• sootallures

'Rydal', Coronation Road, Rodborough

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

‘Rydal’, Coronation Road, and Captain Forster

The house I live in was built in 1910;

Typical Edwardian red brick semi

With suburban aspirations:

A name rather than a number;

A villa rather than a semi,

Would be the view of Mr Pooter.

It was the home of a soldier:

Captain Forster, Great War officer,

Who became the head teacher down the road

At Rodborough Junior School.

Almost a century later,

I was told by ex-pupils of his,

That they believed he had been wounded

In action, and carried the scars for years.

This quite disturbed me;

I thought I might see his ghost

Flitting through bedrooms, candle in hand.

I wrote the lines below that same night,

When next door neighbour Tom Spicer

Was still alive and full of recollection.

‘I lie awake, three in the morning,

Rain beating down the darkness,

Poems flitting through my head,

Tom Spicer’s blanket box at my feet,

A palpable presence,

Empty, but full of memories,

Playing conjuring tricks,

Here in the bedroom

Where Captain Forster,

Head of Rodborough School,

Once slept too -

Lying in the night,

Metal plate gently shifting in his head,

Shrapnel right there on the pillow,

His cane just on the right-hand side of his brain,

“You’ll end up in the workhouse

If you carry on like that!”

He cries at miscreant boys,

Charging through the No Man’s Land

Of dream and nightmare.

He gripped his mindscape ruler,

A guidance and an order

For sealing space in straight lines

And administering Euclidean knocks

To fingers and knuckles.

The children went quiet,

The Captain started, snored, whistled,

And slept until his daily duties,

Led him once more

To his nightly No Man’s Land.’


‘Captain Forster, as he was always titled, appears to have been something of an enigma. Known for his harsh discipline and outbursts, he was widely thought to have had shrapnel or a metal plate in his head from his war service during the First World War.’

‘You may know that there is absolutely no evidence that Capt. F served at the front and it seems very unlikely that he had any war injuries.’

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