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History of the Queensland GPS Head of the River rowing regatta

1949 QLD GPS Head of the River

The 1949 Head of the River was conducted on Saturday 23rd April 1949 on the Milton Reach of the Brisbane River. The races started at the State High School Shed opposite Davies Park and finished at the Knoll, near Grey Street Bridge. 

Over the past decade, Brisbane Boys' College had practically monopolised the head of the river races and the Brisbane tabloids suggested that this year's competition would be most closely disputed by C.E.G.S., B.B.C. and State High, the latter had a surprise victory in the 1948 O'Connor Cup.

According to the Courier-Mail:

"In spite of wind and tide on centre crews were quite obvious in last years race. Any misjudgment in the time of high tide next Saturday would mean that crews hugging the bank had a clear run without current effects...

B.G.S. has boat trouble and will be racing in a clinker that has already been used in 15 Head-of-the-river races. Shortage of boats and equipment will mean that B.B.C. and C.E.G.S. will be the only schools entering more than two crews." (Page 8, 20th April 1949) 

The Crews would line up in the following order from the South Bank:

No. 1, Brisbane Boys; College: No. 2 The Southport School, No. 3 Brisbane Grammar School, No. 4 Church of England Grammar School, No. 5 Brisbane State High School

"On still water No. 5 position drawn by State High is considered the best lane, but it is a different story if any sort of a current is running. In this reach tide currents keep to the centre and north banks and leave the south bank relatively calm. In this case B.B.C. would seem to have the best position." (Page 6, The Courier-Mail, 23 April 1949 edition)


It was another 'clean sweep' for Brisbane Boys' College, with College winning all three races on the day. 

Part of this success was attributed to the Schools' acquisition of a new racing boat, The Magoffin, which was donated by the Cameron family and named after Coach David Magoffin who guided the College to numerous victories throughout the 1930s and 1940s. 

Magoffin's contemporary coaching techniques were celebrated in the B.B.C.'s 1949 Newsletter:

"This year we were given the pleasure of meeting Mr. D. O. Magoffin, the coach who had established [B.B.C.] a good reputation . He introduced a style of rowing to our school which he had learnt in England. This style has been the main factor in our past successes in rowing." (Page 52).

The strong depth of College's Rowing was further demonstrated on the Thursday prior to the event when their seconds beat their firsts in a race off to determine which crew would represent the school in the O'Connor Cup. 


Organising Committee:

Great Public Schools Association 

All School's Championship Four

The O'Connor Cup

Distance: 0.75 Mile

Times: 4:03.00


1.25 Lengths (1-2)

2 Feet (2-3)

2 Feet (3-4)

2 Feet (4-5)

1st Brisbane Boy’s College - Bow: A. C. Moore, 2: H. J. Smith, 3: J. A. Byth, Str: J. R. Slater, Cox: J. G. Fisher, Coach: D. O. Magoffin

2nd Church of England Grammar School - Bow: C. J. Isbell 10st 10lbs, 2: J. V. Harrison 11st 4lbs, 3: C. L. Miller 12st 10lbs, Str: N. G. Lockyer 12st 1lb, Cox: R. G. Bourne 7st 7lbs, Coach: Dr. F. W. Whitehouse

3rd Brisbane Grammar School - Bow: J. R. Gillies 10st 7lbs, 2: D. F. Lane 11st 7lbs, 3: A. T. Lawton 12st, Str: D. J. Chisholm 11st 6lbs, Cox: N. Macpherson 8st 4lbs

4th The Southport School - Bow: J. A. Dixon 10st 12lbs, 2: G. H. Rowney 12st, 3: S. A. Nimmo 13st 5lbs, Str: B. L. Jones 11st 2lbs, Cox: J. Bassingwaighte 7st 3lbs

5th Brisbane State High School - Bow: F. Dickson 10st 7lbs, 2: D. Bird 11st 7lbs, 3: J. Leech 11st 5lbs, Str: A. Downey 11st 5lbs, Cox: G. Rogers 7st 5lbs

1949 Church of England Grammar School First IV

The 1949 Church of England Grammar School Cox, R. G. Bourne, represented Queensland at the 1950 King's Cup. 

The Race Described

"Rowing in the outside lane, an advantageous position, B.B.C. finished strongly to win the G.P.S. Head of the River by 1 ¼ lengths in the fast time of 4 min 3 secs due to the following tide. This tide gave the inside crews, B.S.H.S. and C.E.G.S. a slight advantage which became apparent soon after the start.

