Chapter 3 - DEPRESSION AND WAR 1930·1939

After the exciting period of the 1920's, the performance of the club in the 1930s was a reflection of the conditions in society in the 1930s - depression, tension and war.

 The club experienced mixed fortunes in this decade. The Cross Country strength declined markedly, to the point where the Harriers could not field a complete team. Track and Field experienced ups and downs, being Champion Club in 1931 and 1939, but in the years between, experiencing less success; the club's finances were placed under severe strain by the depression, and the club hall had to be sold.

In Cross Country events, the 1931 State Championships saw Thompson Estate Harriers not represented by a full team for the first time ever. The results fluctuated in the other years, with the Harriers being third in Inter-club in 1932, and winning the Telegraph Cup for B-grade in 1939. Achievements in the intervening years were relatively poor, with few runners. In 1935, intra-club cross country races were begun, starting and finishing at the Harriers' Hall.

The club's distance runners also distinguished themselves in the marathon, winning the teams championship in 1936, with a team consisting of A. Bonwick, E.C. Barnacle, and J. Doyle. The following year, Thompson Estate Harriers retained this championship, with a team of A. Bonwick (placed second), E.C. Barnacle (third) and C. Stretten. The same team also won the 15 mile road race, with E. Barnacle second, A. Bonwick third and C. Stretten fourth.

Other events in which the distance runners of the club performed well included the Sandgate to Brisbane Relay race, perhaps the forerunner to today's Caboolture to Maleny race. Thompson Estate Harriers was second in 1931 and 1934, and participated in this event regularly, sometimes fielding two teams.

As well, the club conducted a Manly to Brisbane run in 1935 and 1936 between two teams from within the club. The Annual Report of 1936 records :"your club held a relay race from Manly to the Club Hall. Two teams, together with officials, journeyed to Manly. The Race was held on a time handicap basis, the starting place being the Kiosk at Manly, terminating at the Club Hall. The following members constituted the teams:

"A" team, Capt - A. Bonwick, E.C. Barnacle, J. Boyle, J. Connell, M.J. Baker.

"B" team - W.J. Barnacle, C. Streten, V. McCarthy, C. Laffan, and Don Robertson.


The "B" team, who had a handicap of 6 minutes, were successful by a narrow margin, after a very exciting race. The "A" team covered the 13 miles in 1 hour 12 minutes 52 seconds."

These performances could not, however, negate the effect of the economic depression. Club membership declined, especially in the senior group, as many members could no longer afford the registration fee which was five shillings (50 cents). Membership reached a low point of 29 members in 1937. Many athletes requested financial help from the club, but Thompson Estate Harriers was unable to assist them, for the club itself was in a bad financial situation. Similarly, the Q.A.A.A. was also requesting help from the clubs, but again the Harriers was not in a position to assist.

In 1931, the Club's bank, The Federal Deposit Bank, was declared bankrupt, causing financial difficulty for the club. The Club's account and moneys were transferred to the Brisbane Permanent Building and Banking Company.

The Club's financial position did not improve, and in 1932 the club was still experiencing difficulties. In fact, Thompson Estate Harriers was lent money by its Chairman, J.1. Brown, so that it could participate in the Q.AAA. fund raising scheme.

The minutes of the Club Meeting on 19th October, 1932 records: "As the club at present was not in a financial position to give a loan to the Q.A.AA in carrying out their debenture scheme to raise a large sum of money, Mr. J.1. Brown offered to lend to the club the sum of Five Pounds to be presented from the Club towards the funds as stated."

The Harriers' Hall was a continuing problem for club officials in the 1930's. In 1935, the hall needed major repairs, and, as the club had insufficient funds, it requested a government loan to improve and repair the club hall. As this loan was not approved, a general meeting of club members held on 14th November 1938 approved the sale of the Thompson Estate Harriers' Hall, and after considerable negotiation, the Hall was finally sold on 31 st July 1939 for Two Hundred and Seven Pounds, Seventeen Shillings and Threepence.

In Interclub/team events in Track and Field, Thompson Estate Harriers performed with varied success at this time. In the competition at State Championships for the Premier Club of Queensland, success was experienced in 1930 (tied with Toowong Harriers A.A.C.), and again in 1939. Teams on these occassions were:

1930 - R. Uppman, W.H. Axelsen, EA Drevesen, S. Fahey, H. Hedrick, CW. Grigg, J.P. Bell, R. Hedrick, and D. Uppman.
1939 - W. J. Burfein, W.M.D. McNiven, M. Belshore, C. O'Neill, F. Bielby, R. G. Outhwaite, E.A. Drevesen, K. Palmer, D. Outhwaite, W. Burrows, A. Bonwick, and R. Tapper.

