Sir James Ralph Darling (1899-1995) was one of the most renowned Australian school headmasters of the twentieth century, best remembered for his long and highly successful period as headmaster of Geelong Grammar School from 1930 until 1961 when he retired to become Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for a number of years until 1967.
His career as an educationist began following his graduation in history from Oxford University (Oriel College) when he taught from 1921 to 1924 at Merchant Taylors’ School Liverpool, thence at Charterhouse in Surrey prior to coming to take up the Headmaster’s position at Geelong Grammar. Being a great educational innovator, one of Darling’s well known initiatives was the establishment of Timbertop, the highly acclaimed innovative mountaintop adjunct of Geelong Grammar, situated in the Victorian Alps, where students are exposed to an exceptional opportunity to learn life skills and values; independence, teamwork and leadership; tolerance and friendship while building resilience.
One of James Ralph Darling’s most significant national initiatives was his role, as founder, of the Australian College of Education (now the Australian College of Educators) in which he served as its foundadtion President between 1959 and 1963. He was also a founding member of the Headmasters’ Conference of the Independent Schools of Australia and he served on the Council of the University of Melbourne from 1933 to 1971.
James Ralph Darling was the receipient of many awards and honours including an Honorary Doctorate of Oxford University for his outstanding contribution to rducation. He was awarded the O.B.E., the C.M.G., and was made a Knight Bachelor in 1968. During his active life he was also the author of many educational publications, two of his best known being The Education of a Civilized Man, and Timbertop: An Innovation in Australian Education.
For a more detailed account of the life and contribution of Sir James Ralph Darling readers are referred to the following sources:
Australian College of Educators, The Australian College of Educators : The First 50 Years 1959-2009. Edited by Neil Dempster, Canberra 2009.
Relfections for an Age: Essays Contributed to ‘The Age’ Melbourne between August 1980 and June 1994 by James Ralph Darling. Ed. by John Bedggood and Neville Clark, Lonsdale, 2006.
Bate, Weston, Light Blue Down Under: The History of Geelong Grammar School. Oxford University Press, 1990. (Chapter 9, The Darling Era)
Oral Interview Recording, Sir James Darling Interviewed by Mel Pratt, 1971, held in the National Library of Australia.
Papers of James R. Darling 1947-1991 in the Manuscript Collection of the National Library of Australia.
Photograph of James R. Darling reproduced from Persse, Michael Collins, Well Ordered Liberty: A Portrait of Geelong Grammar School 1855-1955. Cliffe Books, Melbourne, 1995. p. 34.