Sydney University celebrates 135 years
This Saturday night Australia’s oldest athletics club, Sydney University, celebrates 135 years. Formed in 1878, nine years prior to the formation of Athletics NSW, Sydney University was originally called the University Athletics Club.
The Oxford Hotel, located on King Street in Newtown, was an early meeting place for many of the University sporting clubs and was the birthplace of the athletics club.
On Saturday 24 August 1878 they conducted their first competition, here are some facts about this meet:
- The meet was held at the Albert Ground, which was demolished shortly after the meet. It developed in the swampy area of east of Redfern Park roughly bounded by Elizabeth, Redfern, Kettle and Moorehead Streets. The site is now occupied by public housing. The ground was primarily a cricket ground, one of the leading venues in Sydney.
- There were about 1500 spectators, the majority being ladies.
- The first race was the 100 yards, won by F. P Brennan.
- Events on the program were: 100, 150, 220, 300, 440, 880 yards, 600 yards schools event, mile, mile walk, 120 yards hurdles, hammer throw (14lb) and high jump.
- Newspapers reported: ‘The prizes were all presented by Lady Allen, with a smile and a compliment that must have enhanced the value of the trophies.
- Another presenter was Mr. W. C. Windeyer, M.L.A.
- Entries were taken from 8.00 to 9.00pm on 17 August 1878 at the Exchange Hotel.
- Trophies and awards were displayed on the morning of the competition in the window of Lamb and Fairfax, the jewellers at 23 Hunter Street.
Two years later, the second University carnival was held with additional events kicking the football and bicycle races.
From 1883 until 1888, there was little activity with the club. In 1887, Athletics NSW had been formed and a concerted effort in 1888 was made to regenerate interest in the club.
Attached is an image of the Sydney University team in 1913 – one hundred years ago. The athlete, front row, second from the right is William Pattinson who in December 1911 placed third in the Australasian 4x440 yards. As the first Australian to cross the line, he was declared the national champion.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: 1913 Sydney University team (image courtesy of Andrew Heil and Sydney University Sport Archives)