Brisbane Grammar School

Brisbane Grammar School (BGS) is an independent, non-denominational, day and boarding school for boys, located in Spring Hill, an inner suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It is the oldest secondary boys school in Brisbane.[1] Some of the Brisbane Grammar School Buildings are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.[3]

Brisbane Grammar School

Coordinates27°27′33″S 153°1′0″E
TypeIndependent, day & boarding
MottoLatin: Nil Sine Labore
(Nothing Without Labour)
Enrolment~1,700 (2016[1])
Colour(s)Sporting: Oxford Blue and Cambridge Blue
Academic: red and gold[2]

Established in 1868 under the Grammar Schools Act that was passed by the Government of Queensland in 1860, the school has a non-selective enrolment policy and currently caters for approximately 1500 students from Years 5 to 12,[1] including around 100 boarders.[4]

Brisbane Grammar is affiliated with the Australian Boarding Schools Association (ABSA),[4] the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA),[5] Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ),[6] and is a founding member of the Great Public Schools' Association Inc (GPS).[7]

2018 marked the 150th anniversary of the founding of Brisbane Grammar School.


Brisbane Grammar School was founded in 1868 under the Grammar Schools Act, which had been passed by the Queensland Government in 1860. It was the second school established under this act in Queensland, with the first being Ipswich Grammar School.

The original school, designed by Benjamin Backhouse, was on a site in Roma Street in Brisbane City, approximately opposite modern Herschel Street. HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (1844–1900), second son of Queen Victoria, laid the foundation stone at the site on 21 February 1868. The school opened in February 1869, with ninety-four students and four masters, under the leadership of headmaster Thomas Harlin.[8] In 1881, the school was moved a few hundred metres away to its current site on Gregory Terrace in Spring Hill to make way for the Roma Street Railway Station, which still stands today.

It has been referred to as the "Eton of Australia".[9]

Following the opening of the boarding house in 1886, science laboratories were constructed in 1912.

On 14 August 1916, the Queensland Governor, Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams unveiled a war memorial with the names of 600 students who had enlisted.[10]

A new library and assembly hall were constructed in 1969 as a celebration of the school's centenary.

During the mid-1990s, the school commenced work on the off-campus Northgate ovals, which now consist of six fields that are used for cricket, rugby union and soccer fixtures. The Indoor Sports Centre was completed in 2000, and the old gymnasium was later renovated to become the new Centre for Art.

In 2002, the school underwent a major redevelopment with the construction of a new Middle School, which had its first intake of grade 6 and 7 students in 2003. This Middle School consists of a large block of multi-purpose classrooms, functioning as a complete school in itself, with its own teachers and independent timetables. Grade 6 and 7 students spend most of their time in the Middle School, although they do use the facilities of the "Upper School" for such activities as physical education and assemblies. In 2014, Year 5 was added to the Middle School with 100 new students enrolled.[11]


Period Details
1869–1876 Thomas Harlin
1876–1909 Reginald Heber Roe
1909–1927 F. S. N. Bousfield
1928–1939 S. Stephenson
1940–1947 G. Carson Cooling, Old Boy of Brisbane Grammar School
1948–1952 H. R. Pigott
1953–1956 A. E. McLucas
1956–1963 H. R. Newell, Old Boy of Brisbane Grammar School
1964–1989 Dr. Maxwell Howell AM
1990–2005 Dr. Peter Lennox
2006–2013 Brian Short, Old Boy of Brisbane Grammar School.
2014– Anthony Micallef



Brisbane Grammar School offers education from years 5 through to 12. The academic programme is tailored to suit the needs of its students. In recent years, around 95% of graduating students have received a first-round offer to a tertiary institution. The school offers mainstream subjects including English, Mathematics (A, B and C), Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Earth Science), History (Modern and Ancient), Geography, Economics, Health and Physical Education, Music, Technology Studies, Art, Drama and Languages other than English (French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Latin).

In addition, the school focuses on a specific academic scope of learning aimed at educating life-skills required in the future. As of late, it has introduced updated technology to assist the students learning from school as well as home. In addition to this currently all students from grades 8–12 each have a Toshiba Tablet PC with a majority of the school's curriculum installed. For the Middle School, Brisbane Grammar School offers the mainstream subjects (with Spanish and Latin being offered as Languages other than English), as well as laptop facilities.

