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History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1923 Head of the River

Melbourne Grammar returned after a long gap to the winners podium at the fifty-sixth Head of the River on the Upper Yarra. The heats were conducted on 11th May with the finals on 12th May.

Melbourne led by a long way but were pegged back to only 1/2 length by the finish.

Geelong Grammar was coached by William H Pincott for the first time. Pincott had coached Geelong College from 1908 to 1916 inclusive before joining GGS. Pincott continued to coach the Grammar crews until 1945. The GGS rowing supporters group, the Pincott Club, is named in his honour.

William Harwood Pincott


Starter: T Davies

Umpire: T Crosthwaite
Clerk of Scales: K H Hadley

Head of the River

Time: 5:54.4
Margins: 1/2 length and 3 lengths

1st Melbourne Grammar - Bow: C R Weir, 2: L G Travers, 3: N D L Waters, 4: E H Bawden, 5: F H Shore, 6: J C Garron, 7: T A Alston, Str: L K Corteen, Cox: C G McMicking, Cch: E Tulloch
2nd Geelong Grammar - Bow: J T Gildea, 2: T R Carr, 3: C A MacFarlane, 4: J B Bell, 5: D R Hawkes, 6: J A Tallis, 7: R W M Onslow, Str: J A Hardy, Cox: I R Mann, Cch: William H Pincott
3rd Scotch College - Bow: Peter A Learmonth, 2: Stanley G Hawthorne, 3: Stanley W Williams, 4: Gibson Shaw, 5: John McLorinan, 6: Stewart D Millar, 7: Victor H Beament, Str: Alexander F Sloan, Cox: Bruce McA Foster, Cch: Alexander B Sloan

The weather conditions did not improve from the blustery conditions experienced in the heats. Accordingly there were difficulties at the start and Scotch did not get away well, and in fact were never in the hunt. The two Grammar schools however had a good race. The Mebourne boys got out to a winnable lead which was fortunate as several boys in the crew crabbed just before the line. Fortunately the boat made it across the line without being caught by the Geelong crew.

The Age reported on the final as follows:

The presence of approximately 80,000 spectators was manifestation sufficient of the amazing public interest that has developed in competition with this collegate boat race.

Shortly after 3 o’clock the crews lined up, Scotch being on the north, Melbourne Grammar on the centre and Geelong Grammar on the south. The crews went off together, but in a few strokes Geelong Grammar began to forge ahead and were soon half a length in the lead. Melbourne Grammar then commenced to draw away from Scotch, and set after the leaders. At the bridge, Melbourne Grammar were within a canvas of Geelong and the latter became a little unsteady as they met the wind. Melbourne Grammar were her rowing beautifully together and quickly went to the front, opening up a lead of a length and a half by the time the boats straightened up for the last half mile. At this point Scotch were a length further away. Coming down the straight there was very little alteration in the positions except that Scotch seemed to drop further back. On reaching the Henley staging Melbourne were still a length and a half in front, and as they were maintaining their form better than Geelong, it looked as though the latter were well beaten. This, however, was not the case, as the crew made a great effort and quickly began to overhaul the leaders. The distance however was too short, and Melbourne Grammar still had the advantage of half a length when the judge’s pistol fired. Geelong Grammar finished three lengths ahead of Scotch College. The time was 5 mins 54 secs.

Other crews included:
Xavier College - Bow: L J Plunkett, 2: P H Daly, 3: Christopher S Ryan, 4: L Hobbs, 5: N G Lawford, 6: W Gorman, 7: K Murphy, Str: John R Thomson, Cox: W Doran, Cch: Wilfred "Bill" Cahill
Wesley College - Bow: A R M Johnson, 2: A J Ralton, 3: A R Mansell, 4: K C C Davey, 5: V J L Baker, 6: O D Jones, 7: S G Nash, Str: K P Bladen, Cox: R J Lambert, Cch: Charles Donald
Geelong College- Bow: C F Waugh, 2: W B Hindle, 3: H C Fallaw, 4: H A Anderson, 5: R C McKay, 6: A L Rentoul, 7: A D Sproat, Str: E G Greeves, Cox: D M Dickson, Cch: H E Hurst

