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History of AAGPS Head of the River Rowing Regatta

History of the NSW AAGPS Head of the River

Although the date of the first AAGPS rowing championship was 1893, there were several inter-school races before that date. Sydney Grammar is reported to have had a crew in 1875 and in 1881, Sir Matthew Harris, then Lord Mayor of Sydney, offered a cup for the annual competition among schools. Royston College and Sydney Grammar competed with the former winning.

Other races were also conducted prior to the first AAGPS regatta in 1893 including intercolonial competitions. In 1888, St Ignatius raced Geelong Grammar of Victoria in the first inter-colonial inter-school race on the Barwon River in Victoria.

At the time this event commenced, there were nine members of the GPS - Grammar, Shore, King's, Scots, Newington, St. Ignatius', St. Joseph's, All Saints (Bathurst) and Coerwull Academy (Lithgow). Only three, Shore, Grammar and St Ignatius boated crews in the early years.

Alan May in Sydney Rows reported that:

In 1893, the Great Public School authorities decided to stage a premiership event and set the date for 13 May, two weeks before the St. Ignatius' regatta. The latter school was, apparently, not very pleased and did not start in the race, in which Shore had an easy win over Grammar.

He goes on to state that the first official race was not until 1894. He appears to be the only proponent of this claim. This may be that the Major Rennie trophy was first awarded in 1894.

The first convenor of this event was R H Bode of Sydney Grammar School.

From 1893 to 1935 the AAGPS Head of the River regatta was held on the Parramatta River. In 1936 the races were moved to the Nepean River and were 1 ½ miles in distance. Since 1996 the schoolboy head of the river has been held at the Sydney International Rowing Centre at Penrith.

Year of Schools First Entering the Head of the River

1893 - Sydney Grammar School
1893 - Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore)
1898 - St Ignatius College
1908 - St Josephs College
1918 - Scots' College
1920 - The King's School
1921 - Newington College
1925 - Sydney High School (but raced 1924 in fours)

The primary researcher for this chapter is Alex Purnell.


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