Page 36

the smallish (population approximately 32,000)

‘Salamander’. The brawl that ensued between

suburb of Abingdon, just a few miles down the

the two boys didn’t stop the name from spread-

Thames from the city of Oxford. One of the

ing. “I didn’t like it,” Thom would later vouch-

oldest public schools in England, Abingdon has

safe, adding that “it was a very malicious school

been in existence since at least 1256. In 1563,

and everyone had very malicious nicknames, so

the school was re-endowed by John Roysse, a

‘Salamander’ was par for the course.”

London mercer or dealer of fine fabrics; in 1870,

Much of Thom’s personal malice was saved

it moved to its present beautiful 37acre site

specifically for Abingdon’s headmaster, one

on Park Road in the heart of the market town,

Michael St. John Parker, who also had a student

which until 1980 was also the headquarters of

devised nickname, ‘the Beak’, a reference to his

the MG automobile company. Thom joined a

unusually long nose. A historian by training,

student body of about 750 boys between the

Parker is the co-author of the splendidly written

ages of 11 and 19, of whom one fifth were either

and highly informative The Martlet And The

full or weekly boarders. Pupils were expected to

Griffen: An Illustrated History Of Abingdon

put in a gruelling class schedule by American

School (London: James & James Publishers,

standards — six days a week, 8:35 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ltd., 1997). Yet it isn’t his scholarship that

weekdays, 8:35 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays — but

most of his students seem to remember, but

the school prided itself on the results. Nearly

rather his allegedly peculiar mannerisms and

every Abingdon pupil goes on to university

dress sense. Another former Abingdonian, Rick

(which is still a far less automatic career path

Clark, interviewed by author Jonathan Hale

in Britain than in the U.S.), with an average

for his book Radiohead: From A Great Height,

of 15 to 25 per year winning places at Oxford

remembered that Parker “constantly prowled

or Cambridge.

the school grounds in his Dracula robes, trying

Though the people and surroundings of Abingdon were different from Standlake, the

to look like a slice of early 19thcentury English school folklore.”

teasing — both about Thom’s looks and his

Parker also presided over the twice weekly

attitude — wasn’t about to let up. A particularly

morning chapel services that were, along with

caring classmate gave him a new nickname,

school uniforms, mandatory for all students.

34

Exit Music Radiohead_Story  

The reedition of Mac Randall's take on Radiohead's unnoficial biography, revised with all-new photography on the band's shows. A part of the...

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The reedition of Mac Randall's take on Radiohead's unnoficial biography, revised with all-new photography on the band's shows. A part of the...

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