E1: 1st MGS, 2nd WC, Time: 6:11.0, Margin: 1 1/4 lengths. The strong SW wind caused difficulties in the start. WC led early but were overtaken by MGS from Morell Bridge, then known as Monier Bridge.
E2: 1st GGS, 2nd GC, Time: 6:17.0, Margin: 1 1/2 lengths. In similar fashion to the first heat, GC led early but wer overtaken at the Monier Bridge (now Morell Bridge).
E3: 1st SC, 2nd XC, Time: 6:33.0, Margin 1/2 length. SC had a bad start and XC capitalised on it well, taking an early lead. SC fought back to take the lead. A crab by the SC two man, brought the crews back level again but then SC settled themselves to take the race by 0.5 length.

The Age reported on the heats in some detail.

First Heat - Wesley College v Melbourne Grammar

Wesley had the north and Melbourne Grammar had the centre station. The former went off at 38, Grammar being slightly lower. At the bridge Grammar were a canvas in front, rowing at 35. Wesley then began to draw up, and were level at the corner. Grammar then drew away, rowing 34 to Wesley’s 35. The dark blues had ½ a length at Brander’s, and then ¾ at the Henley staging. A squall then struck the boats, and Melbourne Grammar’s bow side riggers went under water. Wesley came up slightly, but L. Corteen put in a well-judged spirt, and, maintaining his length, drew away again to win a length and a ¼ in 6 min 11 sec.

Second Heat - Geelong Grammar v Geelong College

Geelong College on the north station got away at a rate of 40. Geelong Grammar on the centre station at 36…. But Grammar were level at the bridge, retaining their position to the corner. When they struck the wind coming into the straight, Grammar got unsteady, and College again showed in front. Grammar again got together, and with fine pieces of rowing, drew away, rowing 32 to 34 by the College. Nearing the finish, Grammar raised the rate to 36, this being a really fine effort, and quite the best bit of rowing for the day. The crew quickly drew away and won by a length and a ½ in 6 min 17 sec.

Third Heat - Scotch College v Xavier College

Scotch College on the north, got away at 36, Xavier, in the centre, starting at 35. Xavier were soon a canvas in front, and had increased the lead to a ¼ of a length at the bend. Scotch began to draw up on the run to the corner, and as the crews were coming into the straight the Xavier’s boat rolled badly to the bow side, the boat swinging across the course, and was in danger of fouling. In straightening up the cox got out a little too wide, though the wind may have been responsible for this. Scotch then went ahead, and were soon ½ a length in front. Xavier, however, rowing very clean stroke in rough water in the rough water, were putting up a great fight, and when one of the Scotch crew crabbed slightly Xavier drew up. The excitement was great, and as the two crews race on it was still either’s race. Xavier, however, did not make much impression over the last hundred yards, and Scotch won a most exciting race by ½ a length in 6 min 33 sec.

Winning Melbourne Grammar crew

Photo courtesy of MGS archives

Geelong Grammar crew

Scotch College crew

1923 Xavier College crew

1923 Wesley College crew

1923 Geelong College crew

The coaches were given their own page in the program

Second Crews

(This race was not conducted at the Head of the River regatta, but the week beforehand on 5th May.)

Time: NTT
Margins: 3 feet, 1/2 length and 1 foot

1st Melbourne Grammar
2nd Wesley College
3rd Scotch College
4th Xavier College

Third Crews

(This race was not conducted at the Head of the River regatta, but the week beforehand on 5th May.)

Time: NTT
1/2 canvas and 1/2 length

1st Melbourne Grammar
2nd Scotch College
3rd Wesley College
4th Xavier College


  • 1923 regatta program
  • The Pincott Club Handbook 2006
  • 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
  • Second and Third Crews' Races (1923, May 7). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 11. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from
  • HEAD OF THE RIVER. (1923, May 12). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from
  • HEAD OF THE RIVER (1923, May 14). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from

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