Thomas James Barling
Teacher, University Lecturer and Christadelphian

Tom Barling, 2009
Tom Barling (circa 2009)

T.J. Barling was born 24 March 1912, the son of Gilbert Bailey Barling (1890–1969) and his wife Margaret (née Nicholas, 1890–1971). Gilbert Barling was originally from St Vigeans near Forfar in Angus. Although starting in 1903 as a collier boy, he became, by virtue of his determination to gain qualifications at evening classes, a group manager of collieries in the Aberdare area. In his mid-career he was the engineer who sunk the Tower Colliery deep shaft, and went on to become the colliery’s manager.

By the 1930s, the family lived in a large house called Dorlwyn situated towards the top of Monk Street, Aberdare. Tom Barling had two younger brothers, and all three boys attended the County School.

Tom received his elementary schooling at Hirwaun Boys and then at the Higher Standard School in the Gadlys. At the age of 12½ years, in September 1924, he transferred to the County School in Trecynon where he was both academically very strong as well as a successful sportsman. In 1930 Tom was captain of the school rugby XV, and in the previous year, captain of Penri House, the winners of the County School Challenge Shield for athletics.

He gained his CWB School Certificate with matriculation equivalence in 1928, and his ‘Highers’ in 1930, with distinctions in French and Latin. On the basis of the quality of his papers he was awarded one of the four State Scholarships awarded to pupils of the school in 1930 – a vintage year for the school in that of the six state scholarships awarded in Wales, four came from the boys’ school in Aberdare. The other scholarships were awarded to the scientists Handel Davies and Mansel Davies, and another to one of the headmaster’s sons, Alfred G.C. Cox, who gained distinctions in the same subjects as Tom, but in English as well. Later, Alfred took a First in French in Cardiff, and for a while took up teaching. However, he later returned to university and took up medicine, then in 1940, like his three siblings1, became a doctor.

Tom gained a place at the University of Birmingham where he read French, gaining a first class honours degree at the end of his course. Following his graduation, circa 1933, he held a variety of teaching posts up to the year 1949 including ones at Hookergate Grammar (County Durham), Saltley Grammar School (Birmingham) and King Edward VIII (Coventry). As part of his activities as a Christadelphian he was in France in 1940 and escaped just ahead of the German invasion. After the war he returned, and in the late 1940s he was in Paris studying for a research MA and then a PhD which he was unable to finish due to growing family commitments.

From 1949, Tom lived in Teignmouth, South Devon, working as a senior lecturer in education at Exeter University until 1977 when he retired. He continued to live in Teignmouth until 2008 when he moved into the Bethesda Christadelphian Care Home in Torquay. Tom’s wife Ruth was also a resident at the Home until her death in 2009, at the age of 91. Tom himself died there on 22 September, 2011 at the age of 99.

Tom was the eldest of the three boys. A brother W.F. (Fred) Barling, County School 1929–35, died in 1990. He, like Tom, went to Birmingham University and for forty years taught French, and latterly until his retirement was deputy head of The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys School, at both Hampstead and later Elstree. The youngest brother, Mansel, lived in Gloucestershire. He went to UCW Aberystwyth and was subsequently from 1946 a lecturer in agriculture at the Royal Agricultural College, in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Both brothers had legendary followings at their respective institutions – and both were known as Dai to their academic colleagues.

Tom married Ruth Collyer in Birmingham on October 5th, 1940. The couple raised four children: two boys and two girls. We are grateful to Tom’s youngest son, Chris, for providing the information which enabled this appreciation of Tom’s life to be compiled.

Tom and his brother Fred were leading lights in the Christadelphian religious movement. They wrote several books in that connection, Fred with “Law and Grace” and Tom with “Letter to the Philippians” and “Letter to the Colossians”. Tom was also a leading UK expert on the French philosopher Voltaire. He published in 1965 a study of the works of Voltaire, and in 1975 produced the notes and introduction for Les Philosophes (Textes littéraires, xvii). Soon to be published, there is to be another book, written by Tom while he was at Bethesda Home in Torquay.

Letter to the Colossians
Letter to the Philippians

Tom in 1926

Tom in 1926
(standing in front of the Honours Board in the Main Hall)


1 The headmaster’s four children all became doctors, they are, with qualifying dates: David Walter Charlton Cox (1930); Arthur Charlton Cox (1932); Margaret Charlton Cox (1934); and Alfred George Charlton Cox (1940, and MD 1949).