Bernard Darwin (1 Walker Cup, Journalist)

1876 - 1961


Bernard Richard Meirion Darwin, C.B. E (for services to literature and sport) was born on September 7, 1876 and died on October 18, 1961, age 85.  He was the first grandchild of the famed naturalist Charles Darwin, and the only son of Francis Darwin and Amy Ruck Darwin who died shortly after Bernard’s birth.  To his friends and admirers he was known as Bernardo. Eighty five years is a long life span especially for one born in the Victorian era.  Incredible as it seems, his tiny heart started beating in the month young Tommy Morris died and continued beating into the dawn of Jack Nicklaus’s reign.

Bernardo was the first writer to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.  He was also a top-of-the-tree Amateur golfer: Captain of the Cambridge golf team; founding member of The Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society; member of at least 28 golf clubs and captain of several including The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.  Darwin played, and won, his singles match over the United States Captain
in the first Walker Cup Match. He also waged war (a true ‘Hyde’ when on the green) in 26 British Amateur Championships over five decades (his last at age 59) reaching the semi-finals twice.

Bernardo was many things to many people, some of whom couldn’t care less about golf.  Contemporary eminent scholars considered Bernard Darwin to be the greatest living essayist in the English language.   Although graduating from Cambridge with a Law degree, and ‘enduring too many years’ practicing as a barrister and a solicitor, he began to write in 1902 about his true love – golf.  And he never stopped.  His last article appeared in Golf Monthly (UK) the month he died.  Most of his writings were for Country Life (UK) magazine and The Times newspaper concurrently from 1907 through 1961.  But he had many other loves.  Literature permeated whatever subject he was drawn to that day; witness his frequent quotes from Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Wilke Collins, Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, just to name a few masters.  Although most of his articles, essays, and books were about golf a surprising, almost shocking, percentage were not: for example ‘Fourth Leader’ editorials in The Times, and ‘A Casual Commentary’ articles in Country Life were about subjects as diverse as  cricket, elephants, public schools, children, war, foot racing, prize-fighters, railroads, gypsies, murders, zoos, circus art, etc.

He and wife Elinor (nie Monsell, from Ireland) raised their family in Downe Village, Kent, barely one mile from his childhood home, Down House.  Their children inherited talent from their parents: drawing and engraving from Mama, writing and singing from Papa.  Their oldest child was Ursula Francis Elinor Mommens (1908 – 2010) who became a well-known potter.  Sir Robert Vere Darwin, ‘Robin’ (1910 – 1974) became an artist, educator, and Rector of the Royal College of Art.  Nicola Mary Elizabeth Fenn (1916 – 1975) was a classical soprano.  ‘Niccy’ was born shortly before Bernard left for Macedonia to serve as a Major in the King’s Army during ‘The Great War’.

 In short, Bernard Darwin liked to admit that he was blessed to earn a living while doing the things he liked best.  Bernardo and Eily rest in peace in St Mary the Virgin Churchyard in Downe.

Dick Verinder, Editor
Dormy House Press
Washington, Texas