Welcome to HTBS, William!

18 October 2017

HTBS editor Göran R Buckhorn writes:

It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that William O’Chee has accepted the offer to become a regular contributor to HTBS. If you are a frequent reader of this website, you have already read and admired William’s articles on rowing of old at Oxford University, maybe especially about his college boat club, Brasenose. Two weeks ago, William published an article, “Where the Mighty Rivers (Sometimes) Flow”, about the Queensland’s waterways, which he had travelled with his son, Rory, who is an eminent photographer. In another brilliant article, “Lightning, Drownings and Leisured Gentlemen: Recreational Rowing in the 17th and 18th Centuries”, William presents a historically important rowing ‘scoop’ when he proves that ‘recreational rowing’ was practised at both Oxford and Cambridge before the 19th century, thereby questioning the claims of Eton College and Westminster School that recreational rowing began at these institutions.

Here is an introduction of William:

By his own confession, William O’Chee is an Australian-based rowing historian who is not terribly clever. Most of his research centres around Oxford, 10,000 miles from his hometown of Brisbane. He learned to cox, scull and row (in that order) at Brasenose College, Oxford, before going on to cox the Oxford Lightweight Blue Boat in 1987. He is now the official historian of the Brasenose College Boat Club. He describes his 200th anniversary history of the club, entitled The Pinnacle of Fame, as one of the world’s slowest works-in-progress, being almost four years in the making so far.

After returning to Australia, William became Australia’s youngest federal senator at the age of 24, and served over nine years in the Australian Parliament. During that time he still managed to found a rowing club in Cairns, and even coach the 1st VIII of the Canberra Girls Grammar School, as well as putting together a cross-party parliamentary quad scull to row on Lake Burley Griffin.

William’s other sporting passion is skeleton, and he spent 13 years representing Australia in World Cup and World Championship events, and achieving two tour wins.

His time in the Australian Senate was followed by a stint serving in the Australian Army. Nowadays he divides his time between working to assist other veterans, most notably through the Returned & Services League of Australia, and running a management consulting business.

In spite of all of the above, he still gets out on the water for some early morning sculling on a semi-regular basis, something he considers ‘a delight beyond compare’. He is a member of Leander, Nephthys Boat Club, a Life member of Griffith University Surfers Paradise Rowing and founder of Cairns Rowing Club.


  1. Wonderful – I see he’s a Southport old boy too… would love to learn more about rowing at Southport, my grandfather was the cod of the crew which won the ‘Challenge Flag’ in 1936, I have some great photos and his trophy which he gave me as an encouragement when I started rowing myself…

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