Gift winner took controversy to the grave

The famous Stawell Gift.

The history sleuths from Narre Warren and District Family History Group have dug up another gem from the past in preparation for their Bunyip Cemetery Walk this Sunday.

Among those resting in peace at Bunyip is the winner of the second Stawell Gift, the nation’s most famous running race.

And the history-making moment was not without controversy.

Elisha Stephen Grose was 22 when he marked his place in history, winning the second running of the Stawell Gift on Monday 14 April 1879.

Thirty-five runners contested five elimination heats and, with 15 men advancing to the semi-finals, Elisha was handicapped on 5.9 metres. He had won his heat in 13.5 seconds; he won his semi final in 12.5 seconds and advanced to the final.

In the final Elisha and Harry Boughen, running under the alias of T Ray off 8.2 metres, dead-heated in 13 seconds. The two men agreed to a run-off after an agreed rest period.

The run-off ended in controversy when Harry thought Elisha had jumped the starter’s gun and stopped running after 23 metres. Elisha kept running and was declared the winner.

Harry lodged a protest, the judges concluded that Elisha had not jumped the gun, dismissed the protest, and declared him the winner of the £35.

It was reported in later years that Elisha and Harry never spoke to one another again and each claimed to their dying days that they had won the race outright not in a dead heat.

Born at Creswick in 1856, Elisha was the third of six sons born to Thomas and Charlotte Grose.

Edward, the eldest of the brothers, did his apprenticeship as a printer and later became the proprietor of the Ballarat Star and Creswick Advertiser newspapers. Elisha followed in his brother’s footsteps and in 1879 he was working as a printer, in 1893 Elisha was the agent for The Argus newspaper sales in Creswick.

The Narre Warren and District Family History Group’s walk at Bunyip Cemetery is on Sunday 27 October 2019 at 10am. Cost is $5 per adult payable on the day. Please book at or ring Jane 9796 1421.

The walk is titled “Life and death on the edge of the swamp: a walk in Bunyip Cemetery. The group has produced a book with the same title and stories on 33 local families that is available to purchase.