‘Just as I am’ is the recurrent opening line of a hymn written in 1835 by Charlotte Elliott. It was the favourite hymn of Sir James Darling and is also the title of a biography of Darling by Peter Gronn. I’m late in catching up with this fine book published by Hardie Grant in 2017.
English-born in 1899, Darling was famously headmaster of Geelong Grammar from 1930 until 1961. He brought growth and prominence to the school. It was said that he took over a good school, and left it a great one. On retirement, some would have liked him to take orders and become a bishop. In fact, he had already been appointed Chairman of the ABC; rather ‘unholy orders’.
He served for two 3 year terms from 1961 to 1966, not very happily. He succeeded Sir Richard Boyer, who had died in office, and thus had the task of easing out Charles Moses, the long-term, dictatorial, chief executive. Moses had overseen the entrenchment by Alan Ashbolt of left-wing program makers in radio and television. Relations with the Menzies government were very poor. He remarked: ‘the hornet’s nest into which I have put my head is worse than I had thought’; complaints about ‘balance and institutionalised bias were incessant’.
He longed for broadcasting of ‘courtesy and integrity’. Nevertheless he wanted a third term but only read of his replacement in the press.
His long and productive life ended in 1995. He was ‘a very superior man’.
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