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Phillip Arthur (Phil) Darbyshire (1898–1969)

by Mimi Colligan

This article was published:

Phillip Arthur (Phil) Darbyshire (1898-1969), radio scriptwriter, was born on New Year's Day 1898 at Stratford, Victoria, second son of James Arthur Christian Darbyshire, stationmaster, and his wife Blanche, née Marie, both native-born. When Phillip was 5 his parents moved to Western Australia where he was educated at Perth Modern School and won a State junior piano championship. He served in the Militia, but was rejected on medical grounds for the Australian Imperial Force; after World War I he worked as an articled clerk and book-keeper. On 20 February 1926 at the Anglican parish church, Victoria Park, he married Marjorie Nesta Helene Hopkins. With his father, he had acquired a pastoral station, Coolabong, near Moulamein, New South Wales; he became a shire councillor, justice of the peace and coroner. In the early 1930s he was involved with the New Guard.

From an early age Darbyshire had written short stories. His work appeared in the Home and the Bulletin; one story gained first prize in a London Daily Mirror competition and another, 'Mr Platapan's Roof', was published in 1935 in London's Evening Standard. Forced off the land by the Depression and drought, and with a wife and five young children to support, he found a job as a radio announcer at Deniliquin. Next year he moved to Melbourne and took up full-time scriptwriting for commercial radio in association with the producer Hal Percy. Darbyshire's literary interests led him to join Jack Moir's Bread and Cheese Club.

In 1941 Darbyshire secured a position in the Australian Broadcasting Commission's light entertainment section, then based in Melbourne, and began a long career of writing scripts for A.B.C. variety, comedy and drama programmes, among them 'Words and Music', the 'A.B.C. Victory Show', 'Happy Go Lucky', the 'Modern Minstrel Show', 'Screen Serenade' and 'Souvenirs of Song'. He also wrote shows for the armed forces during World War II. Many of his plays were presented on A.B.C. radio, such as 'The Egotist' which went to air in April 1945 on the 'Over to Youth Session'.

From May 1942 to March 1971 Darbyshire's musical variety programme, 'The Village Glee Club', was broadcast. One of the longest-running, weekly shows on Australian radio, it had a distinctly British flavour, presenting old songs and mild comedy set in an Australian country choir. Backed by the A.B.C. Wireless Chorus, its singers included Sylvia Fisher, Kathleen Goodall and Lorenzo Nolan. Local actors Colin Crane, Agnes Dobson, Kathleen Goodall and Patricia Kennedy spoke such roles as Mr Crump, Mrs Sharpp-Shott, Miss Coy and Miss Crump. The programme's combination of genteel comedy and sentimental music outlived many changes in radio entertainment.

Phil Darbyshire was a tireless, prolific writer, able to create up to six radio shows per week. Colleagues remembered him as generous and likeable. He retired in 1960, but continued to write 'The Village Glee Club', and made several trips abroad to pursue his musical and theatrical interests. Survived by his wife, two daughters and five sons, he died on 16 November 1969 at his Oakleigh home and was cremated. A large collection of his scripts is held in the State Library of Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • K. S. Inglis, This is the ABC (Melb, 1983)
  • Listener In, 18 Dec 1937, 12 Aug 1942, 16-22 Jan 1954, 20-26 Mar 1971
  • ABC Weekly, 9 May 1942, 25 Nov 1944
  • Radio Active, Jan 1960
  • Darbyshire scripts (State Library of Victoria)
  • private information.

Citation details

Mimi Colligan, 'Darbyshire, Phillip Arthur (Phil) (1898–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 29 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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