Recent results

In recent years, 95% of graduating students have received a first-round offer to a tertiary institution.[12] In 2006, the school had its second best results since the introduction of the OP system, claiming 49 OP1s. The combined percentage, of OP 1–2 was 30.45% of the school, population which far exceeded the state's average of 5.2%. 68.31% of the students received between and OP1 and an OP7 (the state percentage being 25.4%). 91.8% of the cohort received an OP between 1 and 13. The median OP score was OP5.[13]

With respect to the school's 2008 results, more than one in four students (26.4%) of the cohort achieved an OP 1 or 2. The OP 1–7 result of 63.2% (State 27.4%) was well above the historical average and fourth best result ever and the OP 1–13 result was at 90.1% (State 60.9%) and was the third best result in the school's history.[14]

In 2012, students achieved, in the School's history, the highest percentage of OP1s. A total of 51 students attained an OP1, equating to 20.6% of the cohort. OP1-7 results were also the second best recorded in the School's history (68.5%), while the OP1-13 (93.1%) and OP 1–15 (97%) results, like the OP1 percentages, were also historical records for the School.[15]

Extracurricular activities

Cultural activities

Students are able to participate in a wide range of musical groups, established by former Directors of Music, John Broughton[16], and Bruce May[17], including two orchestras, five concert bands, three stage bands, eight string ensembles, five choirs, and an array of other instrumental ensembles, including three percussion ensembles. John Callaghan was the driving force behind establishing most of the bands[17]. Student-led ensembles feature in concerts every year. Furthermore, each year the BGS Music Department performs an event known as the Grammar Community in Concert, typically at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. This event brings together members from across the BGS Community, including the BGS Community Choir, incorporating parents, teachers, and friends. The school also has a thriving Drama program, largely established by former Drama Master, Brian Cannon[18], presenting a range of plays and musicals. In addition, opportunities in debating and public speaking are offered, with the school participating in Queensland Debating Union and Greater Public Schools annual competitions. Additionally, Brisbane Grammar School has recently revamped its participation in enterprise education groups. With the newly reformed Economics and Enterprise Club, students are gaining exciting experiences through external competitions such as YAA, Ecoman and ABW. An array of other special-interest groups exist, including those which focus on Chess, Astronomy, Aviation, Christianity, Environmental aid, and Community Service.


The school offers a range of mainstream sporting activities, including cross country, track and field, rugby, football (Soccer), basketball, tennis, cricket, gymnastics, swimming, rowing, sailing, chess and volleyball within the GPS association of schools, as well as many others such as water polo, fencing, Australian rules football and tae kwon-do.

GPS membership

Brisbane Grammar School is a member of the Great Public Schools Association of Queensland Inc. (GPS). The school's membership enables its students to participate in sporting competitions as well as engage in endeavours such as Debating and musical events. Most competitions are played out on Saturdays at any of the schools' sporting facilities. The main campus comprises four playing fields in addition to eight tennis courts. Many fixtures, including Cricket, Rugby and Football, are conducted at the Northgate Campus. Sailing is run on Sundays at RQYS, Manly, and the GPS championship is held at the end of the season. The school has had long standing success in Water Polo, winning the competition for 12 of the last 13 years.

Recent achievements

In 2006, BGS's Senior A debating team achieved 2nd in the GPS competition after losing only one debate in the last round to GPS champions St. Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace. Also in 2006, the School won seven GPS titles (GPS Cross Country, GPS Volleyball, First VI Volleyball, First XI Soccer, GPS Sailing, GPS Gymnastics and GPS Chess), five more titles than any other GPS school.

In March 2007, the school secured the O'Connor Cup by winning the 1st VIII race at the annual Brisbane GPS Head of the River. Furthermore, the 2007 Senior A Debating Team became the champions of the QDU state competition, with a team member making the Australian side.

