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History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1887 Head of the River

The twentieth Head of the River was conducted on the Albert Park Lagoon for the first time as the Yarra was in flood and deemed unfair. The Barwon was used for the heats on 13th May with the final on the Lake on 14th May. The choice of course was retained by the host school. It was in this year that Wesley College purchased a small boat shed from the Southern Rowing Club.

Geelong Grammar won again for the third of six in succesion and rowed this race with a long sweeping stroke.

Index to Results:


Starter: Mr G G Henderson

Umpire: Mr A Nicholls

Judge: Mr H J Jordan

The scene at Albert Park Lagoon at that time

The building shown is Edwards Boatshed. Photo is courtesy of the Albert Lindblade collection, Mercantile Rowing Club.

Head of the River

Time: NTT
Margin: 2 1/2 lengths

1st Geelong Grammar - Bow: R Wallace, 2: S E Bailey, 3: A M Turner, Str: F James, Cox: F Anderson, Cch: James L Cuthbertson
2nd Wesley College - Bow: A L Johnson, 2: H Ham, 3: J Robb, Str: J Champion, Cox: J Burrows, Cch: H Robert Rush

It was reported that the long sweeping stroke of the powerful Geelong crew proved too much for Wesley.

The Argus reported on the finals as folows:

The boys readily obeyed the directions of the starter, and consequently were quickly sent away. The Wesley, rowing at about 42 strokes to the minute tried hard to increase the temporary advantage given to them by the handicap, but Geelong, at about the same stroke, jumped up, and having caught them in less than 200 yards, slackened down to 38, laid themselves well out, and getting hold of plenty of water, sent their craft along in excellent style. The Wesley soon tired of rapid stroking, fell to 39, rowing with plenty of life. At Obstruction Island the Geelong were about clear, and the Wesley well steered, roused by the shouts of some friends on the Island, drew up a little, but again dropped back until half a length separated the bow from the stern of the leading boat. At Pagoda Island the Geelong were a length and a half ahead, still rowing 39. Upon reaching the corner, 300 yards from home, the Wesley College crew made a splendid rally. Their efforts were, however, of no avail against the superior form and power of Geelong, who, having plenty in reserve, added a few pounds to the work, once more drew away, and won by two lengths and a half.

Other crews competing were:
Scotch College - Bow: Alfred G Hagenauer, 2: Robert W Ainslie, 3: Thomas A Wilson, Str: Andrew R Hutchison, Cox: D'Arcy T Harvie, Cch: Frank Shew
Melbourne Grammar - Bow: W Manifold, 2: R Graham, 3: D G M Teague, Str: J R Mouritz, Cox: Herbert Charles Edwards, Cch: W Martin Burn.
The stroke of the Melbourne crew was still badly shaken after a railway accident a few days before the race.

E1: 1st GGS, 2nd MGS, Margin: 3 lengths
E2: 1st WC, 2nd SC, Margin: 1 length

The Geelong Advertiser reported on the heats as follows:

The annual rowing contest between the oarsmen of the public schools was commenced on the Albert Park lake this afternoon.

First Heat - MGS v Geelong Grammar

Melbourne got away first and led for about ¾ of a mile, when they were collared by Geelong, who won with a lot in hand by three or four lengths.

Second Heat - Scotch College v Wesley College

The Wesley got away with a lead, and at halfway were leading by 3 lengths. This gap the Scotch reduced considerably, but after a hard race Wesley won by a good length.

Second Crew

(This race was not conducted as part of the Head of the River regatta. It was raced on the Barwon on 21st October 1887.)

Time: No time available
Margin: 2 lengths

1st Geelong Grammar - Bow: J White, 2: T Parkin, 3: J M Thomson, Str: H Gillett, Cox: E Christian, Cchs: N Messrs W E P Austin and J L Cuthbertson
2nd Melbourne Grammar - Bow: S Cornish, 2: P Langley, 3: R Hammond, Str: A Thomson. Cox: B Edwards, Cch: Mr Evans assisted by Mr Martin Burn

Mr C Shannon acted as starter and umpire, whilst Mr Hope acted as judge before a reported "fairly good attendance of spectators".

The Argus reported the race succinctly:

The race was rowed starting from the top of the Barwon course to the bridge, a distance of one mile. The Geelong crew won easily by two lengths.


  • The Pincott Club Handbook 2006
  • 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
  • MGS first crew names from MGS boatshed
  • Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar Archives
  • PUBLIC SCHOOLS AQUATIC TOURNAMENT. (1887, May 14). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), p. 3. Retrieved April 3, 2017, from
  • PUBLIC SCHOOLS ANNUAL BOAT RACE. (1887, May 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 10. Retrieved April 3, 2017, from
  • PUBLIC SCHOOLS CONTEST. (1887, October 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved April 3, 2017, from

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