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History of Rowing Queensland

History of Rowing in Queensland

Chapter 1  1859-1900 From Colony to State

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Next to Chapter 1 Part 2 1892-1900

Chapter 1 Part 1 - 1859-1892 

The Early Years

Any discussion on rowing in Australia inevitably comes back to the arrival of the First Fleet in Australia, and to the fact that nearly all early settlements were established on the coast on suitable harbours. The venue for rowing was the harbours or rivers and the gigs and lifeboats of the Fleet would have been the best maintained gear available. 

The first recorded boatrace was held on Sydney Harbour in 1805 in four oared gigs from English ships and the first regatta was rowed by the whaleboaters of Tasmania at Hobart in 1827, and the second at Sydney in the same year. 

Brisbane was first established as a penal settlement in 1824 and Queensland became a separate colony on December 10, 1859. According to W.B. Carmichael in his book "Amateur Rowing" published in 1900, the first annual Anniversary Regatta was held on December 10, 1860, and continued annually as one of Brisbane's most popular sporting fixtures of the year. 

It was natural that rowing became a popular sport very early in the history of Brisbane and the later northern settlements. All were founded on large rivers which were not bridged for many years and a large fleet of boatmen plied their craft in transporting people, merchandise and cattle across the streams. Goods were also transported with the tide to Ipswich and the return journey on an outgoing tide. The age of steamers was still to come and rowing was the only means of progress on the water for many years. 

Brisbane, Maryborough and Rockhampton are the only towns in Queensland in which rowing has flourished permanently. Bundaberg, Cootharaba, Townsville and Ipswich each started rowing clubs but only spasmodic efforts were made to keep the sport alive in these centres in the early days. Bundaberg subsequently became one of the most successful clubs in Queensland. 

The following is a list of the various clubs which were established and of which some still survive. In Brisbane the Amateur Boating Club, the Princess Boating Club, the Government Printing Boating Club and the Star Boating Club were established in the early 1860's and succumbed before 1900. The Brisbane Rowing Club was founded on December 12, 1874, with a shed first at Kangaroo Point, afterwards removed to Walmsley's Point, South Brisbane (upstream of present Commercial shed) and was defunct in 1885. Mercantile Rowing Club, afterwards called the Kangaroo Point Rowing Club, was founded about 1877 and was defunct by 1887. Banks Rowing Club, established in 1881 at Kangaroo Point, was defunct in 1885. Commercial Rowing Club, the oldest surviving rowing club in Queensland, was founded on October 4, 1877, at North Quay. Breakfast Creek Rowing Club was established at a meeting on November 11, 1885, and formally opened their shed at Breakfast Creek, close to the bridge, on September 4, 1886. Prior to 1892 they used the old Kangaroo Point R.C. shed as a branch shed. In 1893 they moved to a site at North Quay where the northern pylon of the William Jolly Bridge now stands and changed their name to Brisbane R.C. on August 30, 1893. 

In Maryborough, the Maryborough Rowing Club was established in 1877 and became defunct some time after 1949. The Wide Bay Rowing Club, established about 1881 became defunct in 1891, but was subsequently re-established. 

In Rockhampton, the Fitzroy Boating Club was formed in 1863, but a few years later economic depression led to the closing of the club and the sale of its boats. In 1877 the Fitzroy Rowing Club was founded and their club house was completed before the end of the year. The Central Queensland Rowing Club was founded in 1882 by the working men of Rockhampton, and succumbed in the early 1900's. The Rockhampton Rowing Club competed in the Queensland Champion Four in May 1884. The Lakes Creek Rowing Club was founded in 1894 and became defunct some time after 1903, the year in which their sculler won the State Sculls title. In the 1930's the Old Grammarians Rowing Club was founded and there was also a Fitzroy Ladies' Rowing Club. 

Rockhampton was the home of Edward Trickett who, in 1876, was the first Australian to win the world professional sculling championship. he became the proprietor of the Oxford Hotel and was a great asset to rowing clubs.

Bundaberg Rowing Club was not operating at the time of the publication of W.B. Carmichael's "Amateur Rowing" in 1900, the 1893 flood apparently having finished the second attempt to establish the club, and it was not until late 1905 that the basis of the present club was re-established. It was on October 9, 1909, that a Queensland Championship race was rowed in Bundaberg for the first time. 

Many attempts were made to establish rowing in Ipswich, both at school and club level. Ipswich Grammar School competed in races against Brisbane Grammar School and also against Maryborough Grammar School. 

The first Anniversary Regatta was held on December 10, 1860, on the Town Reach, the principal races starting at Gardens Point then round buoys at Walmsley's Point (foot of Montague Road) and back to the starting point. Both sailing and rowing were catered for and eleven races were conducted. Races were open to all comers and professional boatmen competed against the amateurs. Three steamers were moored at the wharves as official flagships and the event was a great success. 