In 2008, the Senior A team won the GPS premiership undefeated and 2 team members achieved selection in the QLD team.[19]

Following the 2008 victory in debating, the 2009 BGS Senior A Team was even more successful, winning both the QDU and GPS premierships convincingly beating all opponents. Members of the team Daniel Gibbons, Andrew Justo and Marc Harris were all selected for the State Team, and the BGS Year 12 group of 2009 was, up to that time, the most successful debating cohort in the school's history.

However, in 2010, the BGS Senior A Team were undefeated in both GPS and QDU competitions to take out premierships in both. 3 members of the team were selected for the QLD State team, and proceeded to win the National Competition, completing the trifecta of debating championships.[20] In 2011, BGS won both the QDU and GPS Senior A season undefeated beating All Hallows School in the QDU final to become State Champions.

In 2010, BGS tied with St Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace to win its 8th consecutive GPS Volleyball Premiership. Terrace beat BGS, in a fullhouse at Terrace only to lose to TGS in the second last round handing BGS a tied premiership. In 2011, Brisbane Grammar completed the season undefeated, beating Gregory Terrace in straight sets at a packed Indoor Sports Centre.

2012 saw BGS, represented by Nicholas Salmon, Matthew Hales, Philip Gracen and captained by Benjamin Gibbons, win the QDU debating Senior A, defeating Churchie in a unanimous decision, the first of its kind in the competition. BGS also won volleyball for its 10th straight volleyball victory. In a final like situation at Ross Oval, the BGS rugby first XV defeated Nudgee College to secure an outright premiership in rugby for the first time since 1972.

2013 carried over the success of 2012 with an 11th straight premiership in GPS Volleyball, the first Cricket premiership in 30 years as well as a premiership and state championship to the flagship sailors. 2013 also saw 7 GPS premierships – more than any other GPS school. The School won Volleyball, First XI Cricket, Sailing, Chess, Senior A Debating, Tennis and Gymnastics.[21] The Grammar Vocal Ensemble also achieved a perfect score (100/100) at a Choral Eisteddfod

2017 Saw the return of the Swimming GPS crown to BGS for the first time in 40 years.

2018 Saw BGS go back to back in the GPS swimming.


Indoor Sports Centre

The Indoor Sports Centre was officially opened by the Governor of Queensland, Major General Peter Arnison on 3 March 2000. The centre, which is situated on the main campus, is home to a multi-purpose double Basketball court sports hall (which can also accommodate 3 Volleyball courts, 6 Badminton courts, 12 fencing pistes as well as Futsal), an Aquatic Centre with a 10-lane, 25m heated swimming pool, a Gymnasium featuring a deep foam pit, parallel bars and rings and a spectator area with seating for 150 people during sporting events, an indoor Cricket net, as well as a weights room and theory rooms and amenities. This sports centre has hosted local and international sporting teams, such as the Queensland Reds, Australian Wallabies, Brisbane Broncos, New Zealand All Blacks, Australian cricket team, United States Swimming squad and the English Rugby team.

Northgate playing fields

Work commenced on the Northgate Playing Fields in the mid-1990s, which now have six ovals, accommodating Cricket, Rugby union, Soccer and Australian Rules Football fixtures. The fields are also used during the school week, especially for winter activities training sessions. Canteen facilities are provided on game days. Adjacent to the main oval is a small stadium which caters for seating for one half of the field, which also contains a dining area. The playing fields were used by the Australian Cricket Team prior to the 2006/2007 Ashes campaign, where they trained with the school's First XI.[22]

Normanby playing fields

Normanby, adjacent to the school grounds, harbours tennis courts and minor track and field facilities. Students visit this facility for PE lessons as well as sports training sessions. It is separated from the main campus by a public footbridge. These ovals are being threatened by the Legacy Way Tunnel that have taken away the oval, leaving only tennis courts.

Auditoriums and theatres

The school has 6 major auditoriums and a theatre: The Centenary Hall, The Great Hall, The Lilley Centre Forum, The Music Auditorium, The Amphitheatre, The Gallery and The Theatre.

Centenary Hall accommodates the entire senior school (8–12) student body for weekly assemblies, when The Gallery above is opened up to the Hall. The hall is also used for other events such as breakfasts, music concerts, debates and year-level tests. The Gallery above the hall can accommodate 2-year groups for lectures and information sessions.

