I was a young rebel, McCain tells his old boarding school

The Republican US presidential candidate, John McCain, is on a nostalgia tour of his rebellious schooldays.

As a child, Mr McCain was packed off to Episcopal High, a private boarding school in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, while his father was building his career a US Navy admiral. By all accounts, McCain Jr was a defiant rule-breaker who drove his teachers to distraction.

He credits his English teacher William Ravenel, a Second World War veteran, with helping him to curb his rebellious streak. "I arrived here a pretty rambunctious boy with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder," he said in a speech that he gave at the school yesterday.

"I was always the new kid and accustomed to proving myself quickly at each new school as someone not to be challenged lightly."

In his autobiography, Faith Of My Fathers, Mr McCain describes how, as a boy, he would erupt in "a mad frenzy" at the slightest provocation and "crash to the floor unconscious". The "cure" that his parents devised was to plunge him into a cold bath at every eruption of his temper.

During his many years as Arizona's senator on Capitol Hill, Mr McCain was known for a volcanic temper. But if his detractors had known him at school, he said to the pupils yesterday, "they might marvel at the self-restraint and mellowness I developed as an adult".

Today, Mr McCain will visit the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated near the bottom of his class. He says he struggled at maths and science and passed only because he was "adept at cramming" and had friends to tutor him. In his book, he says: "I got by, just barely at times, but I got by."

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

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