Prize money for some of the races was substantial. In 1861, a race for all persons in bona fide gigs, pulling four oars with cox, offered a first prize of £20, second £10. This was a very substantial sum and was won by a gig "Arrow", brought from Sydney and known to be much faster than any Queensland boat and the race was won by "Arrow" with ridiculous ease. In 1863, a similar race for all comers in first class gigs, pulling four oars, for the Princess Cup and £50 was conducted. This race was in commemoration of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales. When a crew who had arranged to row in the "Arrow" had the boat purchased from under them, they promptly had another gig made for them, the cedar being split and planed, obviously post haste. The boat was named "Rose of Denmark" out of respect to the Princess of Wales, and won by two lengths. 

The Anniversary Regattas continued to be held on December 10 until 1863, but no races were held from 1864 through 1868 because of the exceptionally difficult times. Regattas re-commenced in March, 1869, then lapsed until December 1872, November 1873, 1874 and 1875; then a lapse until November, 1879. 

In 1880, it was decided that races be held for the Champion Four of Queensland for amateur oarsmen only, and the first race was conducted at Maryborough on May 24, 1880, over 2 miles. The race was described as the "Maryborough Challenge Race for the Four-oared Gig Championship of Queensland" and was won easily by the home crew of J. McWatters (B), R.A. Sim (2), W.S. Sim (3), J. Sim (S) and A.J. Sim (Cox). 

A Brisbane Rowing Club crew travelled to Maryborough for this race and rowed in a new carvel gig built by Donnelly of Sydney. The Brisbane crew would have travelled to Maryborough by steamer as the railway line to Maryborough was not opened until July 17, 1891, with the completion of the Brisbane to Gympie section. Since the Maryborough to Bundaberg section had been completed on February 20, 1888, the Brisbane to Bundaberg section was also complete in 1891. The Bundaberg to Gladstone section was completed on August 1, 1896, but the Gladstone to Rockhampton section was not opened until December 18, 1903. 

There was no Queensland Rowing Association in existence at this time and accordingly each district which felt they had a good enough crew staged a championship race. This appeared to be an amicable arrangement between the rowing centres since all clubs entered when they felt they had a crew of sufficient calibre and could afford the expense. The Championship Four of Queensland was the premier event because all centres had four-oared boats, and Maryborough and Rockhampton did not possess eight-oared craft. The first eights race rowed at an Association regatta was an open eights race on December 17, 1892, in Brisbane between Commercial Rowing Club and the Breakfast Creek Rowing Club. 


On December 10, 1880, (Anniversary Regatta Day) the race for the Champion Four of Queensland was held in Brisbane over 3 miles on a course from the South Brisbane Dry Dock to a point in the upper Toowong Reach (near the Regatta Hotel). Crews from Maryborough Rowing Club, Brisbane Rowing Club and Commercial Rowing Club entered, and Maryborough won well from Brisbane Rowing Club. The Maryborough crew was W. Poulter (B), C.F. Barton (2), J. Bartholomew (3), A. Poulter (S) and J. McDowall (Cox).

The Annual Regatta held in association with the Champion Four was for many years the only official regatta in each centre other than intra-club events. These regattas were big events and in 1880 in Brisbane provided racing for Under 19 Pairs, Senior Pairs, Under 18 Fours, Under 20 Fours and Senior Fours. In 1881, the regatta was expanded by the inclusion of Senior Sculls, Under 20 Pairs and Maiden Fours. In 1882, Junior Pairs and Junior Fours were added to cover a wide spectrum of rowing. The same large scope applied where feasible in Maryborough and Rockhampton. 


The next race was also on the Brisbane River, on December 10, 1881, over 3 miles, again with three contenders - all from Brisbane. Commercial Rowing Club won easily from Brisbane Rowing Club and Kangaroo Point Rowing Club third. The Commercial crew was C .Myers (B), D. O'Connor (2), P. Hardgrave (3), T. O'Sullivan (S) and F. Midson (Cox).

These races would have been rowed in clinker built fours not unlike the school tub fours known to many oarsmen, but possibly of lighter construction and were rowed with fixed seats. The report of the 1881 race has Commercial R.C. rating 36 to 38 and Brisbane R.C. on 38 to 42 per minute. In 1882 the time for the race was 19 minutes 4 1/2 seconds. They bred them tough in those days. 

May 24 (the Queen's Birthday) had always been looked upon as Regatta Day in Maryborough, and the next Champion Four was held there in 1882. Four crews started, two from Maryborough R.C. and one each from Wide Bay R.C. and Commercial R.C.. After a see-sawing race Maryborough R.C. won from Commercial R.C. by two lengths with Maryborough third. The winning crew was G.C.D. Forster (B), H.J. Fetherston (2), B. Bartholomew (3), A. Willmott (S) and R. McDowall (Cox). 