Other Track and Field Achievements included:

  • Runners-up in Ambulance Cup in 1930-31, 1938-39 and 1939-40 
  • Runners-up in Association Cup (Interclub) competition in 1931-32, 1933-34
  • Winners of Association Cup Competition in 1934-35

The Harriers also contrinuted heavily to the functioning of the Q.A.A.A. during these years with R. Cook, J.1. Brown, L. Nissen, and W.C. Thompson all holding positions with the QAAA .. 1934 proved to be an exciting time for Queensland Athletics, for it wa.s the year that Lang Park became the home of the QAAA.. Lang Park was secured as athletics headquarters by Alderman J.1. Brown, an original member of Thompson Estate Harriers. This club was also active in improving Lang Park and in 1934 ran a chocolate wheel and skittles stall at a Fete run to improve the quality of Lang Park. Thompson Estate Harriers was honoured to have the oval named the J.1. Brown Oval.

The Club program also continued during the 1930's. A typical season consisted of 20 club run nights, with the Brisbane Cricket ground being used as the venue.

The social aspects of the club continued also, though with less success, due to the depression and difficult economic circumstances. Club dances and presentation nights continued, interspersed with other events such as river-boat cruises and raffles.

The 1930's also saw the introduction of Club Standard Certificates, the forerunner to Performance Certificates issued by the Club. Originally, these were given to athletes who reached a pre-determined standard for various events, and in open only. The Annual Report records:

For the first time in the history of the club, your committee decided to issue standard certificates to those members who equalled or bettered the standard as drawn up by them. The innovation proved a success as many showed a big improvement in their attempt to gain a certificate. The following members were issued with certificates:- A Bonwick - 1 mile 4.49.2., 3 miles 16.23.0; A Reed - Javelin Throw 137 ft 9 Inches; G. HarringtonHop, Step and Jump, 41 feet; Broad Jump 20 foot 7 inches; G. Brandis - High Jump 5ft 4ins. N. Loveday Hop, Step and Jump 41ft 5ins; D. Uppman - Javelin Throw 132ft 5.5 ins; Discus 105ft; A. Callum - High Jump 5ft 3ins; E. A. Drevesen - High Jump 5ft 3 ins; Pole Vault 11 ft 3ins.

In 1936, the uniform of the club was changed from red, white and blue hoops with navy shorts, to the red, white and blue vertical striping which was used until into the 1970s, with one interruption.

Visits to, and competition with, other clubs also proved to be both athletic and social in nature. The following extract from the 1933 Annual Report highlights the nature of one such visit:

For the first time in the history of any club in Queensland, your club staged a relay run to Ipswich, a distance of 23 miles. With nine members taking part, the relays were run in the following order. W. Humberdross was first dispatched by starter J.1. Brown, from the Club Headquarters, the Harriers Hall. W. Humberdross ran a distance of two miles, and handed the baton to P .J. Salter whose relay was four miles. The next in order were A Bonwick 4 miles, D. Tattersall 2 miles, F. Andrews 2 miles, J. O'Brien 2 miles, E.C. Barncale 3 miles, J.R. Overland 3 miles, AH.J. Allison was the last man to run, taking the baton at the Ipswich Post Office from J.R. Overland. He finished up in North Ipswich Reserve, having completed a circle on the track, where the rest of the club members were engaged in an interclub competition with the Ipswich Harriers. After a wellcontested sports meeting which was won by the Ipswich Harriers, the club members were entertained at dinner and afterwards at a dance where a most enjoyable night was spent. We desire to express our appreciation to messrs. J.A. Donnan (vice-Patron), Ald. J.1. Brown, Mr. J. R. Overland, Mr. Jim O'Brien and Mr. Stephens for their generosity in placing their motor cars at our disposal, thereby making the day a successful one.

Cannon Hill Amateur Athletic Club was another club with whom the Harriers conducted visits, and when, in 1939, the Cannon Hill AAC. disbanded, many of its members joined Thompson Estate Harriers, as noted in the Annual reeport of 1939 :"Performances throughout the year were far superior to those of recent years, due mainly to the increase of new members, and members from the disbanded Cannon Hill Club.

