This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981
Joseph Darling (1870-1946), cricketer, pastoralist and politician, was born on 21 November 1870 at Glen Osmond, South Australia, sixth son of John Darling, merchant, and his wife Isabella, née Ferguson. He was educated at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, where he became devoted to cricket. The day before his fifteenth birthday he set a schoolboy record with 252 runs in a match against the Collegiate School of St Peter. Next year he played cricket for the colony against the Australian XI, and also Australian Rules football for the Adelaide and Suburban Football Association which won the premiership. His father disapproved of this dedication to sport and, after leaving school, Darling spent twelve months at Roseworthy Agricultural College; he worked in a bank and was then appointed manager of one of the family's wheat farms. In 1893 he returned to Adelaide to open a sports depot in Rundle Street and was selected to play for South Australia in intercolonial cricket. On 3 May at Mundoora he married Alice Minna Blanche Francis; they had ten sons and five daughters.
In 1894 Darling played his first Test match against a touring English side. He toured England in 1896, 1899, 1902 and 1905, captaining Australia on the last three trips and against a touring English XI in 1901-02; altogether he played in thirty-one Tests against England and was captain in eighteen, a record unbroken until 1948 by Bradman. Darling was reputed one of the best left-hand batsmen of his day and he headed the Australian batting averages in 1896-99. In 1897-98, playing against A. E. Stoddart's team in Australia, he set a record by making three centuries in five Tests. In scoring his 160 runs in the fifth match in Sydney his century came up in 91 minutes, the fastest made by an Australian in a Test against England. He was also captain in three Test matches against South Africa in 1902. As a leader he inspired his team by his own dogged courage and prowess. Of medium height, thickset and powerful, he was a tremendous hitter and master of the drive, yet able to defend for hours.
In 1900 Darling, retiring (temporarily) from cricket 'in fairness to my wife and children', moved to Stonehenge, a sheep station in the Tasmanian midlands purchased for him by his father. He sold his Adelaide business in 1907. A successful farmer, he pioneered the eradication of the rabbits which overran his and other properties; he took a leading part in the Tasmanian Farmers' Stockowners' and Orchardists' Association and a keen interest in rural industries. He was on the committee of the Royal Hobart Show Council for over 25 years. With South Australian merino rams he built up one of the best half-bred and comeback flocks in the State; his wool topped the Hobart sales on several occasions. In 1920 he introduced subterranean clover to Tasmania. He retained an interest in cricket, playing locally, coaching juniors and writing cricket articles for the Weekly Courier. In 1919 he bought a 32-acre (13 ha) property, Claremont House, at Claremont; among the cricket trophies displayed in the main hallway of the homestead were a portrait of his 'white-haired boy' Victor Trumper and the bat used by Trumper in 1899.
An independent member for Cambridge in the Legislative Council in 1921-46, Darling was active in the 1922 movement to form a Country Party. In the mid-1930s he obtained an exemption of land tax for the small farmers. He was a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Works in 1937-46. In 1945 his charges of maladministration against the Tasmanian Forestry Department led to the appointment of a royal commission whose findings, after Darling's death, proved the minister for forests and two officials guilty of receiving bribes. The last surviving member of the Australian XI which toured England in 1896, Darling, who was appointed C.B.E. in 1938, died after an operation for peritonitis on 2 January 1946 at Hobart. After a Congregational service he was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery, survived by his wife and twelve of his children.
D. K. Darling, 'Darling, Joseph (1870–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/darling-joseph-5885/text10015, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 22 September 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981