Brisbane conducted the next Champion Four on December 10, 1882, and two Commercial R.C. crews and a Brisbane R.C. crew faced the starter. The prize for this event was trophies valued at £100 - reduced to £50 if no crews from neighbouring colonies started. Commercial won from Brisbane with Commercial third. The winning crew, described at the time as one of the most brilliant crews Brisbane had ever produced, was J.N. Devoy (B), F.E. Foster (2), D. O'Connor (3), T. O'Sullivan (S) and F. Midson (Cox). 

The Champion Four returned to Maryborough on May 24, 1883, with one Wide Bay R.C. and two Maryborough R.C. crews competing. The race was won by Wide Bay and the winning crew was J. McFarlane (B), C. Linklater (2), A. Cheyne (3), G. Julin (S) and J. Murray (Cox). It would appear that a good Mary River tide was running as the 3 miles was covered in 15 minutes 55 seconds.


It was back to Brisbane on December 10, 1883, with Wide Bay R.C., Maryborough R.C. and Commercial R.C. vying for the honours. Commercial took the day from Maryborough with Wide Bay third. The Commercial crew was the same as that of December 1882, namely J.N. Devoy (B), F.E. Foster (2), D. O'Connor (3), T. O'Sullivan (S) and F. Midson (Cox).

The next Championship was at Maryborough on May 24, 1884, and six crews entered, two from Commercial R.C., two from Maryborough R.C., and a crew each from Wide Bay R.C. and Rockhampton R.C., but after being towed to the start the second Commercial boat was found to be minus one of their slides, so only five faced the starter. A Maryborough R.C. crew stroked by D. Mactaggart staged a magnificent finish to win by two feet from their fellow Maryborough R.C. crew with Rockhampton third. The Commercial crew, the champions from December 1882 and 1883, finished behind Wide Bay in last place. The winning crew was T.M. Bams (B), P.W.G. Pinnock (2), C.F. Barton (3), D. Mactaggart (S) and R. Marshall (Cox).


The Championship again returned to Brisbane on December 10, 1884, and was rowed downstream from the top of the Milton Reach to the Dry Dock and the race was rowed on slack water. Crews from Rockhampton R.C., Maryborough R.C., Brisbane R.C. and Commercial R.C. faced the starter. The Commercial crew had been late in getting together, only being in their boat a little over a week, but were however in fairly good trim. Commercial led out but were challenged by Maryborough rounding Walmsley's Point and the pull down the Bridge Reach was a series of desperate struggles, but the Commercials, though short of training and completely baked, hung on to win by two lengths. Brisbane R.C. was second 3 feet ahead of the Rockhampton R.C. crew, the time being 18 minutes 17 seconds.

The Commercial crew was H.W. Davis (B), L. Quinn (2), D. O'Connor (3), F.E. Foster (S) and M. Harris (Cox).

In 1885, the race for the Queensland Champion Four was contested three times, in Maryborough, Rockhampton and Brisbane. Again all travel would have been by steamer as no other transport was available. On May 24 in Maryborough there were only two Maryborough R.C. crews rowing and the race was won by a crew consisting of E.T. Curtis (B), P.W.G. Pinnock (2), C.F. Barton (3), D. Mactaggart (S) and J. Murray (Cox). 


On August 14 four crews faced the starter in Rockhampton - Maryborough R.C., Wide Bay R.C., Central Queensland R.C. and Rockhampton R.C.. The race was an easy victory for Maryborough R.C., followed by Central Queensland, Wide Bay and Rockhampton. The winning crew was F.W. Barrymore (B), H. McCreadie (2), B. Bartholomew (3), D. Mactaggart (S) and J. Murray (Cox).

On December 10, 1885, the race in Brisbane was conducted from a point above Norman Creek to opposite Breakfast Creek, and again four crews competed - Maryborough R.C., Commercial R.C. and two crews from the Kangaroo Point R.C.. Maryborough settled to an early lead and won by eight lengths from Commercial and the two Kangaroo Point crews bringing up the rear. The time was 20 minutes 55 seconds and the winning crew was seated H. McCreadie (B), C.F. Barton (2), B. Bartholomew (3), D. Mactaggart (S) and J. Murray (Cox). 

