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History of the South Australian Schools Head of the River rowing regatta

South Australian Schools Head of the River

A Brief History

This history is under construction

The first edition of school rowing in South Australia was contested in 1893 between two schools; St. Peter's College and Prince Alfred College. It was raced in fours on Port River, where St. Peter's won the race convincingly. This race was conducted annually for four years, with the last race in 1896.

The resumption of the SA Head of the River in 1922 was in the form of a challenge in eights between St. Peter's College and Adelaide High School. Despite being involved in the 1893-6 regattas, Prince Alfred College did not contest this race. Raced over a ½ mile, Adelaide High broke St. Peter's unbeaten streak in the schools regatta by just 3 feet.

In 1926, other races were introduced which commenced the gradual expansion of the regatta, including the introduction of Tub Fours and underage events. The regatta also was moved from Port River to Torrens Lake. 

From 1927-1931, there were two Head of the Rivers held in the same year in South Australia; one regatta was raced in April and the other in December. 

In 1932, alongside the return of just the one SA Head of the River regatta each year, the first perpetual trophy was introduced along with the Gosse Shield.

1937 saw the introduction of the Wallman Trophy, which was awarded to the winning Second Crews race. This was known as the Clinker Fours, which was previously an Old Boys' race. 1937 also saw slides introduced for Open and Under 16 Tub Fours.

By 1938, all Tub Four crews are raced on Slides (rather than Fixed).

In 1957, the Wallman Trophy for Second Crews changed from Fours to Eights.

In 1966, the Cudmore Cup was presented for the first time as a trophy for the Open Fours. It was presented by Sir Collier Cudmore (1885–1971) who rowed and was educated at St Peter’s College, University of Adelaide and Oxford University (Magdalen College).

The Chapman Cup was presented by the family of D. L. Chapman for the first time as a trophy for the Under 16 Fours in 1969. 

In 1971, the Under 14 Four was raced for the first time at the SA Head of the River in 1971. Also in 1971, the Menz Cup for Under 15 Fours was awarded by the Menz Family.

1972 saw the Ferguson Cup for Under 14 Fours was presented by N. C. Howard in 1972.

In 1977, the event moved to the new West Lakes course.

Even more momentous was the introduction of schoolgirls racing in 1978.

The ability of all South Australian schools to participate in this regatta is a great credit to the founding schools who allowed the entry of them into their historic event. It has increased the importance of this event enormously.

Key researcher for this chapter has been Alex Purnell.


The following timeline is drawn from the 2019 regatta program.

1922First regatta held
1927Scotch College joined the race
1931Prince Alfred College entered the competition
1948 and 1950Regattas cancelled due to the polio epidemics
1961Pulteney Grammar School, King's College and Christian Brothers College entered
1967Regatta held at Port Adelaide
1974King's College changed to Pembroke School
1977The regatta moved to West Lakes
1978Unley High School entered the competition
1987Wilderness School joined for the first time
1989Walford Anglican Girl's School took part
2001Norwood Morialta High School entered the race
2006Seymour College joined in 
2012Loreto College and St Peter's Girls' School entered for the first time
2013St Ignatius College joined the competition


Throughout this compilation of the South Australian Heads of the River, there have been many resources used with the key ones being:

All of these have been necessary to compile this SA schools chapter of the Australian Rowing History.

Website by Hope Stewart—Website Design & Management