Positions early were: C.E.G.S., B.B.C., B.S.H.S., B.G.S.n and T.S.S., all fairly close together. With half a mile to go, the inside crews, helped by the tide, had swung away from the field, and the outside crew, B.B.C. had dropped back to last.

The Order then was: C.E.G.S., B.S.H.S., B.G.S., T.S.S. and B.B.C still fairly close. With C.E.G.S. and B.B.C. seeming the most comfortable. The two leading crews had slightly increased their lead, but it still looked as though any of four crews could take the race.

With a quarter of a mile to go, the positions were unaltered, but here the tempo began to build up with B.G.S. and B.B.C. moving up to the leaders in the beginning of a sustained run. B.S.H.S. began to wilt and T.S.S. started to come again again, but the other three crews were still going strongly. Then B.B.C.’s finish began to tell, and they went ahead in the final stages to win by 1 ¼ lengths."

Page 2, Brisbane Telegraph, 23 April 1949 Edition 

"B.B.C. drew the south bank position, which in the state of the tide may have meant a slight disadvantage. General conditions were good. The start was pretty even, and all cerws rowed well and comfortably to the half-way mark, at which point College were slightly in rear of the other crews, with C.E.G.S. in the lead near the north bank.

From about the "Guyundah," [B.B.C.'s] crew began to "build it up" and Grammar also challenged the leaders. Sustaining their effort well, and their excellent hard condition standing by them in in the final burst, [B.B.C.] finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of C.E.G.S. with B.G.S. two feet behind in third place. T.S.S. (4th) and B.S.H.S. finished at similar intervals. 

The time for the race (4 min 3 secs) was only three seconds outside the record."

Page 54, The Portal, December 1949 Edition 


All Schools' Second Four

Distance: 0.75 Mile

Winning Time: 4:04.00


2.5 lengths (1-2)

3 Lengths (2-3)

1st Brisbane Boys’ College - Bow: A. C. Moore 10st 2lbs, 2: W. J. S. Lovegrove 10st 9lbs, 3: M. W. Low 9st 7, Str: D. G. Simpson 9st 7lbs, Cox: D. V. Bray

2nd Church of England Grammar School - Bow: J. MacGregor, 2: R. I. Templeton, 3: P. E. Macpherson, Str: M. J. R. Hulse, Cox: J. Parnell, Coach: F. W. Whitehouse 

3rd Brisbane State High School

4th The Southport School

5th Brisbane Grammar School

Brisbane Boys' College Victorious First and Second Crews 

Brisbane Boys' College Competing Crews at Head of the River

The Race Described

“With College again on the south bank, the Second Crews’ race was well started, all crews even. B.B.C. and C.E.G.S. soon led narrowly from B.G.S and T.S.S with High School last.

After perhaps 100 yards, B.B.C. took the lead from C.E.G.S., lowered to a steady 32, and continued with a nice run on the boat. At the half-way mark, C.E.G.S. were still close, with T.S.S. rowing into third place, College then started to draw away and despite a final burst from C.E.G.S., won by three lengths. T.S.S finished strongly in third place.”

Page 56, The Portal 1949 Edition

All Schools' Third Four

Distance: 0.5 Mile

Winning Time: 2:52.00


3 Lengths (1-2)

1 Canvas (2-3)

1st Brisbane Boys’ College III

2nd Church of England Grammar School IV - Bow: Bell, 2: R. Douglas, 3: Budd, Str: Gutteridge, Cox: B. Bottomly, Coach: P. V. O. Fleming

3rd Church of England Grammar School III

4th Brisbane Boys’ College IV

Brisbane Boys' College Third & Fourth Crew

The Race Described:

"After considerable delay, in which C.E.G.S. Fifths broke a rudder rein, [B.B.C. III] got off to a very good start, and opened up a lead which they extended throughout the race. They won by three lengths from C.E.G.S. Thirds, with C.E.G.S. Fourths in third place, followed by Brisbane Boys’ College Fourths.”

Page 54, The Portal 1949 edition via Trove


Page 6, Queensland Times 21 April 1949 edition via Trove

Page 8, The Courier-Mail, 20 April 1949 edition via Trove

Page 6, The Courier-Mail, 23 April 1949 edition via Trove

Page 2, Brisbane Telegraph, 23 April 1949 Edition via Trove

Page 18, Brisbane Telegraph, 23 April 1949 Edition via Trove

Page 19, Truth, 24 April 1949 Edition via Trove

Page 52-57, The Portal, December 1949 edition Via Trove

Pages 45-52, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School

Pages 73-77, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School 

Page 68-98, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School 

Page 164, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School  

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