REV. J. H. DARRELL, MA (CANTAB)
Rev. James Horne Darrell, M.A. (Cantab) born on 9th June, 1872, in Barbados, West Indies. His father too was a Missionary in West Indies by the same name. He had his primary education there and then his higher education in England. He arrived in Ceylon on 1st September 1896 and assumed duties as Principal of Richmond on 11th September 1896 at the young age of 24 in all manner a youth.
In 1896 there came to Galle one of the ablest and most devoted Missionaries ever sent to Ceylon. The Rev. J. H. Darrell had taken a high place among the scholars of his year at Cambridge, and he added to that attainment personal gifts of charm, of industry, and of sound judgement which marked him out lor pre eminence even among the many great Missionaries who have served in Ceylon. He was appointed to Richmond College, and there his faculty of teaching came into splendid operation. He also added much to the efficiency of the College by improving its buildings. In 1901 a department for the training of workers was added. He enjoyed excellent health, and a long life of splendid service seemed to await him.
The tone of the school was his first concern. He set a very high standard of integrity himself, sought the aid of the staff and made the senior boys responsible for the discipline of the school. For this purpose he introduced the Prefect System.
In his Prize Day Report of 1900, referring to the Prefect System he said By it we have attempted to create gradually in the senior boys some sense of responsibility for the general conduct and tone of the school, for until there is this feeling, the discipline of the school life outside the class room cannot be perfected. He gave the boys further responsibility entrusting to them the Literary Association and the production of the School Magazine. For maintaining discipline he found a strong ally in the Cadet movement and made the fullest use of its varied training and opportunities.
It must have been a happy Principal indeed who said at his last Prize Giving in 1905 ”Of the general tone of the school, I can speak favourably. We work hard for the intellectual advancement of the boys, but our chief emphasis is on character and manliness. No boy passes through these class rooms without having set before him and pressed upon him the best aims and highest ideals of life; I see a marked improvement in our senior boys as a whole. To the masters and prefects, I am indebted for their support and ready service. Theirs is the heat of the day, and they have borne it well.
Mr. Darrell’s spirit so outshone his mind that it is easy to forget his work as a teacher. He had the ability to give a clear presentation of the most difficult problems and he was always ready to help those who were slow or backward. The school began to advance in public estimation, and large numbers sought admission.
From the beginning Mr. Darrell set out to improve the staff in order to achieve his purpose for the school. Mr. Darrell was compelled to observe The fact is that most of the young men who are capable of succeeding as teachers take to teaching merely and avowedly as a temporary employment. Now this constant state of flux cannot be said to be in any way beneficial to a school; and who is to blame I have heard only one answer generally given to this question, namely, that teachers are too poorly paid. To meet this difficulty Mr. Darrell encouraged his teachers to take the Teachers’ Certificate Examination and coached the candidates himself. He did not forget their financial needs, he devised a laudable scheme to improve their financial position.
These efforts bore fruit and in 1903 Richmond had the best results in the Cambridge Examinations among the grant-in-aid schools and stood second only to Royal College. During these early days Honours and Distinctions were scanty. In six years Mr. Darrell’s students gained eleven distinctions in Mathematics and earned for the school a special reputation.
On the 24th September 1898, just two years after his arrival, the foundation stones of the new hall were laid. He planned the building and supervised the work. He used to climb the gable ends to make sure that the walls were straight. On more than one occasion the walls had to be rebuilt. The roof was entirely supported by a thin framework of steel, and it aroused the wonder of the people that so broad a hall could have a roof without internal pillars to support it. It is said that once a Mudliyar who went inside the hall and seeing the roof not being on pillars ran out in horror. Engineers at that time were sceptical about the roof withstanding its weight without any support. However for more than a century it has stood as it is like the day it was opened and it is an Engineering marvel. Rev. Darrell being a good mathematician would have used his knowledge of mechanics to design the support structure that would carry more than the weight it now carries. At present the support structure carry the weight of several fans and withstands the vibration when they are in operation. This plain and dignified building was considered the best school hall at the time. Mr. C. Hartley of Royal College remarked that his hall was disreputable compared to this. The formal opening took place on the 20th March 1900.