Sixty years ago at Launceston Church Grammar School, two very exciting activities took place. The first was the inception of the Grade 12 rite of passage, the Walkathon and the other the Head of the River Regatta Boys’ 8 win by our students.
This week, we welcomed back to school, some students who took part in both. Michael Walpole (1963), Bryan Walpole (1961) Garry Forward (1964) Colin Denny (1964) Frank Henderson (1964), Bill Carrington-Smith, Bill Campbell-Smith (1963), Hugh Denny (1963) and John Henry (1963) attended the Elizabeth Street reunion on Tuesday 4 April at the Senior Campus and had the opportunity to walk down to the boat shed in the autumn sunshine. Led by Mr Nicholas Foster, they were joined by some of our current rowers, Alice Bennett (Grade 12), Lulu White (Grade 11) and Tom Carins (Grade 12).
The gentlemen took the time to admire the boatshed and reminisce about their win. They chatted with the current rowing crew members about the advances in technology since their rowing days and spent some time looking around and were thrilled to find their names on the wall.
They also spoke of their own memories of the Walkathon. Mr Michael Walpole did not walk in the first Walkathon but remembers driving the school Land Rover to the walkers full of supplies to see them through.
The Walkathon booklet produced by John Mclaine to give information and advice to students and their families goes into some detail about the Walkathon’s early years and the eventual decision to hold it as an annual event.
“The Walkathon grew from a challenge by the late United States President, John F. Kennedy, that a fit man should be able to walk 50 miles in 20 hours. Recent research has established that the challenge actually predates Kennedy and can be traced back to Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, 26th US President (1901-1909). The walk was widely reported in the world press and appeared in the Launceston Examiner where it was read by headmaster Don Selth. He put the challenge to the prefects over a breakfast meeting, and it was taken up by them. Three walks were organised, the first being over the 23 and 24 March, less than a month after Robert Kennedy had completed his.
A major change has been the Walkathon becoming an annual event. For many years it was believed that after the third walk in September 1963, it was not held again until 1973 when Bruce Dowse, who as a teacher had walked the first one, raised it as a tenth-anniversary type of event. In fact, one was also held in July 1967 when Dowse was teaching overseas. This seems to be the reason why when he proposed the walk in 1973 he was unaware of the intervening walk. It was repeated in 1975 and has been a permanent fixture every year since.”
Our 2023 students were sent off this morning with an inspirational speech from Paul Gray, a rousing version of We Come from Grammar, hugs from parents and well wishes from their Heads of House, teachers, staff and fellow students. Our Co-Captains Thomas Beaumont and Asha Pohan will be sharing live links from the walk on our Instagram Stories, you can follow them here.
We welcome your donations to the 2023 Walkathon Charity, Sony Foundation’s You Can Stay, youth cancer charity, here.
We welcome your Walkathon memories, please send us any images and memories that you wish to share with the Launceston Grammar community to firstname.lastname@example.org.