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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Noel McGrowdie, 1957 (printed 2003)

Ern McQuillan

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image/sheet: 40.5 cm x 30.5 cm)

Noel 'Digger' McGrowdie (1920-1961), jockey, was born in Brisbane and educated at a Christian Brothers School in Toowoomba before being apprenticed in Brisbane at the age of fourteen. He first won at Eagle Farm aged sixteen, and had 100 wins to his name before he finished his apprenticeship. In 1943 he moved to Sydney where he became known as the 'Cups King' and developed into one of the leading 'big money' jockeys of the 1950s, renowned not only for his exceptional judgement and courage on the track but for his integrity, wit and glamorous wife, Marcia. In 1960 he accepted an offer to ride in Singapore and Malaya, immediately taking out the Straits Racing Association Premiership with 59 wins in his first season there. He was in brilliant form when he died as a result of a car accident in Malaya. This photograph was taken in the weighing in room at the Australian Jockey Club's Winter Carnival (McGrowdie could weigh in at 45 kg). He had just won the Balmoral Stakes on Passbook, owned and trained by Mr C. Ryan.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2003

Accession number: 2003.108

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Ern McQuillan (age 31 in 1957)

Noel McGrowdie (age 37 in 1957)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan

Hop, skip, shoot

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

Former NPG Deputy Director, Simon Elliott talks with Ern McQuillan about his life and career as a sports photographer.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.