Queensland's first venture against the neighbouring colonies was on April 25, 1885, with a crew formed to compete in the Intercolonial Eight-oared Race in Sydney, racing against Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. The Tasmanian crew used an eight fitted with a fin, the first time one was used in an eight. New South Wales won from Victoria, then Tasmania and Queensland last. The crew for Queensland was J.N. Devoy (B), E. Baynes (2), T.A. Bond (3), L.J. Quinn (4), D. O'Connor (5), P. Hardgrave (6), T. Hughes (7), E. Winter (S) and M. Harris (Cox). The major part of the crew was from Commercial, the exception being T.A. Bond from Kangaroo Point R.C..

The first eight-oared race in Brisbane was conducted on October 10, 1885, at a Commercial Rowing Club regatta. The race was run in two heats, with Brisbane R.C. and Kangaroo Point R.C. racing in the first heat. The arrangement was for the winner to race Commercial in the final but the crews dead-heated. Brisbane R.C. won the toss and raced Commercial, but the strain of the first race told and Commercial won by 1 1/2 lengths. The newspaper account does not give details but the possibility was that only two eights were available and this arrangement allowed the three crews to compete in an eights race. Three four-oared races were also conducted, two being for Commercial club crews and the third was competed for by the three clubs. The Brisbane Rowing Club was the original club of that name and had E. Winter rowing in six seat. In December, 1886, he was stroke of the Commercial Champion Four. 

The Champion Four was again in Maryborough on May 24, 1886, with only Maryborough R.C. and Wide Bay R.C. crews competing. Maryborough won easily. The Maryborough crew was H. McCreadie (B), C.F. Barton (2), B. Bartholomew (3), D. Mactaggart (S) and J. Murray (Cox).


On December 10, 1886, in Brisbane there were only two crews again - Commercial R.C. and Kangaroo Point R.C.. The race was won easily by Commercial after a great struggle for the first mile. The Commercial crew was S.J. Graham (B), W. O'Neill (2), T. Hughes (3), E. Winter (S) and M. Harris (Cox). 

The Breakfast Creek R.C. held a public regatta on Bulimba Reach on the next day, Saturday, December 11, with only Breakfast Creek R.C. and Kangaroo Point R.C. competing. Commercial declined to compete as they considered the amateur definition adopted by the Breakfast Creek R.C. to be too liberal. 


On May 24, 1887, four crews competed in Maryborough - two from Maryborough R.C., one each from Wide Bay R.C. and Breakfast Creek R.C.. The race was won by Maryborough from Breakfast Creek and Wide Bay. The second Maryborough crew did not finish. The winning crew was R. McDowall (B), W. Leslie (2), A. McDowall (3), J. McDowall (S) and D. McDowall (Cox) - truly a family affair.

In Brisbane on December 10, 1887, the only starters were Commercial R.C. and Breakfast Creek R.C.. The race was even for 1 1/2 miles then Commercial drew away to win by fifteen lengths. The winning crew was U. Muggridge (B), L. Quinn (2), D. O'Connor (3), E. Winter (S) and C. Midson (Cox). 

At this regatta held on the Bulimba Reach, the other races conducted were the Under Twenty Fours over 1 mile, Maiden Fours over 1 1/2 miles, Junior Double Sculls over 1 1/2 miles, Senior Fours over 2 miles, Junior Fours over 2 miles, Senior Double Sculls over 2 miles and Maiden Sculls over 1 1/2 miles. 

At the Breakfast Creek RC. A.G.M. held on January 20, 1888, Mr. T. Hughes proposed That the secretary be instructed to write to the secretaries of other clubs, requesting them to take united action in considering the re-formation of the Rowing Association. The motion was carried unanimously. 

On May 24, 1888, the race was again held in Maryborough with Commercial R.C. and two Maryborough R.C. crews as the contestants. With a fast tide running the Commercial crew went to an early lead and won by six lengths from the champions of May 1887. The winning crew, in a record time of 14 minutes 10 seconds, was F.J. Isles (B), T. Hughes (2), D. O'Connor (3), E. Winter (S) and C. Midson (Cox)

On the Queen's Birthday holiday on May 24, a regatta was conducted by the Ipswich R.C.. The regatta was held on the reach of the Brisbane River just downstream of the junction with the Bremer River. The steamer Louisa took between 200 and 300 excursionists from Ipswich, and the Mabel and Emma brought up a fair number of people from Brisbane. The Louisa left Ipswich shortly after 9 o'clock but had barely gone 200 yards on her journey when she got stuck on a sandbank which blocked further progress for two hours. The junction was not reached until half past 1 o'clock, and as the first race had been announced to start at 11.15, and did not take place till 2 o'clock, it will be seen that the delay of nearly three hours was occasioned by the mishap to the Louisa, on board of which were the competitors from the Ipswich club. 

The crews competing were from the Breakfast Creek RC., the Ipswich RC. and Ipswich Grammar School, with Breakfast Creek securing nearly all the prizes. 

