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History of the Queensland GPS Head of the River rowing regatta

1948 QLD GPS Head of the River

The 1948 Head of the River was conducted on Saturday 17th April 1948 on the Toowong Reach of the Brisbane River. 

The race started at Davies Park and concluded at The knoll which was a course criticised by some Brisbane journalists who noted that "arranagements for the G.P.S. Head of the River on the Brisbane River leave a lot to be desired...

Although it is said that the course has been properly surveyed there have still been claims for years that crews on the north bank have the most favourable position" (Page 5, The Courier-Mail, 15 April 1948 Edition)

Had they been successful, Brisbane Boys' College would have established a record of four successive wins. THe Southport School and Brisbane Grammar School had both won three in a row. 

In 1948, The Brisbane State High School re-entered the competition after a lapse of some years on account of boating trouble. With their strong hard-rowing combination, the High School's return to the Head of the River was rather pronounced having edged out Church of England Grammar by half a length in the Championship event. 


Organising Committee

Great Public School's Association 

All Schools' Championship Four

The O'Connor Cup

Distance: 1 Mile

Times: 5:32.00


0.5 Lengths (1-2)

1 Length (2-3)

1st Brisbane State High School - Bow: K. Kehoe, 2: K. Meyrich, 3: J. Dowrie, Str: C. Caris, Cox: M. Lane

2nd Church of England Grammar School - Bow: K. Cobon, 2: M. S. McLean, 3: J. T. Underwood, Str: R. W. Bailey, Cox: J. M. Sherry, Coach: F. W. Whitehouse

3rd The Southport School - Bow: T. Eady, 2: G. Rowney, 3: S. Nimmo, Str: D. Ogg, Cox: J. Stanfield

4th Brisbane Grammar School - Bow: H. O. Beeston, 2: B. McKeon, 3: A. T. Lawton, Str: N. M. Brown, Cox: n/a

5th Brisbane Boys’ College - Bow: K. H. Horne, 2: B. H. Newell, 3: H. J. Smith, Str: J. Nunan, Cox: J. W. Cameron

"State High's winning crew grin happily as they come to berth. From left: K. Kehoe, K. Mayrich, J. Dowrie, G. Caris and M. Lane (cox)" (Page 12, Truth, 18 April 1948 Edition)

“Tom Lawton (third right) former Rhodes Scholar, Australian Rugby Union team captain, and rower at Oxford, entertained the first crew of the Brisbane Grammar School at lunch before the G.P.S. head of the river race. His son (on his left) was no. 3 in the crew. Tom himself was once captain of the school.” (Page 1, Brisbane Telegraph, 16 April 1948 Edition)

1948 Church of England Grammar School First IV

Brisbane Boys College First Crew 

The Race Described

"The afternoon of 17th April found conditions far from perfect, and it was obvious that the position of lanes would reflect strongly in the final result. This year crews were started from the south bank and from a ragged line B.S.H.S. made good use of their advantage and went to the front in the first dozen strokes.

B.B.C., with a customary good start moved off fast followed by Churchie, Grammar and T.S.S. On settling down, B.S.H.S. led from Churchie and B.B.C., with Grammar and T.S.S. half a length back. Passing the quarter mile mark B.S.H.S. had increased their lead to a length with Grammar trying to overtake B.B.C., and T.S.S. last.

At this state College made a determined effort and consequently gained on B.S.H.S. The current, however was too strong and so B.B.C. were not able to bridge the gap. Churchie in favourable water on the south bank challenged B.S.H.S. at the half-way mark and very nearly went to the front. The position of crews remained unchanged till the final sprint home when B.S.H.S once again took the lead from Churchie with B.B.C. half a length back in third place and T.S.S making a strong bid outside of B.G.S..

Fifty yards from the finishing line it was still anybody’s race, but B.S.H.S. maintained their slight advantage and crossed the line half a length ahead of Churchie with T.S.S in third place. Then came B.G.S. with B.B.C. in last place having rowed themselves right out just short of the finishing line in an attempt to take the lead, combating a cruel current."

Page 60, The Portal, December 1948 Edition

“State High’s Fine Win Confounded Experts.

Brisbane State High School beat the experts yesterday by winning the Head of the River in magnificient style. The outsiders led right from the start and never really looked like losing. Conditions were bad. Crews drawing centre positions had to battle a strong current; time was the worst ever - 5 mins 32 secs"

Page 12, Truth, 18 April 1948 Edition 

The Underwood Cup

Dr. and Mrs C. T. Underwood presented a very fine cup to the Anglican Church Grammar  School in 1948 for the recommencement after World War II of the inter-House rowing competition. Their son, John Underwood, rowed in the three-seat of the Churchie First IV in 1948 which finished runners-up

Inter-House rowing at Churchie had begun in 1937 a part of a new enthusiasm with erection of the new boathouse in Mowbray Park. Initially, with four houses it was a series of six races (Houses racing each other in two boat races) held over three afternoons. In 1940 and 1941 first and second crews from each house too part in two separate competitions with the aggregate from 5 points for a win in the firsts and 3 for a win in the seconds deciding the premier rowing House. As the fleet gradually increased during the late 1940s and 50s, every effort was made to have a single race for the Underwood Cup with four boats, then from 1950 with six boats.

