ‘flushed’ with the cane stuck down it?
|Photo by Jean-Claude Caprara, available at Pixabay.com
But I was soon relegated to dunce status when know-it-all big brother pointed out the ever-such-slightly-more-obvious fact that they didn’t even have flushing toilets in those days.
But, these arguments were not, needless to say, expressed within Grandad’s earshot. You didn’t argue with, or even in the presence of, Arnold Cool. Arnold wasn’t a twenty-four-seven talker (he left that to his wife) so, when he did talk, it was best to listen, nod politely, and then to make a quick exit – either that, or be treated to the inevitable stories of Grandparents giving their wayward Grandkids a well-deserved belting. 
Yes, best to believe, belt up, back off – and retreat.
 I would like to stress here that Grandad never belted us. But
I did only narrowly avoid being prodded with his walking stick on one occasion. I’m sure you remember that I-am-so-Cool pesky classmate who tried to trip you up as you passed their table – without doubt, a descendant of my Grandad’s!