Raw Cooling


Head of History 1984 – 2015

Sedbergh School is saddened to record the death of former teacher, Michael Raw, on 27th May. Educated at Haberdashers School and Queens College, Cambridge, Michael was invited to join the Common Room of Sedbergh School in 1984 as Head of the History Department.

Michael was a generous colleague and a compelling teacher. His propensity for clear, erudite explanations of the subject matter combined with entertaining and often gruesome detail created an enviable level of engagement with his pupils.

Unashamed of his eccentricities Michael chuckled at the reputation he enjoyed. Pupils recall the windows of Room 13 open all year round, in sun, wind and even the odd Cumbrian snow storm. Michael was a willing judge for any school competition from house drama to academic challenge. His cutting, occasionally brutal critique of pupils’ performance could certainly not be called pithy but was always entertaining, apt and often surprisingly edifying.

After writing in his early adulthood for amongst others the Cambridge footlights and ‘Not The Nine O’clock News’ Michael had to content himself with writing and performing in Sedbergh’s own sketch show ‘A kick in the stalls’ and its various sequels. One particularly memorable scene featured Michael in Y fronts grunting as a monosyllabic caveman. Shocking for pupils and colleagues alike this hilarious performance typified Michael in that it was funny, unashamed and perfectly pitched. When a spoof ‘Micky Raw Sedbergh’ twitter account emerged in 2012 readers were fairly sure that it was a parody – but with Michael anything was possible.

Michael was unashamed of his determination to do things the old way and found that his genuine charm and warmth meant others wanted to accommodate him. His reluctance to use a computer was warmly indulged by the school secretary who typed his hand written pupil reports for many years after the Common Room embraced a computerised report system.

Michael was a generous, entertaining and warm host who welcomed many colleagues and former pupils to his home. An evening at one of his successive Sedbergh residences was a richly sought after prize, particularly as it came with viewing rights to Michael’s extensive collection of historic artefacts, modern art and an enviable library. Conversation was lively as Michael brought together friends from different aspects of his life, regailing them with stories of his work on radio and television comedy, and name dropping with ease.

During a stint playing for the Harlequins Michael gained what he described as his ‘cauliflower ears’ as well as a keen sense of sportsmanship. At Sedbergh he coached the First XV from 1987-1991 and later moved to the B1 team with whom he stuck for much of his career.

Sedbergh has benefitted from Michael’s writing and attention to literary detail over many decades, first during his time as editor of the Sedberghian and latterly as Michael was appointed to chronicle various aspects of the school’s history. Prior to retiring from teaching Michael was invited to write ‘Thread of gold’, a history of Sedbergh School Football Club. He approached this with his trademark thoroughness reading every historic issue of the Sedberghian magazine, Captains’ minute book, Governors’ minute book and personal memoir available. 

In recent years Michael undertook the substantial role of school historian, seeking to research and write a new history of the school in time for the 500th anniversary. Michael’s diligence and integrity made him the perfect person for this role. He sought to accurately represent the community he served while ensuring that the individuals involved were portrayed compassionately. Michael’s portrayal weaves the events of school life into the context of national and international history in a manner that elevates the book beyond the ambitions of many coffee table school histories. Michael died whilst writing the final chapter. The completist in him would have been slightly frustrated with the premature ending to his career as a writer but the comedian in him would have chuckled at the off beat timing.

Michael travelled to the Baltic states in mid May for a much anticipated holiday. Unsurprisingly he travelled with a suitcase full of history books about the region, keen as always to expand his knowledge and engage deeply with his subject matter. Michael died in his sleep on holiday.

Michael’s death is a great loss to his many friends in the Sedbergh community and further afield. He was a special man who will be sadly missed.

By Katy de la Riviere