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australian rowers profiles and history

H Edmund Higgs

Murray Bridge Rowing Club (SA)

1913 –Interstate Men’s Eight Championship coach – First

1914 –Interstate Men’s Eight Championship coach – Second

1920 –Interstate Men’s Eight Championship coach – First

1922 –Interstate Men’s Eight Championship coach – First

1923 –Interstate Men’s Eight Championship coach – First

1924 – Olympic Games – Men’s Eight coach – eliminated in repechage

1925 –Interstate Men’s Eight Championship coach – Fourth

1926 –Interstate Men’s Eight Championship coach – Second

The Murray Bridge crew after winning the Olympic test race in 1924

Standing left to right - Unknown, H E Wynne, J P Marcus, F Willoughby, W Christopher, R H Wallman (Chairman SARA), His Excellency Sir Tom Bridges, E Higgs, H L Binney, C A Jepp, C A M West (Hon Sec SARA), S A Johnson, far right unknown
Crew members are from left to right, A C Tauber, E D Thomas, W E H Jarvis, R A Cummings, F M Cummings, H E Graetz, W M Sladden, A V Scott, W H Pfeiffer, G E Tucker (emergency), Aud Martin

Ted Higgs was born in Devonport Tasmania and was the son of a boatbuilder. He learnt to row in Devonport and became a champion sculler. At the age of 18, he moved to Launceston and became the light sculling champion of Tasmania.

His parents would not allow him to enlist for the Boer War so he went New Zealand and enlisted there.  He served in the Boer War and upon his return, went to Murray Bridge.  

I quote from an article from Nathan Davies: Teddy Higgs never intended to stay in Launceston in 1910 - he was on his way to the West Australian goldfields to make his fortune - but somehow he was persuaded to fill in for a missing Murray Cods coxswain. 

It's a serendipitous event that not only changes the fledgling club's fortune but also the culture of rowing in Australia. In 1911 a rough clubhouse is erected, new boats are purchased and the crew, under coach George Lush, begin to win races. 

Higgs, now the club's vice president and stroke, starts scouting around for new recruits. He picks up Hedley Joyce, quiet and reserved but a strong rower, and Ted Thomas, a bit of a larrikin and a ladies man, and the leader of the local big band. 

Higgs sets about transforming the team's style, teaching them to row with their whole body and to ignore the stiff-backed, well-mannered technique of the day. It's brutally effective. 

After winning the 1912 State Championships (an event that sees Lush [the original Murray Bridge coach and supporter and local doctor]and Higgs fall out and Higgs take over as captain and coach), the Cods earn the right to represent South Australia in the 1913 Eight Oared Championship on the Port River. 

Higgs was clearly the driving force behind the recruitment and training of the crew which culminated in the Murray Bridge Rowing Club successes.

He coached at Murray Bridge Rowing Club for 50 years from 1913 to the early 1960’s and during that time coached 3 winning Interstate Eights for South Australia and the Olympic eight in 1924. 

He worked for the South Australian Railways as a fitters mate.  He died in 1972 aged 92.

Andrew Guerin
April 2020


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