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Percy Tarlton Rayment (1882–1964)

by Kenneth L. Walker

This article was published:

Percy Tarlton Rayment (1882-1964), apiarist, biologist and writer, was born on 27 November 1882 at Carlton, Melbourne, and registered as Percy Rayment Darling, youngest son of James Rayment, musician, and Rhoda Darling, said to have been a descendant of Governor Sir Ralph Darling. Educated at an Anglican school, Tarlton was a brilliant scholar with a gift for painting. He trained for a time as an artist and as an architect but, fascinated by bees since childhood and influenced by the work of Jean Henri Fabre and Professor D. A. Cockerell, turned to natural history. After a brief stay in India he arrived in Melbourne in 1902 and moved to Ballarat, then Leongatha, where he took up bee-keeping. On 16 April 1909 at East Melbourne he married Clarice Harbeck Begg with Methodist forms; they had one son.

After severe bush fires near Leongatha, Rayment moved about 1908 to Briagolong, where he set up his three hundred hives. In 1922 he moved to Sandringham, Melbourne, and devoted most of his time to research and writing on local native bees. He was president of the Entomological Society of Victoria (1930-31) and an associate of the Royal Society of Victoria (1930-34). For his many publications he was elected in 1931 a fellow of the Entomological Society, London. His best-known work was A Cluster of Bees (1935), for which he received world acclaim. He lectured, broadcast and published widely on natural history, and made three films, including The Cliff Dwellers (1933).

Rayment also won some success as a fiction writer. In 1933 he published The Prince of the Totem, a collection of stories based on Aboriginal legends, first broadcast by Nina Murdoch in Children's Corner on 3LO. His novel The Valley of the Sky (1937), 'a romantic idyll of the pioneering of Gippsland' based on the life of Angus McMillan, won the British section of an all-nations novel competition. In 1945 he published Eagles and Earthlings, verse commemorating the allied air crews of World War II. Sometimes using pen-names, 'Ka-vai', 'Ralph Darling', 'Johan Moorst' and 'Moroka', he also produced fifty-four radio scripts and numerous short stories.

In 1945 Rayment was made a fellow of the Zoological Society of London. In 1951 he was awarded the Natural History Medallion of Australia and next year he became honorary entomologist for the National Museum of Victoria. He was vice-president in 1954 and president in 1955 of the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria. He continued to write prolifically; his publications—about five hundred—include descriptions of over 1000 new species of bees, wasps, thrips and collembola, 530 of which were new species, 40 new sub-species and 10 new genera. These descriptions include the biology of seventy Australian species.

Tarlton Rayment was solidly built with a ruddy complexion and deep blue eyes; he was 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall. The sudden death of his wife on 13 April 1961 affected him to the extent that he was unable to work and left behind a number of unfinished manuscripts. In poor health himself from 1949, Rayment died in Melbourne on 17 June 1964 and was cremated. His entomological collection had been donated to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in 1960. Cornell University, United States of America, has a large number of Rayment's original drawings.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Young, The Melody Lingers On (Melb, 1967), and for bibliography
  • Victorian Naturalist, 68, Feb 1952
  • Today (Melbourne), 1 Jan 1934
  • Walkabout, 1 Feb 1951
  • People (Sydney), 29 May 1957
  • Age (Melbourne), 18 June 1964.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Kenneth L. Walker, 'Rayment, Percy Tarlton (1882–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Ka-Vai
  • Darling, Ralph
  • Moorst, Johan
  • Moroka

27 November, 1882
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


17 June, 1964 (aged 81)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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