A History of Churchie Rowing

Rowing has played an important role from the very beginnings of Churchie at Ardencraig of Toowong in 1912. By the second term, with an enrolment of eleven boys, the school boated two fours from the Toowong Rowing Club, across the road from the Regatta Hotel. The founder, Canon William Perry French Morris, rowed for his own recreation and strongly encouraged the sport in his new school, coaching the first four in 1924, 1925 and 1934 and other crews for nearly two decades.
 
When, in 1917, the school began to rise at East Brisbane, rowing was one of the Headmasters first considerations. The boatshed was built for 60 pounds on Norman Creek, just near the big gum tree beside the present tennis courts. School commenced at East Brisbane on 12 February 1918 and the official opening of School House was performed by His Excellency, the Governor of Queensland, Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams, on 18 October 1918. In the afternoon, Lady Goold-Adams opened the school boatshed, which contained two training fours and two pairs. To mark the occasion she presented a silver cup to be rowed for annually by crews from the school. That cup has been competed for on and off ever since, mainly between boarders and day boys, as it remains today. The cup is probably the only remaining physical thread of those earliest humble beginnings of rowing in this great school.
 
The first Day Boys versus Boarders race, over 5/8 mile in 1920, was won by the day boys, but the boarders turned the tables in 1921 and retained the cup in 1922. In 1922, Churchie won its first Head of the River with the same crew that had been second in 1921; T.P.I. Fowler (str), G.W.E. Barlow, H.E. Hunter, H.B. Beaman, A.J. Fowler (cox) and coach Tom Lawton. At speech night 1922, these boys were presented with their oars and to mark the occasion, a silver cup was presented by Mrs A. Tyrwhitt. At speech night 1924, the Tyrwhitt Cup was presented to the Dux of the School and this has continued each year since.
 
Five Head of the River wins would come to East Brisbane in fours (1926, 1936, 1939, 1940 and 1941). Eights were introduced in 1955, however the number of fours races continued to increase until an 11th four race was introduced in 1966. The school always entered in every Head of the River event and in some years entered more than one crew in the lower divisions. Churchie achieved many successes in the minor races, one year in the 1970s winning every race on the programme except two. A second eights race was introduced in 1974 and a third in 1976. In 1981 the current age divisions were introduced with 3 eights in Open, an eight and 4 fours in Under 16, and 6 fours in Under 15. Since 1994, all Under 16 races have been held in eights, and from 2003, Under 15s have raced in quad sculls.
 
The original boatshed in Mowbray Park was built in 1936 and in 2005 the Elder Hunter boatshed was replaced by the state of the art Graham Fowles Boathouse. It is arguably the best rowing facility on the Brisbane River.
 
Churchie won the Open 1st VIII in 1963, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1998, 2004 and 2005. The victories of 1963 (2 feet) and 1998 (0.36 seconds) have been our closest and both came at the end of 20+ years of trying. Graeme Jones [ Rowing Master 1969-76] was the most successful coach. In 1969, the 1sts during the season rowed in 24 races and won them all, including Queensland schoolboys and Queensland U20 fours championships. During Graeme's time at Churchie the School had three Head of the River wins and two placements. Only four boys have won the Head twice, Graham Fowles rowed in 1940 and 1941 and John Nalder coxed the eight in 1971 and 1973. George King-Scott and Alexander Groeneveld both rowed in the winning 2004 and 2005 crews. Alexander came very close to winning three in a row in 2006 when the Churchie 1st VIII was narrowly defeated by TSS in a very tight and dramatic finish. In 1989 the premiership in rowing was changed from the 1st VIII to an aggregate of points over all the races at the Head of the River, even though the 1st VIII remains the symbol of supremacy. Churchie won the aggregate premiership in 1990, 1991, 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

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