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History of Rowing Queensland

History of Rowing in Queensland

This chapter is under construction

In about 1995, the Late Jack Pritchard wrote a history of Queensland rowing titled Rowing in Queensland 1880-1995, published by Rowing Queensland Inc.

It a remarkable and weighty tome which records not only the history, but also includes schedules of Office Bearers, Queensland interstate and international representatives, results of Queensland Championships and the boys and girls Heads of the River.

It has been reproduced on this site with the permission of the publisher, Rowing Queensland Inc.

Some liberties have been taken in the reproduction such as sub headings to make it easier to find relevant years and over time images will be added. The printed book had neither of these matters.

Rowing in Queensland 1880-1995


In researching the material for this history of the sport of Rowing in Queensland, I am indebted to the book "Athletic Queensland" published in 1900, in which the first sport explained is "Amateur Rowing" written by W.B. Carmichael, at that time a prominent member of the Commercial Rowing Club. This book gives a very good description of early competition in Queensland up to 1899. The book "A Short Historical Sketch of the Commercial Rowing Club" written by H. Wetherell, and published in 1945, supplied many interesting details. 

The microfilm archives of the Queensland State Library provided the major sources of detailed information from their copies of the editions of the major newspapers - the Brisbane Courier, the Courier Mail, the Sunday Mail, the Evening Observer, the Truth, the Queenslander, the Maryborough Chronicle, the Bundaberg News Mail, the Rockhampton Bulletin, the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun Herald, The Melbourne Argus and the Age, the Adelaide Advertiser, the Hobart Mercury and the Perth Westralian. 

Annual reports (not in any way near complete) from the Commercial Rowing Club, Brisbane Rowing Club, Toowong Rowing Club, G.P.S. Old Boys Rowing Club, the Queensland Rowing Association and its successors, and the Australian Amateur Rowing Council, an early scrap book of the Breakfast Creek Rowing Club and some records of the Queensland Women's Rowing Association provided a breadth of information for comment and outlook. 

The archivists of the Brisbane Grammar School and of The Southport School were very co-operative and attentive to my requests for information in regard to their school's rowing achievements, and the libraries of Brisbane Boys' College and St.Joseph's Christian Brothers College were very helpful. Peter Jell in his capacity of chronicler of the rowing achievements of the Anglican Church Grammar School did valuable checking of my Head of the River Listings. 

My thanks also go those innumerable people who were pestered for details of coxswain's names, crew members and their recollections of regattas long gone. 

To Jim Dowrie, John Drewe, Gordon Fraser and Mrs. Nell Slatter go my sincere thanks and appreciation in undertaking the reading of the draft history and offering their comments and advice. 

Jack Pritchard


After being involved in the sport of Rowing as a competitor, boat race official and as an administrator for a period of almost forty years, and then severing the links of active participation in the sport, I undertook to prepare a history of the Toowong Rowing Club for their centenary in 1989. In the course of compiling this record, the lack of details of winners of Queensland Rowing Championships and early history was highlighted, and after putting the Toowong task aside awaiting fine tuning, a start was made to compile the list of Championship winners. After this was completed, it then seemed necessary that some words be written to fold around these races and other matters. 

I have taken some excerpts from Amateur Rowing by W.B. Carmichael, published in 1900, but for a much broader view of the period up to 1899, and the major personalities of this period, W.B. Carmichael's book makes excellent reading. The opening paragraphs of this book spelled out the mystique of the sport which still holds good to this day. The major theme is quoted as follows: 

The exercise and pastime of Rowing is admitted all over the world to be the most healthy and beneficial form of outdoor athletics. More especially is it so to those whose occupations keep them indoors the greater part of the day; then a good long row after business hours comes as a perfect boon, and saves many a doctor's bill. From a muscular point of view the advantages of Rowing are of a high order. Not only does the exercise strengthen, but it assists in expanding and building up the frame. The shoulders, back, chest , legs and arms are all benefited, the muscle produced being flexible and stringy. The bunchy muscle which no doubt looks well but is decidedly inferior to the long muscle is not developed by rowing. There is no exercise which makes more severe demands under physical distress than the one in question. It is not every man who can stand the severe preparation necessary for a rowing race, and care should be taken, especially by growing youths, not to tax themselves too much at the commencement of their rowing career. To race, a man must be constitutionally sound, as this is no sport for the weakly, although the latter, by moderate exercise on the river, may be eventually strengthened to stand the test of hard training. That the pastime itself is a really delightful one goes without saying, and finer pleasure cannot be imagined by an ardent oarsman than that attendant on either a hard fought race or a paddle for exercise with a crew well. together. In a four or eight-oared crew there is the even hard grip of the oars, the firm, steady recovery with even body swing, the hands carried forward at a uniform height, and the consciousness that the boat is being well rowed, without any splashing or rolling. This gives the oarsman a keen feeling of pleasure, and as he prepares for a race, there is the gradual getting into condition, feeling stronger with each row, and the splendid spirit of comradeship between the members of the crew.

While this article may not pass present-day standards of political correctness and sexless gender, it perfectly describes the sport of Rowing. 

Newspaper coverage of rowing since the start of amateur rowing in 1880, and up to the start of the Second World War in 1939 was very extensive, Interstate Regattas being granted comprehensive coverage in the weeks preceding the race and it was nothing unusual for the articles to cover two full broadsheet pages. Queensland Championships were also accorded large space and local club regattas in Brisbane, Maryborough, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and at a later date, Tweed Heads, were always well covered. 

After 1945, coverage slowly dwindled, because of many other sports which came to the fore and competed for attention and possibly because of lack of specialised stewardship by members of the rowing community in ensuring that the newspapers were advised in advance of events and then fed the results. The coming of television possibly put an end to the large crowds who followed major regattas, and extensive delays in programmes which were permitted to become a blight at regattas did not assist public support. 

With the shift of regattas away from the river courses in the heart of the rowing centres to still water courses at often rather remote locations, the rowing public dwindled to the real enthusiasts. Even the very parochial and enthusiastic public school supporters at Head of the River regattas suffered a severe fall in numbers. 

It is in this context that the history is written to record the names of the winners of Queensland Championships, the administrators who kept the sport running, the success or lack of success in Interstate competition and the results of Australian crews in International regattas, where an increasing number of Queenslanders have been selected in recent years. 

This book does not dwell on individual personalities, except where a particular person's long history in the sport makes mention an imperative. The history is cut off at the end of the 1994/95 season. Hopefully some other people will continue to record the progress of the ultimate team sport "ROWING". 

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