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Ernest Cook
Ernest Cook

Milton Keynes Citizen, January 3, 2013

Well, bang goes that idea. The New Year’s resolution was to dispense with the pantomime of daily employment, and instead belatedly complete a sadly lacking education.

Namely a long contemplated PhD; ‘The Considered Opinions of the Working Man on Modern Day Political Correctness, as Debated in the front Bar of the Duck and Ferret.’

And even in these austere times it seemed that finance wasn’t a problem, for a website came to light offering students – including presumably mature ones – the necessary readies in exchange for a few ‘discrete liaisons’ with wealthy clients.

Right on, Pedro. I’m up for that. A doctorate for putting a smile on some matronly lady’s face. (Well she’d have a laugh when she saw what’s on offer.) But sadly this interesting arrangement came to the notice of Plod, and alas exists no more.

So for the necessary funding I suppose I’ll now have to ask my editor if I can do one of the paper rounds.

And on the subject of further education, it was at the opposite end of the age spectrum that Ernest Cook took his first steps into such realms at the age of 12, when he was told by his headmaster, “On Monday you will be a teacher, Cook, and this will be your class.”

The son of a county cricketer, Mr Cook was born at Runswick Bay, Yorks., and three years after becoming a pupil teacher he gained top marks in the teaching candidates exam. He then went on to study at St. John’s College, York, and as his first proper teaching position was appointed as headmaster of a village school in North Yorks.

He next obtained a headmastership at a school in the Huddersfield area and there in 1914 he met the girl who would become his wife, Adeline.

Seven years his junior, she was born at Marsden, Huddersfield, and had begun to teach at Mr Cook’s school at the age of 18. At Slaithwaite, Huddersfield, the couple were married six years later, whereupon she then gave up teaching.

In 1924 on Mr Cook’s appointment as the headmaster of the Bletchley Road Senior School the couple came to Bletchley, where in the following year Mr Cook helped to form the town cricket club. In fact being a keen wicket keeper batsman he kept wicket for Yorkshire against Northants at Drewsbury on the day of George V’s coronation. Following the outbreak of WW2, apart from his educational duties Mr Cook, whose home was at ‘Draycott,’ Church Walk, would fulfil a number of roles, including that of Chief Evacuation and Reception Officer, deputy to the chairman of the Food Control Committee, and billeting official, whereby under the Emergency Powers Act he was able to requisition any property or billet.

He was also associated with Bletchley Park, and in a clandestine role acted as a messenger, driving a camouflaged car to take secrete messages to Bomber Command Headquarters on Salisbury Plain.

At Aylesbury, on February 24, 1945 he attended a conference of head teachers which, with regard to the new Education Act, had been convened to consider the change of status of the school after March 3. Thus when the school reopened after the holidays on April 12 it would be as a Modern Secondary School, with the activities of the new order detailed by Mr Cook in a two column article in the Times Educational Supplement.

With VE Day announced on May 8 the school then closed for two days, and, in the presence of the chairman of the council, on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 16 a special Victory Celebration took place at the Bletchley Park sports ground.

The events commenced with a fancy dress parade, and much amusement was caused by a teachers’ race in which the blindfolded masters were lead by the mistresses. Mr Cook and his partner would be the winners.

Mr. Cook, who was also a lay preacher for over 50 years retired in August 1953 and eventually he and his wife would make their home at Flat 1, Shenley Park, Shenley Church End.