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PARKINSON Thomas E [Tom]


1981 – 1997



From the School Magazine 1997

Down in the dungeon of the male staff locker room there are changes afoot for 1998. For 17 years one corner has been occupied (no, dominated, by a pair oflarge boots (gumboots to · locals but probably known as “wellies” to their owner).

The boots, and accompanying leather gear encase and protect the biological support systems of one who well knows (and has probably calculated precisely) the energy transformations and forces involved in falling from his ancient motorbike on the way to school : Tom Parkinson.

Best known for his teaching of senior physics for 17 years, (mostly in the old lab 1, now the photocopy room – a lab he still thinks was better than any other at King’s to work in), he also taught many mathematics classes; to the regret of science department heads, he cunningly avoided junior science teaching, where his practical skills and meticulous preparation would have been well used.

Tom was born in England, but brought up in India until his high school education in South Wales. He gained his science degree at Swansea University (also in Wales) before working for the Bristol Airplane Company on aircraft acoustics for four years and the Westminster Bank for one year. He then spent a year on teacher training, and taught for six years at Garretts Green Technical College, Birmingham. At that stage he was drawn to this part of the world, moving to Scotch College in Launceston, Tasmania as head of mathematics and science. After six years there and a two year stint at Taradale College in Napier, he arrived at King’s to take responsibility for physics at the start of term2 (i.e. late May) 1981.

Most of King’s academically outstanding students (certainly all those in science) since then have been taught by Tom, and have appreciated his scholastic abilities, his thorough preparation, his unceasing insistence on high standards of effort and work. He has always been prepared to spend as much time and energy as asked of him by students of any ability in extra tuition; willingness to help themselves by their own efforts was the only criterion. He regarded that his major function in school was to foster academic progress in all his students, and every lunchtime his laboratory would have students, both willing and unwilling, engaged in schoolwork under his guidance.

A firm believer in the solid values and standards of the past, his previous motorbike (the latest one is reluctantly Japanese, not British) was ofl 960 vintage and his Landrover dates from 1974 – but he does most repairs on them himself Computers were not for him until his family became teenagers; Tom then did his homework with all the thoroughness characteristic of the man and became an expert before purchasing; he has done the same with the sharemarket, sailing, astronomy, scuba-diving, hang-gliding, tramping, and many other pursuits.

Quarks, superconductivity, PCR, restriction endonucleases? Without the demands of teaching, Tom can begin life and science again; catching up on new knowledge, pursuing existing interests, exploring other parts of the world with his wife Janice are among the pleasures to come. Few, even of the staff know Tom well, but I for one valued his contribution to science immensely while I was at King’s, and look forward to long continued association through our common interests.

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