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History of the Queensland GPS Head of the River rowing regatta

1922 QLD GPS Head of the River

With the inception of the O'Connor Cup, the 1922 All School's Rowing Championship is considered the first Head of the River in a sequence that continues to the present. It was conducted on Saturday 13th May 1922 on the Bridge Reach of the Brisbane River.

The race would be over a three-quarter mile course beginning at the Commercial Rowing Club and concluding at the University Boat Pontoon. At the finishing line, a multitude of school colours, spirit and fervour was observed as family, friends and fellow students of the competitors congregated in the Domain to cheer their schools to victory 

By 1922, The Schoolboy Head of the River had generated a significant amount if interest to the point where some pundits considered it one of the most important rowing races in the state, second only to the interstate eight-oar races. It was thought that a strong showing in this regatta would translate well for Queensland's chances of success in the Commonwealth Regatta.

Central Technical College would not field a crew this year and Brisbane Boys' College would withdraw three days before the event. With their stroke, W. V. McDowall, being diagnosed with a septic throat and bed ridden for a fortnight, the Boys' College would be unable to find a satisfactory replacement. 

The positions of the crews from the north bank to the South Bank were as follows: No. 1 Brisbane Grammar School; No. 2 The Southport School; No. 3 Church of England Grammar School.

The Officials were:

Starter, Mr. R. Davidson;

Judge, Captain S. Johnstone;

Umpire Mr. R. Wilson;

Timekeeper, Mr. E. E. McCaskie;

Weight Steward: Mr. D. Coulter;

Assistant Starter: Mr. N. Carr. 

Captain Cloherty, the harbour master in charge of the course, kept it clear throughout the race, and Mr Eugene Hart superintended matters generally. 

In just their third start, Anglican Church Grammar School of East Brisbane, a relatively new school, took the honours of the initial O'Connor Cup in what would prove to be first of many victories in the contest.

Demonstrating a clinical display of the finer points of rowing, Churchie's win came as no surprise as the crew were widely touted as the favourites and had trained solidly in the lead up.

Despite the memory of Mr Denis O'Connor's pledge of a new trophy that would be competed for annually with the departure of the Lawless Cup, the president of the Queensland Rowing Association was at the time visiting the Old Country.

It was therefore implied that his promise would become a tangible reality upon his return. 

Mr Sinclair Smith, who was a wool vaulter with A.M.L. & F. Coached the victorious Churchie crew. The crew trained through the Easter Breal, staying in the boarding house together and were reported to do little else but row and sleep. They rowed in the new racing four, the Willoughby


Organising Committees:

The Queensland Metropolitan Secondary Schools' Association

Queensland Rowing Association 

All Schools Race - Fours

The O'Connor Cup

Distance: 0.75 Mile

Winning Time: 4:12.00


1.25 Lengths (1-2)

5 Lengths (2-3)

1st Church of England Grammar School - Bow: H. B. Beaman 10st 2lbs, 2: H. E. Hunter 9st 11lbs, 3: G. W. Barlow 11st 2lbs, Str: T. P. I. Fowler 9st 6lbs, Cox: A. I. Fowler 7st, Coach: Mr. R. S. Smith,  Colours: Slate Gray with Royal Blue edging 

2nd The Southport School - Bow: T. M. Burghardt 10st 11lb, 2: F. Champion 10st 2lb, 3: J. F. Champion 11st 8lb, Str: F. Burkitt 10st 9lb, Cox: J. Michod 8st 1lb, Coach: Mr. Eric Macmillan,  Colours: Red, White and Blue

3rd Brisbane Grammar School - Bow: N. L. Kelly, 2: F. Seamon, 3: F. K. S. Hirschfield, Str: J. F. Drewe, Cox: W. D. Kellett, Coach: Mr. E. M. Fisher, Colours: Dark and Light Blue 

Scratched Brisbane Boys' College - Bow: J. D. Walker 8st 12lb, 2: K. G. Stupart 9st 9lb, 3: E. D. Fletcher 9st 11lbs, Stroke: W. V. McDowall 9st 6lb, Cox: A. P. Douglas 8st, Coaches: Dr. V. McDowall & Mr. J. C. O. Capper,  Colours: Dark green, black and white

Church of England Grammar School Victorious 1922 First IV Crew

Brisbane Boys' College's Crew - BBC were scratched due to the illness of the school's stroke.

The Race Described

A good start was had by all, though it was a little unfavourable to the Brisbane Grammar School, who missed the first stroke. Yet Grammar appeared to recover quickly and after the first minute, they were out in front by 2 lengths. 

Though it would soon be revealed that Brisbane Grammar were rowing at a pace and tempo that could not be sustained by their technique. Exerting themselves greatly to take this early advantage, their boat was rocking significantly, giving the impression that it was unbalanced.

This culminated in the unfortunate circumstance near the bridge where B.G.S. crabbed. This rendered the crew stationary for a period sufficient to make the inaugural O'Connor Cup a two horse race between Southport and Churchie, who were both striking 32 strokes per minute as they emerged from the Victoria Bridge.  

When opposite Birt and Company’s Wharves with 300 yards to go, Church of England Grammar led by a length. Rowing with a swing, form and tempo commensurate with their strong preparation, Churchie were holding off their lone rivals who were chasing their fourth consecutive victory at the All School's Championship. Southport in comparison were not holding their finish with the same proficiency. 

Church of England Grammar School's Headmaster, elated by the performance of his rowers, joined the crew in the river after the race to issue his congratulations.  

Churchie thus went on to have their first victory in the Championship by just over a length to Southport who were 5 lengths clear of Brisbane Grammar School. Church of England Grammar would forever be the first school/crew to win the O'Connor Cup, a tradition that is continued until the present. 


Page 5, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School 

Page 7, Daily Standard, Friday 19th May 1922 Edition via Trove (

Page 15, Brisbane Courier, Saturday 13th May 1922 Edition via Trove (

Page 4, Brisbane Courier, Monday 15th May 1922 Edition via Trove ((

Page 4, The Daily Mail, Wednesday 17th May 1922 Edition via Trove (

Page 4, The Daily Mail, Monday 15th May 1922 Edition via Trove ((

Page 35, The Clayfield Collegian, December 1922 Edition via Trove ((

Page 55, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School

Page 103-104, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School

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