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History of the Queensland GPS Head of the River rowing regatta

1926 QLD GPS Head of the River

The 5th Head of the River was conducted on Saturday 8th May 1926 on the Bridge Reach of the Brisbane River at Midday. 

The 1926 All Schools' Championship was slightly overshadowed by the presence of the Commonwealth Regatta in Brisbane where champion Oarsmen from the Australian states would battle for the Kings' Cup.

The interstate sculling and eight-oared championship were rowed at 3PM and 4PM thus allowing the more enthusiastic schoolboys and girls to watch the big three mile spectacle. 

Scenes of great enthusiasm thus punctuated this year's Head of the River with larger than usual crowds on and off the river as motor launches charted by the schools to follow the race and raucous crowds that lined the banks championed, flaunted and proudly donned school colours and flags. 

Taking respite from election duties, Mr. A. E. Moore, the Queensland Opposition Leader who became the 29th Premier of the state in 1929, was there to watch the finish. 

The Crews went to the start in the following order from the north bank: Brisbane Boys’ College; Church of England Grammar School, Brisbane State High School, Brisbane Grammar, School and The Southport School 

The Officials for the day were:

Starter: Mr. C. Rudd & Mr J. Allison 

Judge: Mr. J. F. Donovan 

Umpire: Mr. F. W. De Little

Timekeepers: Mr. R. Wilson & E. McCaskie 

With a great finish, Church of England Grammar School proved victorious, claiming their second O'Connor Cup.

Despite rowing the lowest rating, Churchie's meritorious win was attributed to their long stroke which was fine-tuned throughout their preparation on the upper reaches of the Brisbane River.

Southport had arrived in Brisbane on the Wednesday prior, having been training on the Nerang River. Brisbane State High School had a strong preparation with the blade-work described as clean in training and Brisbane Grammar School looked a considerably improved outfit than previous years.

Brisbane Boys' College's preparation had been severely hindered when their entire crew contracted dengue fever and the school missed four weeks of training in April. With this in mind, Clayfield were at a clear disadvantage and not at full fitness.


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: 3:55.00 


1.5 lengths (1-2)

1 length (2-3)

1 length (3-4)

1 length (4-5)

1st Anglican Church Grammar School - Bow: D. B. Persse 10st, 2: D. G. B. McAdam 11st 8lbs, 3: L. O. W. Cameron 11st 2lbs, Str: D. A. Snelling 11st, Cox: E. Moore, Coach: Mr. A. A. Watson 

2nd The Southport School - Bow: P. L. Blundell, 2: G. F. Bell, 3: K. C. Lahey, Str: C. D. Hayter, Cox: C. D. Gunthorne

3rd Brisbane Grammar School - Bow: E. P. Rowe, 2: S. Marriott, 3: W. Kidston, Str: G. C. M. Campbell, Cox: N. J. Hooper

4th Brisbane State High School - Bow: W. Allen, 2: K. Wingrove, 3: F. Wyatt, Str: C. Colledge, Cox: V. Anderson 

5th Brisbane Boys’ College - Bow: W. J. D. Shaw, 2: J. A. Maynard, 3: C. H. Walthall, Str: G Klingner, Cox: R. Logan, Coach: Mr. R. S. Phelan

Church of England Grammar School 1926 Victorious Crew

From left to right: E. Moore, D. Snelling, L. Cameron, E. McAdam, D. B. Persse 

The 5 Schools getting into line for the start - From closest to farthest: Brisbane Boy's College, Church of England Grammar School, Brisbane State High School, Brisbane Grammar School and The Southport School 

The finish of the Head of the River race on the Bridge Reach.

The Brisbane Boys' College 1925 Head of the River Crew. 

The Race Described

For the first time since 1923, the crews got away to time and they all started well.

Amid cries of "They're off!" from the crowd, Brisbane Grammar had gone ahead in the first 100 yards rating 42 strokes to the minute. Yet all the crews were well matched up until the Victoria Bridge with only one and a half lengths separating first from fifth place. 

As the race extended into its second half, Brisbane Grammar were displaced by Churchie who had put in half a dozen strokes that had positioning them in the lead by half a length. Rowing beautifully with a great length of stroke and only rating 32, Churchie looked poised to get their hands on the O'Connor Cup for a second time.

However Southport had put in a shift of their own and were hanging on tenaciously. Stroking a powerful 34, the Seasiders were only a length behind Churchie at Brown's Wharf with 200 yards to the post. 

When the boats came into view of the spectators gathered at finishing line at the Domain, it was clear that the fight for the trophy would be between Southport and Churchie. The desperate expressions of the respective crew members evident of their burning desire to take home the silverware and do their school proud. 

Having preserved their energy by rowing the lowest rating throughout yet leading through their strong blade-work, Churchie made a magnificent final spurt in the closing stages to which Southport, owing to fatigue, could not find a response. So loud was the noise from the passionate supporters that the pistol which signified victory for Church of England Grammar by one and a half lengths over Southport, was not heard by the victorious crew, who continued to rowing for 50 yards. 

The time was 3:55.00, a record for the contest. 

Brisbane Grammar came in third by 1 length with State High School, whose stroke's oar broke in the initial stroke of the race making their title defence unlikely, fourth by the same margin. A length separated State High and Brisbane Boys' College. College's performance was courageous given their troubled preparation on account of dengue fever. 

At the Conclusion, the Denis O’Connor Cup was presented to Church of England Grammar School by Mr. F. W. De Little who congratulated them and all the competing crews on a splendid performance. This was Churchie's second victory in the history of the trophy. 


Page 17, The Brisbane Courier Monday, 10th May 1926 Edition via Trove

Page 16, The Brisbane Courier, Friday 7th May 1926 Edition via Trove

Page 12, The Telegraph Monday 10th May 1926 Edition via Trove

Page 17, The Daily Mail, Wednesday 5th May 1926 Edition via Trove

Page 17, The Daily Mail, Monday  10th May 1926 Edition via Trove

Page 7, Daily Standard, Monday 10 May 1926 Edition via Trove

Page 16, The Telegraph, Monday 11th May 1926 Edition via Trove

Page 19, Brisbane Courier, Monday 10th May 1926 Edition via Trove

Pages 32 & 33, The Clayfield Collegian December 1926 Edition via Trove

Pages 113-115, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School 

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