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History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1872 Head of the River

The fifth Head of the River races were rowed on 14th, 18th & 20th June.

The cox of the winning Scotch crew, Syd Edwards, went on to be a respected Victorian coach. The Scotch coach Thomas Colles, was also a respected oarsman, competing in the winning Victorian crew in the intercolonial fours championship in 1873. He was also in the first two Australian Universities Championships crews for Melbourne University.

The races appear to have been conducted in a way to determine the best crews overall. The results below show the rankings after three races, not one individual race.

This is a very early picture (circa 1860) of the punt on the Yarra River at the Punt Road hill.

In the background the grape vines can be seen on the hill. Left hand side house was owned by Mrs Gardner and Madam Du Bois Wine and Tea Gardens on the right. Burns boats are in the foreground.


Starter: Mr A F Ross
Umpire: Mr H A Williams
Judge: Mr J H Hood

Head of the River

Time: NTT
Margin: 4 lengths

1st Scotch College - Bow: M C Moore, 2: Robert R Macpherson, 3: Robert B Duncan, Str: Murdo McLeod, Cox: Sydney A Edwards, Cch: Thomas C Colles
2nd Melbourne Grammar - Bow: J C Ritchie, 2: G J Watson, 3: J G Burton, Str: J Watson, Cox: W Greenland, Cch: A Nicholls
3rd Wesley College - Bow: L Lyons, 2: Chambers, 3: G Adamson, Str: J Rickards, Cox: Burrows, Cch: Prof Martin Howy Irving

Heat 1 - 14th June: 1st MGS, 2nd WC, Margin: easily. The Wesley stroke collapsed and Melbourne Grammar paddled home easily.
Heat 2 - 18th June: 1st SC, 2nd MGS, Margin: 2 lengths. The race was won easily but not before being a good race for the first part until MGS lost their form. The Scotch coxswain was given great credit for his steering.
Heat 3 - 20th June: 1st SC, 2nd WC, Time: 8min 52 secs, Margin: 4 lengths. The Wesley crew was changed with the removal of the original stroke Rickards who had not recovered from the first race and was replaced by Lowe. Scotch won well.

The heats were well recorded.

The Australasian reorted as follows:

Race 1 - MGS V WC

Soon after the start the Wesley crew were steered too close to the north bank, and the Grammar School consequently gained a slight lead, which they held to the Bath’s corner. The Wesley on the inside, however, soon made up for lost ground, and, aided by their position and the bad steering of W. Greenland, had a lead of nearly a length when the Baths Bend was rounded. Approaching Brander’s the Grammar School gained gradually on their opponents, who were being steered too close to the bank. At the Ferry the two crews were nearly level, till Richard spurted and drew almost a length ahead, loud exhortations resounding on all sides, both crews pulled most pluckily down Brander’s Reach, but Wesley were beginning to show symptoms of distress, while the Grammar School were pulling together like machinery, and at a much slower stroke rate than their adversaries. Rounding the last bend, where the Wesley crew were shamefully steered being kept right in the bite the whole way round, the Grammar School gradually forged ahead. No.3 of the Wesley boat then managed to unship his oar, and this mistake, added to their wide steering, gave their opponents such a decided advantage that, barring any accidents, the race was virtually over.

Race 2 - MGS v Scotch

This report came from The Age.

The Scotch College crew, having the north station, had the advantage in sides, but both boats went along together until the baths corner was reached. Scotch naturally went ahead at this point, placing a length to their credit, and managed to keep about that distance in advance until Brander’s was neared; the Grammar School then came up with a splendid rush, reducing the distance to only half a length. The rival strokes here tried their utmost to gain on each other, but both crews answered so gamely the calls made upon them that no decided advantage was gained by either side until the last bend was reached. The Grammar stroke, knowing this bend would give him the advantage, was determined to make it quite certain, and by gathering all his energies together spurted round the bend into the straight. The Scotch youths, however, upset all their opponents calculations by responding to their stroke’s spurt round the outside of the bend in a most plucky manner, so that when the straight was reached and fairly entered, contrary to anticipation, the boats were level. From this both crews settled themselves together for an effort to run each other down, and the result was that when half the reach was passed, the Grammar School showed signs of faltering, and then finally stopped. The Scotch continued on at the same pace, and won a splendid race.

Race 3 - SC V WC

The Australasian reported on the third heat succinctly.

The Wesley College had the north station, the Scotch the south. It was at once apparent that the Wesley crew, as altered, were not match for their opponents, who went to the front after a few strokes, and won as they liked by several lengths in 8 min 52sec.


  • 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
  • Photo - the Lindblade Collection, Mercantile Rowing Club
  • Scotch Collegian 1932
  • CHURCH OF ENGLAND GRAMMAR SCHOOL AND WESLEY COLLEGE FOUR-OARED MATCH. (1872, June 15). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 12. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from
  • AQUATICS. (1872, June 19). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from
  • SCOTCH AMD WESLEY COLLEGE FOUR-OARED MATCH. (1872, June 22). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 13. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from
  • MGS first crew names from MGS boatshed

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