In 1875 Edward Trickett won the sculling World Championship on the River Thames, England to become Australia’s first world champion in any sport. Between 1876 and 1907 seven of the world champions were from New South Wales: Trickett, Bill Beach, Peter Kemp, Henry Searle, Jim Stanbury, John McLean and George Towns. Several championship races were held on the Parramatta River.
In July 1905 the then World Champion George Towns was challenged by Jim Stanbury for a prize of £500. The race started at Homebush Bay and finished at Abbotsford, a distance of about 5,100 metres. Stanbury won the race in a time of 19 minutes 50 seconds to became World Champion. It was estimated that up to 150,000 spectators crowded the shoreline and watched from ferries and boats. Crowds were enormous at Cabarita and Abbotsford. Stanbury’s victory was short-lived with Towns reclaiming the title the following year.
Local Studies recently received a donation of a booklet, Harbour and river pleasure resorts, published by Sydney Ferries Limited (1908) which includes a photograph of ‘Towns and Stanbury on the Parramatta River’, probably showing the race near the start in Homebush Bay.
See also the earlier blog post Rowing on the Parramatta River.
Professional sculling was a popular spectator sport of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, drawing enormous crowds to watch races.
Edward Trickett became Australia’s first sports champion when, in 1876, he defeated the English champion, Joseph Sattler on the Thames River.
Enthusiasm for sculling led to the formation of several rowing clubs along the river, chief of which was the Sydney Rowing Club. Although formed near Circular Quay in 1870, the Sydney Rowing Club purchased land at Abbotsford and later moved its headquarters to the Parramatta River site.
One of the most important annual events was the Greater Public Schools Head of the River regatta which was held between Ryde Bridge and Cabarita Ferry Wharf from 1893 until 1935, when the event was transferred to the Nepean River. Trams ran almost non-stop from the Enfield depot taking huge crowds to Cabarita Point to watch the finish of the race. Supporters chartered ferries and launches, decorated them with their team’s colours and made the spectacular trip along the river to the finishing point.