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History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1911 Head of the River

The forty-fourth Head of the River was again conducted on the Barwon River with Wesley again winning in fine style. They despatched an inexperienced Xavier crew in the heat easily and overcame the other schools in the final with ease.

No second crew races were again conducted.

This was the year when Charles Fairbairn donated a handsome perpetual trophy for the Head of the River. Charles was the first stroke a Geelong Grammar crew in this event.

The Geelong Advertiser reported on the changed rotation policy on venues as follows: Every five years the race takes place on the Barwon, and in the other years on the Yarra, but now that Geelong has two public schools (Grammar School and College) an effort is being made to have the contest carried out on the Barwon every three years.

The Fairbairn Cup in modern times


Starter: Major H Speed

Umpire: Mr F M Douglass

Judge: Mr C G Akins

Clerk of scales: Mr A I Ritchie

Head of the River

Time: 5:44.0
Margins: 1 and 1/2 length

1st Wesley College - Bow: W I Hayes, 2: C S Wood, 3: K F Abernethy, 4: W H Kaighin, 5: G C Rowe, 6: L G Holmes, 7: Reginald McClure Abernethy, Str: H S Dickenson, Cox: N S Edmundstone, Cch: Charles Donald
2nd Geelong Grammar - Bow: W L Cooke, 2: C O Fairbairn, 3: C F Drought, 4: A Davenport, 5: A C Bartlam, 6: C N Armytage, 7: W R Allen, Str: A Spowers, Cox: M N Sandford Jackson, Cch: Lt Col A F Garrard
3rd Melbourne Grammar
- Bow: K D Watson, 2: L Greive, 3: C M Johnston, 4: L J de Grut, 5: R R Hill, 6: L R Marks, 7: E A Winter, Str: C R Sheldon, Cox: C R B Norton, Cch: A J Sheppard

The Geelong Advertiser reported:
The crews got away well. Geelong Grammar School was the first to show out in front, but after going 100 yards the local boys bored towards the northern station, and their oars struck those of the Melbourne Grammar School, and Armytage, No. 6 in the Geelong boat, lost 'the blade of his oar’. He was therefore unable to render much service for the remainder of the journey. Wesley in the meantime forged ahead, and at Pakington Street had a lead of three-quarters of a length, which was increased to one length at the Albion Mills, and a length and a half at the bridge, eventually winning by a length from Geelong' Grammar School. Melbourne Grammar School was half a length away, third. The latter protested against the Geelong Grammar School for fouling, but the protest was dismissed. Subsequently Mrs. C. Fairbairn presented the Fairbairn Challenge Cup to the stroke of the Wesley College crew, and congratulated him on the good work done by his crew. He returned thanks, and, amid the wild cheering of his schoolfellows, carried off the trophy.

Other crews competing were:
Scotch College
- Bow: Euan I Littlejohn, 2: Neil H MacNeil, 3: Gordon O Robertson, 4: Clive H Disher, 5: Charles W A A Candy, 6: George L Hudson, 7: James R Morrison, Str: Harold W Harper, Cox: Frank P Smith, Cch: Albert G Lindblade
Xavier College
- Bow: F F Drake, 2: F R Byrne, 3: H C Schrader, 4: P X Cooney, 5: W J Flanagan, 6: R D Hayes, 7: J A Clarebrough, Str: Cecil L Quinlan, Cox: A G Cusson, Cch: Jack J Fogarty
Geelong College - Bow: N E S Birnie, 2: G A N Mitchell, 3: G C D Reid, 4: L N Strachan, 5: N L Campbell, 6: J R S Cochrane, 7: F M Collocot, Str: F G Herman, Cox: G G Carr, Cch: William H Pincott

Heat results:
E1: 1st WC, 2nd XC, Time: 6 min 7.4 secs, Margin: 2 lengths
E2: 1st GGS, 2nd SC, Time: 6 mins, Margin: 4 feet
E3: 1st MGS, 2nd GC, Time: 6 mins 5.4 secs, Margin: easily

The Geelong Advertiser reported:
Yesterday afternoon the three preliminary heats in the annual Public Schools' Head of the River contest were rowed on the Barwon Regatta course. ...

First Heat (Wesley College v Xavier College)
A good start was effected both crews dipping their oars into the water simultaneously. With long powerful strokes Wesley rapidly, forged ahead, and had a commanding lead at the Austral Paper Mills. Xavier were pulling well together, but did not put the same power into their strokes as their opponents, who always looked sure winners. Coming towards Pakington Street Xavier quickened their, stroke, but failed, to make any impression on Wesley, who in response to the calls of their coach were not over-exerting themselves. Nearing the Woollen Mills, Wesley led by two lengths. Xavier pluckily persevered, but were clearly no match for Wesley, who paddled home leisurely, and won by two lengths and a half. The winners, who had plenty in reserve, were never called upon at any stage to show their best powers. No doubt if they had been hard pushed, they could have reduced, their time by several, seconds. Time, 6min 7 2-5th sec.

Second Heat (Geelong Grammar v Scotch College)
As anticipated, this race was magnificently contested,- the crews being well matched. As they took up positions at the starting point there was intense excitement amongst the onlookers, who followed the race with keen, interest. The Grammar School crew drew ahead from the start, and led by over a canvas at the Paper Mills. Both crews were showing clean work, and were making the pace very hot. Inch by inch the Grammarians drew away from their opponents: their long sweeping strokes and generally good action reflected credit on themselves and their indefatigable coach. Midway between the Paper Mills and Pakington Street the Geelong boys had almost a-length's advantage. Scotch College reduced the leeway by three or four feet on passing Pakington-street. Not quite three quarters of a length separated the boats at the Woollen Mills. Scotch College began to creep up in the stretch to the bridge, and both crews were cheered for their fine effort. The Collegians finished pluckily and resolutely, but could not get up to the Grammar School, who crossed the line with a quarter of a length to spare. It was a capital finish, and both crews thoroughly deserved the ovation accorded them. Time 6 mins.

Third Heat (Melbourne Grammar v Geelong College)
This race also excited considerable interest. Melbourne broke away before the starting gun was fired, and there was a little delay before they got into position again. Eventually both were sent away to an excellent start. With short quick strokes Melbourne went to the front; and led by three feet at the Paper Mills. The College crew, despite their utmost efforts, began to fall back and the gap of a quarter of a length between the boats shortly after, passing the Austral Mills was increased to three-quarters of a length at Pakington Street. Melbourne were lifting then boat along with powerful strokes, and gradually drew away. They led by a length and a quarter at the bridge. The College finished gamely, but the Melburnians had no difficulty in wining by a length and three-quarters. Time, 6mins 5 2-5th sec.

1911 Wesley College Crew

Source: Wesley College Boatshed


  • The Pincott Club Handbook 2006.
  • The Victorian Oarsman by John Lang 1919 - A H Massina & Company
  • Lift her home to victory, lads! A centenary history of Xavier College 1906-2006 by Michael Lefebvre
  • Appendix to A Deepening Roar Scotch College 1851-2001 by James Mitchell, Allen & Unwin 2001
  • MGS first crew names from MGS boatshed
    HEAD OF THE RIVER. (1911, May 13). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), p. 3. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from
    HEAD OF THE RIVER (1911, May 15). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Where conflicts in names appear, the school record or school history is preferred in the absence of other information.

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