Scroll To Top
History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1871 Head of the River

Wesley College wished to join the event for the first time. John Lang in the Victorian Oarsman 1919 describes the issues of them joining as follows:

Wesley College wished to row the other two schools in 1871 in the annual race. However, it was decided, "as it was an old-established race, which it was a pity to disturb", that Scotch College and the Grammar School should row Wesley College in turn; the races were on 19th and 20th June 1871. Wesley proved their mettle by beating the Scotch boys on the 20th, after being beaten in a hard race by Melbourne Grammar, the previous afternoon. Wesley College boys soon took part regularly in the race with the other two, and were "Head of the River" in 1874.

The fourth Head of the River took place on 16th June before the Wesley College races which took place on 19th and 20th June. The press reports of the MGS win over Scotch were scathing: The Scotch College crew rowed in very bad form: in fact their No - was little less than an passenger...The Grammar crew also had not much to be proud of in the matter of form.

Melbourne Grammar won the fourth Head of the River against Scotch easily in about 4 lengths. John Catto stroked the Scotch College crew for the third time.

Old Prince's Bridge in 1870 looking east

Old Prince's Bridge looking west

From the Albert Lindblade Collection, Mercantile Rowing Club


Starter: Prof Martin Howey Irving

Umpire: Not known

Judge: Not known


Head of the River

Time: NTT
Margin: 4 lengths (but perhaps much more from some reports)

1st Melbourne Grammar - Bow: J C Ritchie, 2: E A Vieusseux, 3: J G Burton, Str: J F Hamilton, Cox: A J Manifold, Cch: Not known
2nd Scotch College - Bow: George L Dickson, 2: Henry Prendergast, 3: John A Brock, Str: John Catto, Cox: Sydney A Edwards, Cch: John C Johnstone

The final was described in this manner by the Australasian.

Before half-a-dozen strokes, however, had been pulled the Grammar School commenced to forge ahead, and from that time the race was virtually over. Round the Baths corner some three lengths separated the boats, and this distance was gradually increased till the School passed the winning post about a dozen lengths in front, the Collegians stopping before coming in.

Wesley College raced each of Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar in seperate races on 19th and 20th June:

E1: 1st MGS, 2nd WC, Margin 5 feet. Wesley started badly but came back into the race very well.
E2: 1st WC, 2nd SC, Margin 10 lengths. Again Wesley started poorly but won with great ease.

Wesley College - Bow: W Monie, 2: J Fryer, 3: E L Backhouse, Str: W Wearne, Cox: E O Hill, Cch: Prof M H Irving

The Australasian reported on the heats as well.

MGS v Wesley Race

The boat race between the Church of England Grammar School and the Wesley College on Monday afternoon, resulted in a splendid contest and a fine finish, the School (MGS) only coming in first by about 5 feet in advance of the opposing crew. At the start the Wesley College crew got off badly, and were backing water when their opponents had taken the lea, but they soon pulled close up, and at the baths corner were only half a length behind. From that point the two boats came along well together, and the final effort brought the college within a few feet of their opponents at the winning post.

Scotch v Wesley Race

The rowing match between the crews selected from the Wesley and Scotch Colleges, which came off on Tuesday on the Upper Yarra, resulted in an easy victory for the first named team.

The course was from the Botanical Gardens Bridge to Prince’s Bridge. The Scotch College crew started away with the lead, but were soon overhauled and passed by their opponents, who won easily by about 20 boats’ lengths.


  • The Victorian Oarsman by John Lang 1919 - A H Massina & Company
  • Appendix to A Deepening Roar Scotch College 1851-2001 by James Mitchell, Allen & Unwin 2001
  • Photos from the Lindblade Collection, Mercantile Rowing Club
  • THE SCHOOLS' RACE. (1871, June 17). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 12. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from
  • MGS first crew names from MGS boatshed

< previous 1870

> next 1872

Website by Hope Stewart—Website Design & Management