by Archie de Bear (1933)
Down at the school house at Runcorn,
The headmaster walked in one day,
Looking chirpy and 'appy and cheerful,
Which wasn't 'is habit, they say.
The boys were completely dumbfounded,
And they whispered, "Hello, what's to do ?"
But the headmaster still went on smiling,
And said, "Boys, I've some good news for you."
"It's like this. Today is my birthday,
So it's no time for classes and such -
You can go." But the boys were too staggered
To even say, "Thanks very much."
They could scarcely believe their own ear-holes
As they welcomed these tidings so bright;
But soon they all cheered to the echo,
And very nigh bust with delight.
Said headmaster, "Now there's no hurry,
Before very long you'll be free;
But seeing as how it's me birthday,
How old would you take me to be ?"
Well, the boys didn't like this delaying,
And one of the younger ones swore
At the silly old fool of a master,
And the satisfied smile that 'e wore.
He didn't swear any too loudly,
Or 'e'd 'ave been out on the mat
For calling the master a 'silly old beggar' -
Or something that sounded like that.
"I bet you won't guess it correctly,"
The headmaster went on with a wink,
"For I've got a sort of notion
I'm not quite as old as you think."
A new boy jumped up and guessed twenty,
In the hopes that 'e'd get off for a week;
While another one guessed ninety seven -
Although with 'is tongue in 'is cheek.
Said the headmaster, "Don't let's be funny,
Or you'll be here all day I can see;
So who'll give serious guess now,
Come on, just between you and me."
Then in walked the junior tutor,
In a very old mortar board hat.
He said, "I hear there's a game on,
Well I'd like a basin of that."
Said the headmaster, "Mind your own business,
And kindly do not interfere -
Or you'll lose half your rashion of bacon,
And all your allowance of beer."
The tutor said, "Don't be a cad, Sir,
I don't wish to make any noise;
But you might at least try to be sporting,
If only in front of the boys."
With that he swept out of the classroom,
Fearing the look that he saw -
For he knew that in less than two seconds,
He'd get such a sock on the jaw.
Then in came the language professor,
French teaching was one of his jobs,
So he bowed to the Head and said, "Bonjour",
And the Head said, "Bonjour, avec knobs.
"But if you've come here to give lessons,
You can take it from me - it's no bon,
Because today's a holiday, Savvy ?
So you might as well allez-vous en."
Then a small voice cried, "Sir, why it's easy,
Forty four is your age I should say."
Said the master, "Now what a remarkable thing,
You've guessed my right age to the day."
Said the boy, "Well my brother is just twenty two."
Said the headmaster, "What's that to me?"
"Well, Sir, if 'e's twenty two, you must be forty four,
'Cause 'e's only half barmy - you see!"
Then the whole class joined in the school anthem,
Which nobody wanted to shirk:
"For he's a jolly good fellow,
So long as we don't have to work."