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Stanley Rupert Rowley (1876–1924)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Stanley Rupert Rowley (1876-1924), athlete, was born on 11 September 1876 at Young, New South Wales, son of Sydney-born parents William Rowley, confectioner and later hotel-keeper, and his wife Tempest Jane, née Hodge. Stan's parents died in 1884 and he, his brother William and sister were brought up by an aunt at Croydon. Educated at Sydney Boys' High School, he joined Henry Macnamara & Son about 1894. He played the violin, had a fine tenor voice and was active in many sports: junior Rugby football with St John's, Ashfield, and the Pirates, cricket with Double Bay and I Zingari, and golf at Concord. But his forte was sprinting.

Rowley had won medals on the track at school and began his club career with Ashfield Harriers in April 1895, later joining Sydney Harriers. In the colony's championships in October he was second in the 100 yards competition; next year he won it. At the 1897 Australasian championships in Sydney he won the 100 and 220 yards. In March 1898 at an intercolonial meeting at Auckland, New Zealand, he won the 100 and dead-heated in the 250 yards in 27.4 seconds, and in Sydney in October set an Australasian record of 12 seconds for 120 yards. In Brisbane in November 1899 he again won the Australasian 100 (equalling the Australian record of 9.9 seconds) and 220 yards (in an Australasian record of 22.2).

The Amateur Athletic Union of Australasia resolved not to send a team to the 1900 Paris Olympics but a committee led by Richard Coombes raised £100, enabling Rowley to go privately. A handsome man, with black hair and slightly sallow skin, he was 5 ft 9½ ins (177 cm) tall, well-proportioned and weighed 11 st. 7 lb. (73 kg). He was a natural runner, with 'a graceful short stride' of 6 ft 8 ins (203 cm), who ran straight as a gun-barrel. Taking five months leave from work, in June he reached London, where in the 100 yards final at the Amateur Athletic Association championships he was beaten by Americans, also en route for Paris.

Money was tight, but the English association paid Rowley's expenses to Paris, where on 14 and 15 July he came third in the 60, 100 and 200 metres finals, and was in the winning British 5000 metres cross-country team—competing only to make up numbers, he walked and had four laps to complete when the race was over. Medals were not presented: Rowley won a carriage-clock, a ladies' 'wove-wire' purse and a silver stiletto paper-knife.

Returning to Sydney from London on 16 October, he retired from sprinting. On 12 October 1903 at Ashfield he married Bessie Scott with Anglican rites. He returned briefly to racing in 1905 and from 1908 was treasurer of the A.A.U.A. A Freemason, he was a member of Lodge Austral. He was justice of the peace from 1918. Employed by Pitt, Son & Badgery Ltd, he was manager of its stock section when he died of chronic nephritis on 1 April 1924 at his Manly home, survived by his wife, two daughters and son. He was buried in Manly cemetery. The swimmer F. C. V. Lane and shooter Donald Mackintosh were other Australians to compete in the 1900 Paris Olympics.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Lester, Australians at the Olympics (Melb, 1984)
  • Referee (Sydney), 21 Feb, 28 Mar, 25 Apr, 4 July, 8, 29 Aug, 5 Sept, 24 Oct 1900, 9 Apr 1924
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Apr 1924
  • private information.

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Rowley, Stanley Rupert (1876–1924)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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