It was keenly contested each year as part of the rowing component of the Cock House Competition (points also awarded to the Houses on the basis of their representation in the School crews so the winner of the Underwood Cup was not always the winner of the rowing component of the Cock House competition). The cup was presented on Speech Night to the Captain of the winning House. When the House system was expanded in 1971 the competition lapsed for want of enough boats to accommodate the sixteen houses in one race.

In the 1990s the ‘fly and die’ inter-house competition on the ergometer rowing machines was introduced and although no connection has been made, the Underwood Cup, still in the School Cabinet, would be a very suitable symbol for the winners.

Page 56, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School 

All Schools' Second Four

Distance: 0.75 Mile

Winning Time: 5:15.00


3 Lengths (1-2)

1.25 Lengths (2-3)

1st Brisbane Boys’ College - Bow: S. J. Brimblecombe, 2: H. N. W. Nielson, 3: J. R. Slater, Str: H. N. W. Nielsen, Cox: J. G. Fisher, Coach: Mr. B. Junner

2nd Church of England Grammar School - Bow: G. E. Flint, 2: R. J. Humphries, 3: C. J. Miller, Str: N. G. Lockyer, Cox: R. G. Bourne, Coach: F. W. Whitehouse 

3rd Brisbane Grammar School - Bow: J. Gillies, 2: J. Byth, 3: G. Wriede, Str: B. Wilson, Cox: n/a

4th Brisbane State High School

Brisbane Boys' College Second, Third & Fourth Crews

The Race Described

"B.B.C.’s second crew was fortunate to draw No. 1 lane on the south bank, as conditions there were very favourable. The light college crew knew that they had to strike the lead early, and their determination was evident by their magnificent start.

After racing neck and neck for the first hundred yards, B.B.C. took the lead followed by C.E.G.S., B.G.S. next and B.S.H.S. last. B.B.C. gradually increased their lead by hard driving with the legs until at the half-way mark they had an advantage of three lengths on C.E.G.S., the positions of the other crews being unaltered.

At this stage the college cox called for a hard eighteen in which all rating rose from thirty-three and as a consequence another length was added to the lead. The rating then settled down to twenty-eight and the seconds were content to take it home at this rating as boils that were present among the crew were now starting to take effect.

The rating dropped a little in the last stages of the race but B.B.C, went on to win by a comfortable, three lengths, the other crews having stage a determined effort to reduce the leeway."

Page 62, The Portal, December 1948 Edition 

All Schools' Third Four

Distance: 0.75 Mile

Winning Time: 5:13.00


4 Lengths (1-2)

3 Lengths (2-3)

1st Brisbane Boys’ College IV

2nd Church of England Grammar School III - Bow: Matthews, 2: Luck, 3: Easton, Str: Yeowart, Cox: Gainford, Coach: Mr. Robertson 

3rd Church of England Grammar School IV - Bow: Campbell, 2: Harrison, 3: Macpherson, Str: Irish, Cox: J. Parnell, Coach: Mr. Robertson

4th Brisbane Boys’ College III

5th Brisbane Grammar School III

6th Brisbane Boys’ College V

7th Church of England Grammar School V - Bow: Mellick, 2: R. I. Templeton, 3: Sealy, Str: Hulse, Coach: Mr. Robertson 

8th Brisbane Grammar School IV

The Race Described: 

"B.B.C.’s fourth crew drew the ideal position - No. 1 lane, their third and fifth crews, however, had to face up to the heavy water in the middle of the river. The starter was without a gun so all crews got away to a bad start. C.E.G.S. took the lead of one length in the first dozen strokes but B.B.C.’s fourths gradually overtook them. At the half-way mark, B.B.C. IV increased their lead to a length on the C.E.G.S. III who were in the next lane.

The rating at this stage was slowed down to twenty four until three quarters of the course had been completed and then it was raised to thirty two, which put B.B.C. IV over the finishing line four lengths ahead of C.E.G.S. III. The B.B.C. III, who were a superior crew to our fourths battle against the current to pass the grammar crews and C.E.G.S. V, but were beaten into fourth place. The gallant B.B.C. V pulling the “light Heavy” eventually finished in sixth place."

Page 62, The Portal, Decemeber 1948 Edition via Trove


Page 5, The Courier-Mail, 13 April 1948 Edition via Trove

Page 5, The Courier-Mail, 15 April 1948 Edition via Trove

Page 4, Queensland Times, 15 April 1948 Edition via Trove

Page 12, Truth, 18 April 1948 Edition via Trove

Page 8, Sunday Mail, 18 April 1948 Edition via Trove

Page 60-62, The Portal, December 1948 Edition via Trove

Page 1, Brisbane Telegraph, 16 April 1948 Edition via Trove

Brisbane State High School Facebook Page,

Pages 53-57, 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 162, Churchie Rowing by Peter Jell, Published by Anglican Church Grammar School 



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