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History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1890 Head of the River

The twenty-third Head of the River was back on the Barwon on 16th and 17th May and Geelong Grammar celebrated this with a win. However this was to be the last of their string of six victories. The race was rowed in heavy rain. The Geelong crew suffered injury and illness leading up to the race. The original stroke Bagot was injured and relinquished the stroke seat to the two man Whitney. Influenza also struck down the crew.

Wesley College won the second crew race. But on the day of this race, the boat shed purchased in 1887 was blown down in a gale and all boats were lost.

Sydney Edwards, a former Scotch coxswain, returned as coach of the crew.

Index to Results:


Starter: Mr C Shannon

Umpire: Dr J Hope

Judge: Mr D Strachan

Head of the River

Time: 7:58.5
Margin: 3 lengths

1st Geelong Grammar - Bow: A Rutherford, 2: E W Bagot, 3: L Rutherford, Str: A W Whitney, Cox: H Cross, Cch: James L Cuthbertson
2nd Scotch College - Bow: William Murphy, 2: Herbert D Morrison, 3: Egbert W Hutchison, Str: Alexander R Lewis, Cox: Ralph B Ross, Cch: Sydney A Edwards

The Geelong Advertiser reported the race as follows:

Geelong Grammar, rowing at 39, were first to show in front, and racing at this pace gained a lead of a length in exactly 300 yards. As soon as they had obtained this advantage the light blues, as in their previous heat, settled down to a well stroked 34-35. Their opponents meanwhile, who had started at 42, were still going at 40, and were rowing well together and with plenty of pace. They were, however, too fast forward, and did not make sufficient use of their bodies and legs, and consequently, in spite of their game and well sustained efforts their boat dropped further behind. At the ½ mile mark the Geelong crew had a lead of a length and a quarter, which they increased off the mills to two lengths, and at the bridge to two and a half lengths. From the bridge the visitors made a plucky efforts to regain the day, and went up again to 42 or 43, but their opponents replied and rowing hard home amid much cheering and waving of light blue flags, landed victors by 3 lengths in a time of 7 min 58 ½ sec. Considering the rain and slight head wind this must be considered a fair time.

Other crews competing were:
Melbourne Grammar - Bow: F B White, 2: F J Beecher, 3: A J Macpherson, Str: W J F Singleton, Cox: F N Pleasance, Cch: A Holcroft
Wesley College - Bow: H R Catford, 2: R C Withington, 3: H M Watson, Str: W R Thomson, Cox: H D Johnson, Cch: E A Derrick

E1: 1st SC, 2nd MGS, Time: 8:10.0. Margin: 4 lengths. Melbourne started well but were soon overtaken by Scotch who went onto a comfortable victory.
E2: 1st GGS, 2nd WC, Time: 8:00.0. Margin: 4 lengths. An all the way win for Geelong.

The Geelong Advertiser recorded the heats as follows:

The first and second heats of the public schools’ boat race were rowed on the Barwon river yesterday afternoon”

First Heat
Scotch College v MGS

MGS, in the dark blue jerseys, were first to show ahead, and got ahead of their opponents in the first 100 yards. Scotch, however, putting on about 10 strokes, speedily came level, and drew ahead slowly. At Pakington-street, ½ a mile from the start, they were clear and dropping to 35, gradually increased their lead to the bridge, which point they passed with an advantage of two and a half lengths. Though MGS raced gamely to the end, they could not regain the lost distance, and Scotch College passed the post winners by four lengths in the excellent time of 8 min 10 sec.

Second Heat
Geelong Grammar v Wesley College

The light blue crew came away from the start, and in 200 yards had got a length to their credit. Dropping to 36 they passed the half mile point in 2 min 57 sec with a lead of a length and a half. About the mills the Geelong crew were timed to be striking at only 36, and they shot the bridge with a lead of two lengths, which they increased to four lengths at the finish. Time 8 min.

Second Crews

(The second fours race was not conducted as part of the Head of the River regatta. It was held on Albert Park Lake on 24th October.)

Time: NTT
Margins: 4 lengths and 4 lengths

1st Wesley College - Bow: A B Campbell, 2: H Parfitt, 3: F S Broadbent, Str: R G Greene, Cox: R D Johnson
2nd Geelong Grammar
3rd Melbourne Grammar
- Bow: N Paxton, 2: A Davies, 3: J Spence, Str: E N Pringle, Cox: N Pleasance

The Argus reported that the weather was so boisterous that it would have been impossible to row in the normal direction into the wind. The course was thus reversed. Earlier in the day the prevailing gales blew down the Wesley Boatshed and the two racing boats contained in it were destroyed. WC therefore raced in a borrowed boat from MGS. Mr S H Gowdie had the difficult task of starting the race and Mr C Cunningham acted as judge.

MGS were in difficulties from the start with their stroke side barely able to get their oars out at all. The stroke man caught a crab and broke his thowl (the row lock) thus making his difficult job far worse. GGS also suffered a crab allowing WC to come up on level terms. WC rowed on top of the water well and went out to a commanding lead of two lengths which was extended to four lengths after GGS caught another crab 200 yards from the finish.


  • 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
  • The Pincott Club Handbook 2006
  • Scotch Collegian magazine 1940
  • MGS first crew names - MGS boathouse
  • Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar Archives
  • SPORTING INTELLIGENCE. (1890, May 17). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), p. 2. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from
  • ROWING. (1890, May 19). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), p. 3. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from
  • The Argus 25th October 1890, from

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