The Great Hall is one of the school's most historic buildings. The walls have various honour-boards commemorating academic, sporting and cultural achievements, as well as honouring the names of those who have served in wars. The stage is overlooked by a 10*3-metre stain-glass window, with Queen Victoria and her knights of the realm as a central feature. The hall provides venue for Form Year Assemblies, Public speaking, debating and music performances. It is also used for dinner parties (such as the Old-Boys Association's reunions or the 'Mothers of Past Student'’ gatherings) and weddings for old-boys.

The Forum can seat around 150–200 people and is used for collaborative learning exercises, usually housing all students in a subject or 3–4 classes. When using the extra seating available, a whole 250 student cohort can be housed.

The Music Auditorium, established during the tenure of Bruce May as Director of Music, is a venue used to highlight the school's large music program. During the year a varied program of choral, concert and stage band and orchestral concerts take place. Many groups rehearse here weekly. Percussion equipment is able to fit in the hall.

The Drama Theatre, established under the tenure of Brian Cannon as Drama Master, can seat approximately 300 and provides excellent acoustics for theatrical productions. The school holds a Junior School Play, a Senior School Play and a Middle School Production (Play or Musical) every year. It is equipped with sound and lighting equipment, including audio and lighting boards operated by students, a Green Room, and technical storage space. The Centenary Hall for many years was the venue for theatre productions under Director, Brian Cannon[23].

Moogerah Outdoor Education Centre

Brisbane Grammar School's off-campus centre at Pepperina Hill, near Lake Moogerah, was opened in 1976 and is named the Moogerah Outdoor Education Centre (colloquially referred to as Moogerah). The school sends each form class from grades 8, 9 and 10 out to the campus to strengthen intra-class relationships and morale, as well as develop team-working and leadership skills. Class, "Form Seniors" also attend the camp to build the relationship between the senior, and younger students. The five-day programme includes such activities as rock-climbing, bushwalking, orienteering, canoeing, and a camp-out in the bush at the foot of a mountain. Year 5, 6 and 7 students also visit the campsite, but for a shorter duration – one, two and three days respectively.

The centre is also used for various other school activities: Writer's Camps, Composers' Camps, Scientist-In-Residence Camps, sport training, ISCF Christian Camps, Astronomy & sky viewings and fieldwork in senior courses. The rowers utilise the camp's boatshed on the lake's edge for training.

The Lilley Centre

The most recent construction project of the school is a centre located on the College Road side of the main campus (named after Premier and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Sir Charles Lilley), and houses several classrooms equipped with learning technologies, a library, a lecture theatre (called 'The Forum') and a seniors' study room. The centre was officially opened on 26 February 2010 by former Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh.

School uniform and colours

The School has adopted two sets of colours. The first was introduced by Thomas Harlin, Headmaster 1869–1876. They are red and gold and are now associated with academia. Reginald Heber Roe, Headmaster 1876–1909, introduced the sporting colours of Oxford and Cambridge Blue which are now seen as the main representative colours of the school. They still hold a particularly special relationship with sporting activities, represented by various school chants and war cries that mention the Light Dark Blue.

Recent incidents

Pedophile compensation controversy

In 2003, the school was involved in controversy when it attempted to recover damages from its insurer following students' claims that they had been sexually abused by Kevin Lynch, school counsellor between the 1976 and 1988.[24][25]

Some 70 former students sued the school, alleging Lynch sexually abused them during counselling sessions. Rejecting out-of-court settlements, some of the victims claimed compensation in the Supreme Court of Queensland. Two former students had allegedly lodged complaints about Lynch's conduct with then headmaster of the school, Maxwell Howell, in the early 1980s and the issue was quietly investigated. However Grammar was unaware the details of the investigation had to be passed on to its insurer.[24] For failing to notify its insurer of the complaints made of Lynch, the school thus became liable for A$1.17 million in legal fees and compensation.[24]

Lynch was charged in January 1997 over the abuses perpetrated at both St Paul's School (where he was subsequently employed) and Brisbane Grammar. Lynch committed suicide on 23 January 1997, the day after being charged.[26][27]