Between 4 and 5 o'clock the Louisa made the move to return to Ipswich, but after going a short distance, and in trying to round the bank at the Junction breakwater, she ran on the sand and stuck there. A large number of her passengers requested to be put ashore, and then made their way, about a mile through the bush, to Riverview Station, returning to Ipswich by train. Only four of the ten races programmed had been completed before the reporter left the scene. These were:-

Youth's race, under 20, pulling four oars in string test gigs over 1 mile 

1st B.C.R.C. 2nd I.G.S. 3rd I.R.C. - Margins 100 yards and a long way in the rear 

Double Sculling Race over 1 mile 

1st B.C.R.C. 2nd I.R.C. - Margin four lengths 

Maiden Fours, in string test gigs over 1 1/2 miles 

1st I.R.C. 2nd B.C.R.C. - Margin two lengths 

Senior Fours, in string test gigs over 2 miles 

1st B.C.R.C. 2nd I.R.C. 3rd I.R.C. - Margin ten lengths and easily 

It must be presumed that the Brisbane boats were brought up on the steamers from Brisbane. 

A newspaper article in the B.C.R.C. scrapbook, undated and the newspaper unidentified, pasted with the results of this regatta states:-

The Commercial Rowing Club will not take part in the Ipswich regatta owing to the refusal of the Creekers to loan their boats. Some time ago the light blues sold the gigs they are asked to use to the Athenian rowists, and purchased others of a better class. The other clubs did not follow suit, and now argue that if the Commercials are allowed to use their modern boats the advantage is all on their side. The Creekers are willing to sell but will not loan.

On June 16, 1888, the first contest for the Queensland Championship Single Sculls was held over a 3 mile course in Rockhampton. The race was won by G.J. Ruwald of Mercantile R.C. in Sydney (now Mosman), the amateur sculling champion of New South Wales, with J.B. Johnston of Bundaberg RC. second and G. Shaw of Rockhampton R.C. third.


A meeting of rowing men was held in the Longreach Hotel in Brisbane on November 23, 1888, to consider the question of forming a rowing association. There was a fair attendance of representatives from both Commercial RC. and Breakfast Creek R.C.. Mr. R.P. Earle was voted to the chair and read a letter from Bundaberg R.C. expressing willingness to join the association; also from the Maryborough and Rockhampton Rowing Clubs asking for information with regard to the proposed association. 

After discussion it was decided unanimously to form a provisional committee and appoint a secretary "pro tem." to communicate with the Southern rowing associations and get their rules and the basis upon which they were formed, and draw up a scheme to submit to a future meeting. Mr. H.S. Bliss was elected secretary. 

On December 10, 1888, at Brisbane it was left to the old opponents of Commercial R.C. and Maryborough R.C. to fight out the championship, with D. Mactaggart appearing with a new crew from Maryborough. The Commercial crew of F.J. Isles (B), L. Quinn (2), T. Hughes (3), E. Winter (S) and C. Midson (Cox) won by five lengths.

A second meeting of the provisional committee was held on January 21, 1889. A scheme for the formation and a preliminary code of rules was prepared for presentation to a public meeting to be held on February 20. The committee had great assistance in their labours from the secretaries of the Victorian Rowing Association and from the late conference of rowing associations held in Sydney.

At the meeting held on February 20, 1889, in the Longreach Hotel, there were sixteen present representing the Commercial and Breakfast Creek Rowing Clubs. Mr. H.W. Davis was voted to the chair. The draft rules, as based upon the rules of the Southern Rowing Associations, were read, revised and adopted, and the Honorary Secretary, Mr. H.S. Bliss, was instructed to write to the rowing clubs of Queensland, forwarding copies of the rules, and asking them to nominate their delegates. In the case of the Northern clubs, names of gentlemen willing to act as delegates were to be published for them to choose from. Now that the Queensland Rowing Association had been formed it was hoped that all would support it, as it would tend to put this excellent form of athletic sport upon a proper footing and give it a stimulus it had never before received here. Anyone could join the Association on the payment of an annual subscription of five shillings and names would be received by H.S. Bliss at the Breakfast Creek R.C.. 

Apparently one of their first actions was to limit the running of the Queensland Champion Four to an annual event and the race did not leave Brisbane again until 1898 when the system of rotating the championship was instituted. 