The year 1939 also saw the introduction of a coaching program for juniors of the club, and this' resulted in an increase in numbers in the club. "A feature which augmented the number of athletes was the inauguration of a special course of Schoolboy Coaching Classes conducted for the purpose of training boys for their interschool championships. The course was held during the club's weekly runs. Mr. W.C. Thompson was in charge of the boys, being assisted by Mr. W.J. Burfein." (TEH Annual report 1939)

In 1939, the Club Championships were also held for the first time, with certificates being presented to the placegetters. Club Championships were held periodically until the early 1970s.

In 1938, the Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games were held in Sydney. "During the season, the club's secretary impressed upon the minds of members that they should make every effort to see the British Empire Games, fully realising that the greatest Athletic Carnival and Empire pageant would be seen. From the athletic viewpoint, the Games surpassed all Australian competitions, and many new records were created. We are delighted to recall that your vice-patron, John I. Brown, M.L.A , Vice-President, Mr. D.S. Carter, and your Honorary Secretary, Mr. W.C. Thompson, were appointed as officials at this most important event. Messrs A Bonwick, Vic Lucas, Ron Ragh, G. Burfein, and G.L. Towner were also present at the Games and all were delighted at seeing a wonderful and magnificent performance." (the Annual Report 1938)


1939 began a difficult period for the club for the commencement of war in Europe meant that some members were absent at war.

The Annual Report of 1941 records: "Since the outbreak of war, more members have enlisted, besides Colonel K.B. Fraser and E.C. Barnacle, whose names appeared in last year's Annual Report. Those who have joined the forces are Clive Boorman, Roy Tapper, and Waldron Burrows, A.I.F.; E. (Sam) Martin R.A.A.F.; W.J. Lightbody, Home Defence Services. The following old members have enlisted : A.I.F. Frank Jobson, Henry Howcroft, J. Connell, A.C.S. Clarke; R.AAF. J.E. Jordan, W.J. Belford, John Mann; RAN., Merv Baker, Sid Sarow, Jack Sarow and J. Taylor." The previous report had listed the following members as having joined the militia : C. Grimley, A. Grimley, A. Brodie, W.MD. McNiven, and C. Boorman. These were the only records available of members who served in World War II.

The Club had a number of outstanding athletes during this decade. Eldred Drevesen, whose career spanned the 1920s and 1930s, was an outstanding club member, gaining placings in 1924 as an Under 14 athlete, and winning many State pole vault championships, as well as gaining places in the National Championships in pole vault.

Thompson Estate Harriers was also very strong in walking during this time. W.H. Axelsen won many Queensland One Mile and Three Mile Walk Championships from 1926 to 1933, as well as gaining placings in Australian Championships. 1. Walker, who started with Thompson Estate Harriers as a junior in 1926, gained placings in events from One Mile track walking to 20 mile road walking races. CW. Grigg was best known for his performances in ten and twenty mile road walking races, including a National Record over 20 kilometres and placings in the Australian 50 kilometre Walking Championship.

R. Uppman was another outstanding competitor for the club, winning numerous shotput and discus events, as well as Javelin and Pentathlon placings.
W.J. Burfein was the leading sprinter in the club at this time, wiining all Queensland 100 yards and 220 yards State Championships between 1936 and 1941, before war interrupted his career. He also was second in the Australian 100 yards Championships in 1936 and 1937.

C. O'Neill, who began as an Under 16 athlete in 1930, was another to shine. After winning and placing in numerous junior Championships, he went on to become State Pentathlon in 1936, and State Discus Champion in 1937, 1938 and 1939, gaining third placing in the National Discus Championships in 1938.


The 1930's saw a number of people who were to give long and faithful service to Thompson Estate Harriers, join the club. Albert Bonwick joined the club in the early 1930's, and gained placings in various distance events from three miles to marathon. Albert was to continue in athletics as the driving force (along with his wife Joyce)  behind Thompson Estate Eastern Suburbs Amateur Athletic Club's women's section in the 1950's and 1960's. Albert also gave outstanding service to the Q.W.AAA.

Merv Belshore joined about 1935, gaining placings in junior jumping and throwing events, before entering senior ranks and gaining placings in hurdles and discus. Merv was to continue as a top official and coach, and officiated at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956 and Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962.

E.A. (Sam) Martin was prominent as a junior athlete, winning various events and placings in others. World War II effectively ended his athletic career, but Sam went on to become an official, officiating at the Commonwealth Games in 1982. He was also secretary and treasurer of the club.
In 1933, Wally Huxley first joined Thompson Estate Harriers as a junior athlete, and competed regularly until World War II. After the war, Wally went on to become an official with QAA.A., serving that association as VicePresident for a long time, and TEES as President and Chairman for many years.

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