Start of Rifle Shooting at Newington
The wonderful achievements of our Rifle Shooting teams, reported elsewhere in this issue, highlight Newington’s long involvement in the sport. Indeed it is one of our oldest organised sports, dating back to 1869, the same year that Rugby and the Cadet Unit started at Newington.
The start of Rifle Shooting was a direct result of the establishment of the College’s Cadet Corps in August 1869. The new Corps received surplus military weapons: smooth-bore carbines for the younger Cadets and Enfield rifle-muskets for the older boys. Both were muzzle-loaders: loading involved a precise and complicated drill that required careful training.
Rifle shooting matches were quickly organised. The first recorded match took place in October 1869, against a team from Camden College, a Congregational school at Enmore. The Newington team won with 241 points to Camden’s 220.
The most celebrated match of this early era was against the Royal Marines of the visiting HMS Galatea at Silverwater in October 1870. The Newington boys defeated the Marines — ‘all crack picked shots’ — by three points. The Galatea’s Captain, Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, was reported to be greatly embarrassed, as he had ridiculed the 18th Royal Irish Regiment, whom the Newington boys had defeated two months earlier, for being beaten by ‘mere schoolboys’.
Newington won its first inter-school competition, the ‘Schools’ Challenge Bugle’, part of the NSW Rifle Association’s competition, in 1875. This became the Schools’ Challenge Shield, in turn becoming the NRA Shield, which was adopted by the AAGPS in 1905. Between 1887 and 1913, Newington won the NRA Shield seventeen times. Newington won the Rawson Cup, instituted in 1905, six times between 1905 and 1911. Newington’s coach during most of this period was the indefatigable Sports Master, Charles Buchanan: in 1913 the GPS Challenge Shield was renamed the Buchanan Shield by the AAGPS in his honour.
This period was the ‘golden age’ of Newington Rifle Shooting. For all their achievements, however, the teams of that era never achieved the clean sweep of the three Firsts trophies and the Seconds competition achieved by our teams two weeks ago.
Mr David Roberts