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History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1891 Head of the River

The twenty-fourth Head of the River returned to the Lower Yarra and so allowed all four crews to compete in the one race. The race was conducted on 15th May.

The race was one of the best ever staged in APS history. Not only was the margin between first and second three feet, only 2 feet separated second and third and 3 deet between third and fourth.

One of the two Scotch coaches was Stephen Morell, later Sir Stephen Morell, Lord Mayor of Melbourne and President of the Victorian Rowing Association. He was a good oarsman of his time.

Wesley rebuilt their boat shed on Albert Park Lake after its destruction the year before.

Index to Results:


Starter: Mr J L Irvine

Umpire: Mr George E Upward

Judge: Mr E Champion

1891 Floods at Princes Bridge

Photo from the Lindblade Collection, Mercantile Rowing Club

Head of the River

Time: 7:30.0
Margins: 3 feet, 2 feet & 3 lengths

1st Scotch College - Bow: Henry N Young 2: Herbert D Morrison, 3: William S Edgar, Str: Alexander R Lewis, Cox: Charles S Galbraith, Cchs: Frank O Johnston & Stephen J Morell
2nd Wesley College - Bow: J B Campbell, 2: H R Catford, 3: W R Thomson, Str: R C Whittingstone, Cox: H D Johnson, Cch: E A Derrick
3rd Geelong Grammar - Bow: V E Wettentall, 2: A Green, 3: T Clausen, Str: A W Whitney, Cox: H Cross, Cchs: James L Cuthbertson & W E P Austin
4th Melbourne Grammar - Bow: W G Howitt, 2: J B Calder, 3: H A Anderson, Str: A E T Payne, Cox: F N Pleasance, Cch: A S Workman

The Age reported as follows:
Wesley jumped away very quickly at the start, with Geelong & Scotch close up. In the first hundred yards Wesley got a few feet, Scotch and Geelong rowing stroke and stroke on level terms, Melbourne Grammar School falling in the rear. The three crews Wesley, Geelong and Scotch were rowing at top speed and in spite of the best exertions could not separate. Geelong were rowing in the best form. Scotch were using their superior power very well while, by dint of great pluck, and good condition, which enabled them to keep up a rapid rate of striking. Wesley were making a great race and were leading by a few feet at the three quarters of a mile. Effort after effort was made by Geelong and Scotch to draw ahead of one another, but spurt was answered by spurt and neither could shake off the plucky Wesley boys. When a mile had been rowed, and the three crews had been abreast for some distance Geelong made a brilliant dash and forged a few feet ahead of Scotch, Wesley losing a few feet. The last 200 yards the race was most exciting. No sooner had the “stroke” of the Geelong finished his spurt than the stroke of the Scotch College called upon his crew and at the same instant the Wesley made his final and best effort. From the steamer the three crews appeared to be exactly level as they dashed past the winning post and the report of the Judge’s pistol was heard. The verdict Scotch by three feet, Wesley two feet ahead of Geelong – was soon forthcoming and hearty cheers were given for the crews. Melbourne Grammar School had been passed by the steamer early in the race.

Thus ended the finest race ever rowed between our public schools and it will be long time before we see such another.

Melbourne Grammar Crew

Standing: Str: A Payne, Bow: W G Howitt
Sitting: 2: J B Calder, Cch: Mr A S Workman, 3: H A Anderson
Absent: F N Pleasance (cox)
Photo courtesy of Melbourne Grammar archives - Cat. No. 06568

Second Crews

(This was raced on 9th and 10th October 1891 on the Barwon and so not at the Head of the River regatta.)

Time: 5:51.0
Margin: 4 lengths

1st Geelong Grammar - Bow: G Greene, 2: C Cooper, 3: E James, Str: H Whittingham, Cox: H Cross
2nd Wesley College - Bow: E Keene, 2: W R Slatonby, 3: H Donahoo, Str: S Lawson, Cox: H Johnson

The Argus reported this race:

Wesley got off much the best, but Whittingham rowing a very lively stroke soon bought his boat alongside, and off the Austral Paper Mills had half a length to the good. In this position they rowed for 300 yards, the Wesley boys sticking to their work with the utmost determination. The longer swing and the greater weight, however, of the Geelong Boys told its tale at the half mile mark they were a length and a quarter on, and rowing very hard to the finish were winners by four lengths. Time 5 min 51 sec.

Other competitors:
Melbourne Grammar - Bow: G Bruce, 2: L Cleveland, 3: W Woodhouse, Str: R Bell, Str: L Jones
St Patrick's College East Melbourne -
Bow: W Maloney, 2: C Colgan, 3: J Loughnan, Str: J Rieley
(St Partrick's College was the first Catholic secondary school in Melbourne being founded in 1854. It was also an original public school of Victoria. In 1878 it opened a boarding school in Kew which later became Xavier College. The school closed in 1968.)

E1: 1st WC, 2nd SPC, Time: 6:15.5. Margin: 5 lengths
E2: 1st GGS, 2nd MGS, Time: 6:00.4. Margin: 1 3/4 lengths

Charles Shannon acted as Starter and umpire whilst David Strachan acted as judge.

The Argus reported on the heats as follows:

The 14th second crews’ race was rowed yesterday on the Barwon Regatta Course

First Heat
Wesley College v St Patrick’s College

After some delay Mr. Shannon got the boats off to a good start. Wesley first showed in advance, but a crab caught in the first 100 yards enabled St Patrick’s to get alongside. The Wesley boys, however, livened up and rowing at 42, took a lead of their opponents. Then the St Patrick’s caught a crab, and Wesley went fast away, in spite of game efforts of their opponents. Finally Wesley won by 5 or 6 lengths in 6 min 15 ½ sec.

Second Heat
Geelong Grammar School v Melbourne Grammar School

The two Grammar schools got off pretty evenly, Melbourne being a trifle the liveliest in the water, but Geelong rowing longer drew up, and after 300 yards had gained a ¼ of a length. Slowly drawing away the light blues had a bare length to their credit. At the half-mile mark, both boats rowing with the utmost determination, spite of the game efforts of the dark blues, the Geelong lads gained slightly over the last ½ mile and won an excellently contested race by a length and ¾. Time 6 min 2-5th sec.


  • 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
  • Lift her home to victory, lads! A centenary history of Xavier College 1906-2006 by Michael Lefebvre
  • Scotch Collegian magazine 1941
  • MGS first crew names from MGS boatshed
  • Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar Archives
  • ROWING. (1891, May 16). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from
  • AQUATICS. (1891, October 10). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 11. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from
  • ROWING. (1891, October 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 10. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from
  • Photo MGS - from MGS Archives
  • Photo 1891 floods - Lindblade collection, Mercantile Rowing Club

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