Fumes exposure incident

On 14 July 2010, 120 students were exposed to a chemical solvent being used in school construction works. Many of these students had been exposed for less than 20 minutes. 6 ambulance crews were dispatched to the school, where 35 students experienced sore eyes and throats as well as minor breathing difficulties. Of the students affected, 2 were hospitalised.[28]

Notable alumni

Politics, law, and public life

The arts

Science and academia



Rhodes Scholars

Year of election[36][37] Name[36][37]
1904 Arthur S. Roe
1905 Norman Leslie
1908 Stanley Castlehow
1909 Leonard G Brown
1911 Harold K. Denham
1914 Allan W.L. Row
1915 John N. Radcliffe
1918 Frederick W. Paterson
1919 Victor Grenning
1922 Tom Lawton
1927 Franz Konrad Saddler Hirschfeld
1928 John H. Lavery
1930 Cecil E. Kerr
1939 James K. Newman
1958 Thomas Baxter
1960 Clive P. Hildebrand
1967 John M. Fenwick
1978 Peter J. Wetherall
1981 Donald Markwell
1982 David M. Rose
1991 Craig Arnott
1992 Daniel V. Botsman
2006 Nicholas I. Luke
2007 Ryan A. Goss

Nicholas Salmon was named Rhodes Scholar for 2019

See also


  1. "2009 Annual Report" (PDF). Staff & Students. Brisbane Grammar School. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  2. Brisbane Grammar School – Grammar History Archived 21 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. "Brisbane Grammar School (entry 600124)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  4. "Brisbane Grammar School". Schools. Australian Boarding Schools' Association. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  5. "AHISA Schools". Queensland. Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia. November 2007. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2007.
  6. "Brisbane Grammar, School". School Search. Independent Schools Queensland. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  7. "GPS Schools". Sport and Music. Brisbane State High School. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  8. "Grammar History". Brisbane Grammar School. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  9. "On This Day | A State of War". A State of War | State Library of Queensland. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  10. "BRISBANE GRAMMAR SCHOOL WAR MEMORIAL". The Brisbane Courier. National Library of Australia. 11 August 1916. p. 6. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  11. "Middle School". Brisbane Grammar School. Archived from the original on 6 May 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  12. Academic notes Archived 9 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine Official BGS website. Retrieved 7 January 2006; Report detailing academic results of the 2004 Senior cohort Official BGS website. Retrieved 7 January 2006.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 December 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) {date=December 2013}
  14. Primrose, H., Light Blue Dark Blue, Brisbane, Brisbane Grammar School, p.236 ISBN 978 0 9593 287 6 9
  15. Primrose, H., Light Blue Dark Blue, p.236
  16. Primrose, H., Light Blue Dark Blue, p.253
  17. Boys Grammar Debaters Selected For State Team Official BGS Website Retrieved 3 November 2008
  18. "Brisbane Grammar School – Debating Trifecta". Archived from the original on 7 December 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  19. GPS
  20. "Cricket Australia > Inside Cricket > CA Centre of Excellence > Structure & Vision". Archived from the original on 27 February 2011.
  21. Primrose, H., Light Blue Dark Blue, p.253
  22. David Murray, School pays sex victims Archived 26 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Courier Mail, 5 November 2006
  23. Board of Enquiry report Archived 16 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Anglican Diocese of Brisbane, 22 April 2003
  24. Courier Mail Archived 26 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  25. "Nearly 200 exposed to solvent at Brisbane Grammar School in suburban Spring Hill" The Australian
  26. Patron – Major General J. Pearn, AM, RFD Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  27. McGuire, John, 'Julius, Max Nordau (1916–1963)' Archived 15 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed 9 September 2012
  28. Demack, Alan. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016.
  29. Primrose, H., Light Blue Dark Blue, p.263
  30. Cabaret Puppet Theatre - - David Logan, Artistic Director
  31. - Edmiston Collection
  32. "2009 Inductee: Bob Bryan, AM". Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame. State Library of Queensland. Archived from the original on 14 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  33. "Queensland Rhodes Scholars" (doc). Rhodes Scholarship. University of Queensland. Archived from the original on 12 September 2007. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
  34. "BGS History" (PDF). BGS History. BGS. Retrieved 7 July 2010.

Further reading

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