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History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1889 Head of the River

The twenty-second Head of the River provided Geelong Grammar the opportunity to continue their winning streak but with the winning margin reduced down to 3/4 length.

The race was conducted on 31 May 1889 on the Lower Yarra over 1 1/4 miles.

This allowed all four crews to race in a final for the first time. The straight wide river enabled a first and final to be rowed. The advantages for this new arrangement were obvious with crews placed in order of merit and the course was fairer than upstream. Melbourne Grammar, being the school with the choice of course this year, must be given the credit for this breaking with tradition.

The course was intended to be 1 1/4 miles but the starter apparently got the start point wrong and it was slightly longer.

Alexander Lewis, the bow man of the Scotch crew, raced in four Heads of the River, including stroking two winning crews.

Index to Results:


Starter: Mr G G Henderson

Umpire: Mr J A Levey

Judge: Mr C S Cunningham

Rudder from the 1889 Winning GGS Boat

Photographed at the Geelong Grammar Boatshed

Head of the River

Time: 9:05.0
Margins: 3/4, 2 & 3 lengths

1st Geelong Grammar - Bow: J H Davison, 2: H Gillett, 3: E W Bagot, Str: T Parkin, Cox: E Robertson, Cchs: James L Cuthbertson & Stephen Fairbairn
2nd Melbourne Grammar - Bow: C S E Langley, 2: S M Brown, 3: W F Sully, Str: H Y Brown, Cox: A J Dudgeon, Cch: A Holcroft
3rd Scotch College- Bow: Alexander R Lewis, 2: James V McEacharn, 3: Leslie Jenner, Str: Hubert D Morrison, Cox: Ralph B Ross, Cch: Frederick W Woolrabe
4th Wesley College - Bow: S J Donohoo, 2: W R Thomson, 3: C Hawkins, str: R R Knight, Cox: H D Johnson, Cch: J Champion

The race started poorly, largely due to the starters work. Wesley were far from prepared. Scotch and Melbourne got the better of the start but the Geelong boys soon prevailed. The next part of the race was a splendid race between Scotch and Melbourne. These two nearly had a race for first place when the Geelong cox headed in the wrong direction. This steering cost Geelong a couple of lengths but their superiority was enough to win by nearly a length.

The Age reported the race this way:

Geelong Grammar won by barely a length to MGS, Scotch 2 lengths behind MGS, Wesley 3 lengths behind Scotch.

Second Crews

(This race was not conducted at the Head of the River regatta but on 11th October on Albert Park Lake in a first and final.)

Time: NTT
Margins: 1 1/2 lengths, 2 1/2 lengths and 1 1/2 lengths

1st Geelong Grammar - Bow: L Parsons, 2: Rutherford, 3: G Bowler, Str: Whitney
2nd Melbourne Grammar - Bow: F Cane, 2: G Henty, 3: S Singleton, Str: A Macpherson
3rd Scotch College
- Bow: Murphy, 2: W Ramsay, 3: W Firebrace, Str: R Hutchinson
4th Wesley College
- Bow: G Kelly, 2: R Greene, 3: R Withington, Str: E Ulrich

The Argus reported on the second crews race.

Mr G [George] Upward, under great difficulties, got the crews away to a good start. The MGS were the first to show in front, and held their lead for some time, but the Geelong, rowing coolly with plenty of power, came gradually up to them, and the MGS crew lost some ground in turning into the straight through their cox steering too widely. The bow of the latter crew had met with severe injuries to this head on the previous day in a bad fall, and consequently was not in condition to answer the call made by the Geelong crew. Whitney was content with a lead of half a length until within a couple of hundred yards from home, and then quickened, finishing a length and a half ahead of the MGS, who headed Scotch by two lengths and a half, the Wesley crew was a length and a half in the rear of Scotch College.


  • Rudder photograph - Andrew Guerin
  • The Pincott Club Handbook 2006
  • The Victorian Oarsman by John Lang 1919 - A H Massina & Company
  • MGS first crew names - MGS boathouse
  • Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar Archives
  • Appendix to A Deepening Roar Scotch College 1851-2001 by James Mitchell, Allen & Unwin 2001
  • PUBLIC SCHOOLS FIRST CREWS BOAT RACE. (1889, June 1). The Age (Melbourne, Vic.: 1854 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved April 3, 2017, from
  • ROWING. (1889, October 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 12. Retrieved April 3, 2017, from

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