In an article in the Evening Observer of Friday, February 20, 1889, it reads:- Another Rowing Association has at length been formed, and, being an organisation which aims at upholding the interests and honour of amateurs interested in aquatics throughout the colony, is deserving of a hearty welcome. The fact of its being the fourth on the list of similar undertakings is in no way a bad augury. The supporters of aquatic sports who, in spite of the failure of three previous efforts in the same line, are still resolute in initiating another, show by so steadily recognising the necessity for an association that they are in earnest, and at any rate deserve success if they cannot command it. No notification of the collapse of a previous association was ever received until the formation of its successor, and in this negative way the public now learns of the withdrawal of the last. It is to be hoped that the basis of the present formation will be found reliable, and that the policy of inertia peculiar to some Brisbane bodies will not be popular with the committee. They will have in their hands the general direction of an increasingly popular pastime, and of those exhibitions which are the delight on occasions too rare at present of a considerable portion of the Queensland public. Clubs have hitherto been too much in the habit of limiting interest in their displays by the exclusive spirit displayed. The best way to remedy this defect for the future is now being adopted, and it is for rowing men in general to remember that the stronger the support granted by them to the new venture, and the greater the harmony displayed among themselves, the more inclined will the public be to assist them in any dilemma, or to put them on a good permanent footing.

No mention of officials of the Association was made in the write-ups of regattas in May, December or January 1890. The first notification was in November, 1890, when a statement was published under the authority of the Chairman, the Hon. Joshua P. Bell, M.L.A. for Dalby. 

Since the Champion Four was now apparently restricted to Brisbane for a period, Maryborough conducted the Queensland Single Sculling Championship on their May 24, 1889, regatta day. The race, over 3 miles, was won by J.B. Johnston of Bundaberg R.C. from R.F. Shekelton of Breakfast Creek R.C. by six lengths. There were no further Queensland Sculling Championships until 1896. 

The Ipswich regatta was again held at the Junction on May 24, 1889. The Ipswich contingent arrived on the Natone, and the Brisbane people, of which there were very few, went up by train to Riverview and then walked across to the course, or came up on the Mabel which was chartered by the Breakfast Creek R.C. to carry their men and boats up. The Mabel left at 5 a.m. and arrived at 9 a.m.. The Natone also made a very pleasant run down from Ipswich. 

The only clubs competing were Breakfast Creek and Ipswich. Breakfast Creek won all but one race, but showed very poor form. The article in The Brisbane Courier of May 25, 1889, states:- Taking the regatta as a whole, however, it must be regarded as a success, considering the resources the Ipswich Rowing Club have at their command, but it is to be hoped that at the next regatta they hold they will not adopt regulations that will result in the exclusion of the premier rowing club of Brisbane, the Commercial Club.


The Queenslander newspaper of 14 September, 1889, reported on an aquatic demonstration conducted by Commercial R.C. on September 7, at which a race For Grammar School Boys, in any but best boats, over 1 1/2 miles was conducted. Ipswich Grammar School and the Brisbane Grammar School competed and the winners were listed: 

1.T.H. Bell, E. Scott, C.V. Sullivan, J. Darvall

2.W. Segor, J. McSwain, J. Bond, C. Noble

The winning school was not specified but because of the presence of a T.H. Bell in the winning crew it may be presumed they were from Brisbane Grammar. 

The Champion Four was rowed in Brisbane on December 10, 1889, between Commercial R.C. and Maryborough R.C.. The Commercial crew which had competed unsuccessfully in November for the Four Oared Championship of Victoria was too good for Maryborough and won easily. The winning crew was J.H. Williams (B), L. Quinn (2), T. Hughes (3), E. Winter (S) and C. Midson (Cox). 

At a meeting held at the Regatta Hotel on 22 October, 1889, it was decided to establish the Toowong Rowing Club. The new clubhouse, situated opposite the row of terraced houses near the intersection of Park Road and Coronation Drive, was opened on March 1, 1890. On March 12, 1890, the new clubhouse was swept away by a flood reaching a height of 22 feet at the Port Office gauge, about the same height as the flood of 1974. The boats were saved, having been taken to higher ground. Following special meetings of the members a second clubhouse was opened on June 14, 1890, only three months after the first one being destroyed in the flood. 

The Commercial Rowing Shed was also washed away in the 1890 flood. The Commercial Club members, led by E. Winter, erected a lean-to against the Government Domain fence, and used the Government Stables as a dressing room. The Domain area is where the present Queensland University of Technology is situated. The new boathouse was erected on the site of the O'Connor Boathouse known to most post-war rowers, on the river bank at North Quay opposite Turbot Street. The original boathouse had been located a little distance downstream of the Victoria Bridge. 

During 1889 members of the prominent Bell family returned from finishing their education at Cambridge University and having been coached to the English standards caused somewhat of a revolution when they joined the Breakfast Creek Rowing Club. They rowed in and coached a four from that club which won the Four Oared Championship of New South Wales on May 17, 1890 from Mercantile R.C. (now Mosman) and Balmain R.C.. 

