Ian Darlington began working at Goulburn Valley Grammar School in 1982 as a foundation staff member for the then newly established school, teaching physical education to a cohort of fewer than 100 students from Years 5 – 8. “We [the teachers] all came from different backgrounds,” Mr Darlington says. “Some of us came from the education department, some from private schools…it was a mixture of men and women.”
Prior to commencing his role with GVGS, Mr Darlington relocated to Shepparton in search of a ‘tree-change’ after moving from the UK to Australia in 1977. “My wife and I decided we’d rather live in the country than in the city,” he says, “I was lucky enough that [inaugural principal] Vic Ryall offered me a job.”
Having previously worked in both Melbourne and Swan Hill, Mr Darlington stepped into his new role without any precedents. “Vic Ryall was really good and let us do our own thing,” he says. “Obviously we had a curriculum to follow, but he allowed us a lot of freedom as well which was great.”
Mr Darlington initially taught physical education classes to his students at a local football oval while all other classes were carried out from inside the adjacent club rooms, a far cry from the modern facilities we see today at the north end of Verney Road. “The best part for me was when we first started and we were at Deakin Reserve,” he says. “It really was quite weird that we were teaching 90 students out of the clubrooms…that was very different.”
Mr Darlington recalls the early years of GVGS’ involvement in local interschool and weekend sporting activities and the initial struggles the teams faced. “We only had 90 students and so we usually lost, but they always tried so hard,” he says. “Sometimes they said they knew they were about to lose a game by eight goals, but they would still go out and give it their all regardless.” He notes the importance of these losses and how each loss built resilience and character for the students. “They learned early on how to lose gracefully, and then they became gracious winners,” he says. “Everyone always gave 100% regardless.”
The inaugural group of students undertook classes from Deakin Reserve for approximately six months before relocating permanently to the current campus. “When we first got there it was just the basics,” he says. “Everything was in that one area around the Copulos Area – that was the whole school.”
Arguably, Mr Darlington’s biggest legacy is the annual GVGS Eisteddfod. Teaming up with colleague David Garwood, the two Welshman worked together to integrate the foreign festival into the school calendar. “Where I come from in Wales the Eisteddfods are a big thing in schools,” Mr Darlington says. “They [the GVGS Eisteddfods] aren’t exactly the same as the traditional Eisteddfods in Wales, but they do follow the same lines…we modified it a bit to suit an Australia school.” He fondly recalls that due to the small size of the school at the time everyone was ‘more than happy from the word go’ to be involved in the festivities of the yearly event. “It’s become a part of the school now and everyone enjoys having it, which is great,” he says.
After spending a decade developing teaching precedents and playing a key role in establishing the school traditions we still celebrate today at GVGS, Mr Darlington relocated to Saudi Arabia where he taught at the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Dhahran. He then moved back to Australia and spent time running a private business in Queensland for seven years. A keen traveller, Mr Darlington spent time teaching across the world and continent-hopping between Nigeria, Arnhem Land and Pakistan before settling back along the Gold Coast hinterland in 2017. “That’s why I came to Australia in the first place,” he says. “I really enjoy travelling and I’ve got to see plenty of the world.” Nowadays, Mr Darlington enjoys semi-retirement in North Tamborine, Queensland with his wife Val.
Looking back on his time at GVGS almost 40 years ago, Mr Darlington has many fond memories and is proud of how the school has progressed over the years, saying that the facilities available to students today are ‘brilliant’. “The best thing about the school was that it was always a family school and everybody looked out for each other,” he says. “It really developed that way because that’s what we [the teachers] wanted.”
Having taught all over the world throughout his long career as a physical education teacher, he proudly says that GVGS tops the list. “As far as schools go – I’ve worked in lots of different schools, in lots of different countries – GVGS is still the best one in my mind out of all the ones I’ve worked at,” he says. “I’ve got lots of happy memories of that place…the vast majority of students looked forward to coming to school every day and thought it was a pretty good place to be.”
PICTURED: Mr Darlington is pictured with fellow foundation staff members. BACK ROW L-R: Mr Bob Buntine, Mr Alan Humphries, Mr Ian Darlington, Mr Paul Freeman, Mr David Garwood, Mr Geoff Shacklock and Mrs Barbie Gillett. FRONT ROW L-R: Mrs Bev Manson, Ms Peta Kinmond, Mr Vic Ryall, Mr John Kaye, Ms Gayle Joyce and Ms Carrie Michael.