Queensland rifle clubs - History in pictures

Shooting on a winter morning in Belmont

The Queensland Rifle Association was formed in May 1861 making it the oldest sporting club in Queensland. Its nearest rival, the Queensland Turf Club was formed in 1863 and the Queensland Cricket Association and Queensland Yacht club two years later. From the beginning the Rifle Association had two separate and sometimes conflicting purposes. The first being to promote the sport of competitive shooting and the second being to improve shooting skills for military purposes. The Queensland Volunteer Force had been formed in 1860, shortly after Queensland came into separate existence in 1859. The Rifle Association was independent of the Volunteers but was formed largely to hone the marksmanship of the Volunteer forces. The relationship between the Queensland Rifle Association and the military continued for almost a century, being formally dissolved in 1960 when Australian Army funding for competition prizes and ammunition was withdrawn.

Members of the Cairns Rifle Club Queensland, ca. 1900

By  the 1870s the Queensland Rifle Association had fallen on hard times. The Queensland Government was perilously short of funds and the lack of a foreign threat made the Volunteers a low priority for funding and consequently the funding for the Rifle Association also dried up however things improved after 1877 when the Association expanded throughout southern Queensland. From 1884 civilian rifle clubs were allowed to affiliate with the QRA. In 1878 the QRA staged its first Queen's competition modelled on the British National Rifle Association's Queen's Prize. The Queen's or King's Prize competition has been held every year apart from when it was suspended during the first and second World Wars.

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, September 5, 1935 "The 1935 Kings Shoot"

The First World War saw a peak in rifle club membership in Queensland and some 5,316 members and ex-members of rifle clubs enlisted between 1914 and 1918. Rifle club membership expanded rapidly during the war from 9,578 in 1914 to more than 18 thousand by 1917. One of the most celebrated marksmen to enlist was Trooper W. E. "Billy" Sing from the Proserpine Rifle Club. At Gallipoli Billy Sing was the deadliest sniper in the Australian forces with a tally of over 200.

Page 28 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 22 January, 1916

State Library's photograph collection includes images of rifle clubs throughout Queensland dating from 1891 when a team of riflemen from Charters Towers visited Brisbane.

First team of riflemen who visited Brisbane from Charters Towers, 1891

Charleville and Cunnamulla Rifle Club, 1903

Bowen Rifle Club, ca. 1905

Rifle range club members Mount Campbell, 1907

Rifle range club members Mount Campbell, 1907

Logan and Albert Rifle Shooting Club on the range, 1909

Members of the Cooroy Rifle Club at the Cooroy showgrounds, 1914

Women were involved with the rifle clubs, often mainly in the social activities but by by 1914 small-bore "miniature rifle shooting" was seen as a sport women could readily participate in. In 1901 the QRA held the first full-bore Ladies Matches in Australia. Lizzie Savage was the winner of Ladies Matches in 1901, 1902 and 1903. Lizzie Savage was also the first female member of the Queensland Rifle Association.

Members of the City Ladies' Miniature Rifle Club, Brisbane

Rifle Club Picnic in Bowen, 1918

Members of the Babinda Rifle Club at Frenchmans Creek range, ca. 1940, Cairns Libraries, image no. cai00223

Members of the Babinda Rifle Club at Frenchmans Creek range, ca. 1940, Cairns Libraries, image no. cai00223

Information on the Queensland Rifle Association has been taken from Home on the range : Queensland Rifle Association 1861-2011 by Bill Casey.

The Queensland Rifle Association website has been archived by State Library of Queensland on the Pandora archive since 2013.

Members of the Hughenden Rifle Association, ca. 1935

Simon Miller - Library Technician, State Library of Queensland

 

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