They rowed in a new best and best boat, the body seats being at the sides, similar to the body seats of an eight. The crew in the early stages was coached by Stephen Fairbairn and later J.T. Bell and R.H. Roe gave advice to the boat. The crew was seated H.T.S. Bell (B), W.E. Molle (2), C.B.P. Bell (3), W.A.D. Bell (S) and F. Slawson (Cox). This win gave a terrific impetus to the sport of rowing in Queensland. The bow man, H.T.S. Bell, was no relation to the Bell brothers, C.B.P. Bell and W.A.D. Bell. 

The Queenslander newspaper of May 24, 1890, reported that the first rowing regatta had been held on Nerang Creek on May 16 - an all-comers event. 

At the Anniversary regatta of the Breakfast Creek R.C. held on Bulimba Reach on September 6, 1890, among other races one was conducted for Grammar schools - open to all Grammar Schools, fixed seats, over 1 mile. Two crews competed, one from Brisbane Grammar School and one from Ipswich Grammar School. The newspaper article states:-

In this race the Brisbane crew laboured under two disadvantages in that they had an inferior boat and had the outside rowing. It appears the Ipswich crew did not bring a boat of their own, and the Brisbane crew having two boats of unequal quality, agreed to toss their opponents for choice. The Ipswich crew won, and naturally enough selected the better boat. Notwithstanding this, a remarkably good race resulted, and up to the very last moment it was doubtful who would win, and although the Ipswich crew got home by about half-a-length, it was generally thought that had it not been for the indiscreet steering of the Brisbane coxswain during the last 200 or 300 yards, the Brisbane crew would have achieved a victory.

The race was rowed against the wind and the tide. The starter for the day, Mr. C.B.P. Bell, stood down for the schools race as he had an interest in it. Mr. RH. Roe, the Headmaster of Brisbane Grammar School, was the judge and umpire. 

The crews were : 

Ipswich Grammar School - C. Hill (B), A.G. Butler (2), H.B. Rowlands (3), A.P. Cameron (S) and I. Hill (Cox); 

Brisbane Grammar School - G. Hall (B), J. Ferguson (2), J.E. Dodds (3), V. Macdonald (S) and LS. Row (Cox). The Brisbane Grammar School boys were members of Breakfast Creek R.C. and rowed out of their shed. 

In the regatta programme for The Southport School R.C.'s 38th Annual Regatta on May 31, 1952, in an amended list of "Head of the River" races, the above race starts off the list. 


A newspaper article of November 6, 1890, reported that An important event in the history of rowing in Queensland took place at Breakfast Creek the previous afternoon, when the first eight-oar boat built in the colony was successfully launched. This boat has been turned out to the order of Mr. G.E. Markwell, who is anxious that Queensland may be enabled to make a creditable appearance in the next Intercolonial Eight-­oar Race on the Parramatta, and has generously presented her for the use of our crew. She is a handsome craft, of Queensland cedar varnished, and her dimensions are 58 feet overall, by 21 1/2 inches wide, 9 inches deep amidships and 6 inches deep aft. Her stem and stem are of kauri pine, keel of American pine, and ribs of American ash. She is braced all through with mild steel braces in such a way as to obviate the necessity for using the ordinary cross stays. This gain has been effected without any loss of proper stiffness, and the weight has been kept down so that she is actually lighter than the boat by Edwards, of Melbourne, in which the crew has hitherto worked. The slides are 22 inches long and the stretchers are fitted with brass heel plates, which are neat and strong. It may be mentioned also that in order to give ease in steering the yoke lines are led through small blocks on the ends of the yoke. Her general appearance and workmanship are much admired by those qualified to judge, and it may be added that the cost has been somewhat below what would be paid for a similar boat in Melbourne. As she was carefully placed in the water yesterday by willing hands, loud cheers were given for the "G.E.M." as she is to be called, and hearty good wishes were expressed for the success of her crew in their first race. The crew went for a short spin in her after the launch, and are well pleased with their new boat. We learn that they have been doing very good work of late, and that they may be counted upon to give a good account of themselves in Sydney. The builder, Mr. Geo. Cummings, of Breakfast Creek, has been warmly complimented upon his work.

After the N.S.W. success Colin Bell got together the following crew - F.W. De Little (B), W.E. Molle (2), H.T. Bell (3), F.M. Armstrong (4), A.H.G. Drury (5), C.B.P. Bell (6), E. Colclough (7), and W.A.D. Bell (S) - to compete in the Intercolonial Eight-oar Race over three and one quarter miles on the Parramatta River on November 29, 1890. The crew was ably coached by J.T. Bell (M.L.A. for Dalby). The race was against Victoria and New South Wales. Queensland went to the lead from Victoria and New South Wales. New South Wales, after shipping a sea or two, stopped rowing halfway. Victoria decreased Queensland's lead but a spurt by Queensland enabled them to increase the lead to two lengths. However, a quarter of a mile from the finish, a wash from a passing steamer in the already rough conditions buried two's rigger and snapped the blade. Despite the two man jumping overboard, the halt to progress allowed Victoria to pass Queensland and take the race. All the spectators admitted that but for the accident Queensland would have won. 

