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History of the Queensland GPS Head of the River rowing regatta

1924 QLD GPS Head of the River

The 3rd Head of the River was conducted on Saturday 10th May 1924 on the Bridge Reach of the Brisbane River.

5 schools would compete for the O'Connor Cup over a three-quarter mile course that started at the Commercial Rowing Club and concluded at the University boatshed. 

An atmosphere of great anticipation engulfed the scene on the Brisbane River as the clock crept around to midday, the race's scheduled start time. The banks of the river lined with over a thousand boisterous spectators. Indeed the river itself had on it charted motor launches that gave fortunate rowing enthusiasts a close up view to the action.

And what a spectacle they were treated to.

Having come agonisingly close in the previous years competition to lose to Southport by a mere foot, Brisbane Boys' College were out for vengeance.

Yet College were up against fierce competition from Brisbane State High School, Church of England Grammar School, The Southport School and Brisbane Grammar School who lined up from the South to North Bank in that order with Clayfield finding themselves in the middle lane.  

The officials for the day were:

Starters: W. J. Thompson & A. S. Green 

Judge: Mr. J. F. Donovan

Umpire: A. D. Watson 

Timekeepers: R. Wilson & F. McCaskie 

All competing crews had strong preparations in the weeks prior, with all of them being observed training fiercely on the Brisbane Reach every evening in the fortnight leading up to the day. 

Southport's coach, Mr Clavill Bere had told the tabloids that his crew were executing great blade-work and a Brisbane Courier journalist had regarded State High School's boat, coached Mr G. McCaskie, as in perfect condition andprimed for victory. 

Though it would be College who would be vindicated from last years marginal defeat, just beating all their rivals to the post in what was a thrilling affair. This would be their inaugural victory in the O'Connor Cup in the competition's third edition, which would prove to be the first of many.


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: 5:57.00


3 Feet (1-2)

1 Canvas (2-3) 

3 Lengths (3-4) 

1st Brisbane Boys' College - Bow: G. S. Sturtridge 9st 12 lb, 2: R. S. I. Brown 11st 10lb, 3: E. K. Murphy 10st 12lb, Str: S. O. Cowlishaw 11st 2lb, Cox: A. R. Kennedy, Coaches: Dr. V. McDowall & J. T. Styles

2nd Brisbane State High School - Bow: C. Fisher, 2: D. Barker, 3: S. Phipps, Str: E. Anderson, Cox: T. McHale

3rd Church of England Grammar School - Bow: J. H. E. Dick, 2: D. A. Snelling, 3: B. S. Brown-Beresford, Str: E. C. L’Estrange, Cox: A. G. Alexander, Coach: W. P. F. Morris

4th The Southport School - Bow: R. E. Bevan, 2: K. C. Lahey, 3: H. H. Bevan, Str: R. W. Smith, Cox: J. E. Kemp

5th Brisbane Grammar School - Bow: A. G. McKie, 2: J. P. Wilson, 3: E. L. Walker, Str: R. Groom, Cox: L. D. Kellet

From Left to right, A. R. Kennedy, S. O. Cowlishaw, E. K. Murphy, R. S. I. Brown, G. S. Sturtridge 

Church of England Grammar 1924 All Schools' Crew

The Race Described

At the start of the race there was a brilliant scene of school colours flaunting in the breeze, and loud war cries being shouted by the passionate schoolboy spectators on the banks of the river. 

However, the enthusiastic onlookers would have to wait 40 minutes when within the first dozen strokes the Brisbane Grammar boat's slide had jammed, forcing the starters to recall the crews and delay the start.

At last, all five crews got away and with the cries of "they're off" from the crowd, the boats made their way down the Bride Reach. Brisbane Grammar got the best of the re-start, and College was last away. Grammar was displaced by State High school with Churchie in third after the first quarter mile.

College seemed content with fourth, and were performing a smooth swinging stroke that gave the impression the crew was composed and preserving precious energy for the closing stretches of the race. Emerging from the Victoria Bridge, Churchie and State High became the breakaways, with Brisbane Grammar dropping back into fourth, overtaken by College.

By this time, Southport were 3 lengths away in fifth place and would never mount a challenged for the title.

As the leaders battled for supremacy, across the water came cries of "High School! High School!" from supporters laden in red and blue. With 100 yards to go Clayfield were half a length ahead of Churchie who trailed the High School by a mere canvas.

With fatigue setting in, it was clear that Brisbane Boys' College had found a second gear and started a magnificent spurt with 20 yards to go and leapt to the front in the closing 10 yards, to win by three feet. State High School, lacking the stamina, simply couldn't find a response to College's brilliant closing dash and would find themselves in second place, a canvas clear from Churchie. Southport 3 lengths away in fourth. 

Brisbane Grammar failed to finish having experienced a boating malfunction that rendered their race over with 200 yards to go.

Pulling against a strong tide and wind, the conditions gave all the crews much to contend with. College's victory thus demonstrated their strong rowing fundamentals. It was evident that under such conditions the crew which best used a long, steady stroke with hard leg drive and shoulder lift, would win the race.

Although Clayfield had nearly waited too long to put in their final spurt and it very much could have gone either way.

Showing exemplary sportsmanship, Brisbane Boys' College would commend the efforts of their rivals, especially State High School in their 1924 school's newsletter. 

The 1924 Head of the River meant that Brisbane Boys' College, Church of England Grammar School and The Southport School had each attained the O'Connor Cup once. 


Page 11, The Brisbane Courier, Saturday 10 May 1924 edition via Trove

Page 14 1924 The Brisbane Courier via trove,

Page 6, The Telegraph Friday 9th May 1924 edition via Trove

Page 4, The Telegraph, Monday 12 May 1924 edition via Trove

Page 13, The Daily Mail, Wednesday 7 May 1924 edition via Trove

Page 15, The Daily Mail Wednesday 14 May 1924 edition via Trove

Page 12, The Daily Mail, Wednesday 14th May edition via Trove

Page 8, Queensland Times, Monday 12 May 1924 edition via Trove

Page 32 & 33, The Clayfield Collegian, December 1924 edition via Trove

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

Page 108-109, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School

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