On — his 27th birthday — Reverend J R Buckland began his long and illustrious career as Headmaster of Hutchins School, then housed at Ingle Hall in lower Macquarie Street, Hobart Town.
Married in , he and his wife had set sail a year later for New Zealand, intending to settle on the land. After disembarking at Hobart Town in in order to visit his old school friend, Reverend J P Gell, then Headmaster of the Queen’s School, he was persuaded to accept the post of second master there. On the closure of the Queen’s School Buckland opened his own school in Fitzroy Crescent, before taking holy orders and being appointed in to the parish of St Luke’s, Richmond. He was ordained a priest in and his appointment to Hutchins followed soon after.
In commending to your especial charge the important duties of the first Head Master of the Hutchins School, I feel confident that you will justify my choice, by maintaining, in the chief city of my Diocese, that high expectation for sound and Christian learning, which an institution ought to possess, founded, as this has been, by the affectionate piety of the church, in memory of that excellent man who preceded me, the Venerable Archdeacon Hutchins.
In his 28 years as Headmaster, Buckland laid a firm foundation for the ongoing success of Hutchins. Under his leadership the pattern of an English public school was extended to include commercial and other practical subjects, as well as the introduction of evening classes. A founding member of the Tasmanian Council of Education from , Buckland contributed to education in the wider sphere by maintaining high standards through a system of examinations in which boys competed for a Tasmanian scholarship and the degree of associate of arts.
Described as a stern disciplinarian, Buckland had a strong sense of justice and earned the respect and affection of his charges — demonstrated by the presentation of a silver cup and 100 guineas following his first illness in , the collection of a further £100 on his illness and enforced rest 20 years later, and by the overwhelming public response to his death from heart disease in .
No man was more universally beloved by those who had the privilege of having him for a master, when they had arrived at that time of life when the mere discipline of the school was forgotten and only its enduring benefits reflected upon and experienced. No more congenial or delightful companion could be met with than the Rev. John Richard Buckland, whose loss, at a comparatively early period of life, will be felt by the parents and the rising generation of the youths of the colony…
Mr. Buckland’s duties were of a most arduous nature, but they were always performed with a degree of earnestness and self-consciousness which is almost inseparable from the true scholar…the vast benefits which his untiring and masterly efforts in the cause of education have diffused throughout the colony, will render his loss the more deplorable.
Following his death at , the public was notified of the ‘melancholy incident’ by the lowering of flags of the ships in the harbour. Fate tied up the loose ends neatly. After a plain and simple funeral service at All Saints’ Church, Buckland was buried in Queenborough Cemetery, the future home of the School he had served with such distinction. His headstone now resides outside the Chapel of St Thomas — a reminder of his dedicated and distinguished service in the role of founding Headmaster.