The action returned to Brisbane on December 10, 1890, for the Champion Four in which only Commercial R.C. and Breakfast Creek R.C. competed. Fresh from their success in the N.S.W. Four Oared immediately to the lead and won easily. The distance had been shortened to two miles, the idea being to get a better finish. The winning crew was H.T. Bell (B), W.E. Molle (2), C.B.P. Bell (3), W.A.D. Bell (S) and F. Slawson (Cox). Their style of rowing was described as being a revelation to Brisbane oarsmen, the very fast hands at the finish, steady slide forward and hard catch being totally different to anything seen in Brisbane previously. 

In a newspaper article, unfortunately undated, placed in the B.C.R.C. scrap book about December 1890, the following comments were made in regard to amateur status. Some discretion will, however, require to be used in drawing up rules for the guidance of members; and, perhaps, it will be well to avoid some of the rocks on which one of our local clubs has nearly been wrecked. It is, no doubt, necessary that boating clubs such as we have in Brisbane should be formed exclusively of amateur scullers, but the definition of what constitutes an amateur is a point on which much difference of opinion yet exists. Some clubs have defined an amateur as a man who does not gain his living by manual labour, or as a mechanic or artisan. Such a rule does not seem to meet the requirements of the case; the object, as we take it, is, or ought to be, to exclude men who are engaged professionally in aquatic pursuits. A rule to exclude seamen, watermen, or professional oarsmen from joining any rowing club would be quite intelligle; but why an artisan or mechanic should be excluded is not so clear. Such a man would not be likely to possess any more skill as an oarsman than the man of business or the professional man. His muscular prowess might, and perhaps would be better developed, but this fact should render him all the more an acquisition to the club as a rowing club, the objects of which are necessarily somewhat different from a merely social club. The new club just started possesses many advantages which should enable it to secure a leading position among our local clubs, and the greater the number of these, and the more keen the spirit of friendly rivalry between them, the better worth seeing must be the regattas.

These comments would most likely have referred to the formation of the Toowong R.C., but highlight the tensions caused by the discussions on amateurism as against professionalism. 


At the Breakfast Creek R.C. regatta held on September 26, 1891, the race for Grammar Schools was again conducted over one mile. Ipswich Grammar were the favourites but were defeated by several lengths by Brisbane Grammar School. 

The winning crew was:- R. McCowan (B) J.L. Wassell (2) J. Gore-Jones (3) E.R. Row (S) and A. Wassell (Cox).

The near success at the 1890 Intercolonial Eight-oar Race made the Queenslanders determined to have another try in Melbourne on November 28, 1891. A crew comprising B.J. Beime (B), F.W. De Little (2), A.J. Westaway (3), F.M. Hart (4), A.H.G. Drury (5), W.E.  Molle (6), E. Colclough (7), R.T. Hilder (S) and D. Joyce (Cox) represented Queensland and won by over 100 yards from New South Wales and Victoria.

The Champion Four was delayed until January 26, 1892, in Brisbane to allow time for training after the Intercolonial Race in the previous November. The race was again over 2 miles up the Toowong Reach and was fought out by a Breakfast Creek R.C. crew which, following the Bell brothers retirement from rowing, contained three members of the winning Intercolonial eight plus the emergency, while the Commercial R.C. included old hands J.H. Williams and E. Winter plus ex-Maryborough champion Bob McDowall and new member W.B. Carmichael. Commercial won a hard race by three lengths, the crew being seated W.B. Carmichael (B), J.H. Williams (2), R. McDowall (3), E. Winter (S) and D. Joyce (Cox). 

The Intercolonial Eight-oar Race was held in Brisbane for the first time on May 28, 1892, and was rowed on the Bulimba Reach over two and three quarters miles. Queensland, although having done some splendid trials before the race, had the worst position and after having a bad start, were never in the race which was won by Victoria from New South Wales and Queensland. 

In conjunction with the Intercolonial Eight-oar Race held in Brisbane, Queensland arranged for the conduct of the first Amateur Champion Sculls of Australia. They then invited J.B. Johnston of Bundaberg who was the reigning Queensland champion and M.J. Slack who had won the Brisbane River Champion Sculls in 1891 to compete on behalf of Queensland. W. Lambert and W. Goulding, the crack scullers of Sydney, represented New South Wales. The race was over 2 3/4 miles and Lambert led for nearly 2 1/2 miles, then Slack put on a magnificent spurt and won by three lengths, with Goulding third and Johnston failing to finish.

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