Scroll To Top
History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1931 Head of the River

The sixty-fourth Head of the River was raced on the Upper Yarra course thus enabling a three crew final.

The races were conducted on 14th and 15th May before a crowd of 100,000 spectators. Although not a public holiday, Melbourne was certainly hit by regatta day fever and it dominated both sporting and social activities all day and night.

However there was some controversy over the change of date. The Head-Masters decided, as an experiment this year, to hold the races on the last Thursday and Friday of the term, thereby not interfereing with the terms work. The extra week was appreciated by the coaches.


Starter: H J Green

Umpire and Timekeeper: T Crosthwaite

Judge: H T James

Clerk of Scales: W B Griffiths

Despatch Steward: T Mannix

Mark Shea

Mark Shea took over the Xavier College crew in 1928 and had immediate success winning in both 1928 & 1929. He was a fine all round athlete and rower with the Civil service Rowing Club which later merged with Melbourne Rowing Club. The 1967 centenary program stated: " For years Mark took a leading part in rowing at Xavier, and those privileged to be associated with him look back with gratitude to his guiding influence on their lives. No doubt they enjoyed his occasional headers into the river when concentration on his crew made his bicycle riding erratic, but nothing he ever did lost him the respect and love of Xavierians."

Head of the River

Time: 4:53.5
Margins: 1 length and 2.5 lengths

1st Melbourne Grammar - Bow: E D Scott, 2: J W P Wilson, 3: R S Wilmoth, 4: T W Saxton, 5: F E C Loxton, 6: K F Cole, 7: D J Wilson, Str: T H Collins, Cox: R Eckersley, Cch: Walter E "Wally: Ricketts
2nd Wesley College - Bow: D A V Eastaugh, 2: R S Ley, 3: W d'a Curtis, 4: A W Mitchell, 5: D V Peck, 6: C D Camberlain, 7: J McCulloch, Str: J G Girdwood, Cox: W H Mason-Cox, Cch: Charles W Donald
3rd Xavier College - Bow: R J Calvert, 2: J N Coghlan, 3: G J Perrignon, 4: D G Sheahan, 5: J P Roche, 6: R T McMinn, 7: Gerald F Jones, Str: Jim T Gartlan, Cox: J R England, Cch: Mark Shea

The Age reported that there were 100,000 spectators present.

As the crews lined up at the start MGS were on the south, Wesley the centre, and Xavier the north stations. There was no wind, and the surface of the river was quite calm. MGS, rowing at 38, got going best, and Xavier and Wesley each stroking 40 in the opening effort. Shortly after the start MGS had a slight “flop”, but did not lose anything thereby. They slowly forged ahead, and dropped the rate to 36, the other two crews striking slightly faster. At the bridge MGS were two-thirds of a length ahead of Wesley, who were a similar distance ahead of Xavier. Coming to the corner Wesley were holding the leaders, but Xavier were dropping back. Turning the corner MGS were still two-thirds of a length ahead. Wesley being a length ahead of Xavier. Coming down the straight Wesley and Xavier were both striking about 38, and MGS were maintaining 36, at which rate they slowly forged ahead, whilst Wesley also began to draw away from Xavier over the last stage of the race. MGS won by a length and a canvas, with two lengths and a half between second and third. Time: 4 min 53 ½ sec.

The finish of the race

Photo courtesy of MGS archives

Melbourne Grammar crew

Back row (from left): J.P.W. Wilson, T.W. Saxton, Mr W.N. Ricketts Esq., R.S. Wilmoth and E.D. Scott. Seated: K.F. Cole, T.H. Collins, R. Eckersley (cox), D.J. Wilson and F.E.C. Loxton.
Photo courtesy of MGS archives

Wesley College crew

Xavier College crew

Other crews were:
Geelong Grammar - Bow: J W Leitch, 2: H M Rutter, 3: H G Coombe, 4: J C Barclay, 5: W E Lloyd, 6: C M Howell, 7: N C Campbell, Str: R E White, Cox: B H O'Beirne, Cch: William H Pincott
Scotch College - Bow: John F Ross, 2: Albert E Carlyle, 3: Roy Ferguson, 4: Henry D L Thompson, 5: George I Anderson, 6: Ian M Bertram, 7: Colin S McKay, Str: William D Refshauge, Cox: Kenneth F E Cook, Cch: Charles W B Littlejohn
Geelong College - Bow: J K Watson, 2: J P Stoker, 3: F G Funston, 4: S W Robertson, 5: H C Tippett, 6: G M Biggin, 7: D L John, Str: A R Hinchliffe, Cox: E M Emerson, Cch: C J Collyer

Geelong Grammar crew

Scotch College crew

A E Carlyle, H D L Thompson, Dr C W B Littlejohn, R Ferguson, J F Ross
I M Bertram, W D Refshauge, C McKay, G I Anderson
K F E Cook
Photo from the Scotch Collegian

Geelong College crew

E1: 1st MGS, 2nd SC - Time: 5:22.5, Margin: 3 lengths
E2: 1st WC, 2nd GGS - Time: 5:22.5, Margin: 1/2 length
E3: 1st XC, 2nd GC - Time: 5:30, Margin: 1 length

The Age led with the heading: There must have been 70,000 or 80,000 people present.

First Heat - MGS v Scotch

In the first heat MGS had the north station and Scotch the centre. Both went off together, striking at about 36, but MGS were rowing a much more powerful stroke, which soon forced their boat to the front. Half-way to the bridge the dark blues were a canvas ahead, and this had been increased to a quarter of a length at the bridge. Both crews steadied down to about 34 strokes on the run to the corner, and at this point the wind was bad, raising a nasty was. MGS, on the inside, had the best of the water, and forged further ahead. Scotch were now troubled by the waves and No. 5 came to grief in a particularly bad wash, the oar going behind his back. MGS were over three lengths ahead when Scotch again got going, and the latter could make no impression for the remainder of the course. MGS won by 3 and a ½ lengths in 5 min 22 sec.

Second Heat - Geelong Grammar v Wesley

In the second heat Geelong had the north and Wesley the centre station. Both moved off the mark very fast, striking about 40. Wesley were rowing the better form and had more length, taking the blades through more solidly. The Wesley crew immediately took the lead, and had a third of a length lead half-way to the bridge. At the bridge Wesley were half a length ahead, which was increased to ¾ of a length approaching the corner. Geelong now began to hold their rivals, then moved up. Coming round the bend the light blues picked up nearly half a length, and as the boats came into the straight there was little between them. Coming down the straight Wesley were striking about 38 and Grammar about 36. At Brander’s the Geelong boys were almost level. Both crews then made a fine effort in the rough water, but the Geelong boat rolled badly and they lost a little. Wesley blade work was somewhat ragged towards the finish and the boat rolled dangerously, but the lads picked it up in their swing, and crossed the line half a length ahead. Time: 5 min 22 ½ sec.

Third Heat - Xavier v Geelong College

In the third heat Geelong College had the north and Xavier the centre station. The wind at this time was stronger at the start, and the umpire remarked that it was difficult to get the crews lined up. Both crews got away about 40. Xavier, rowing with more length, were more effective. At the bridge Xavier were just in front, although it was thought they would have had half a length at this point. Coming to the turn Xavier had increased the lead to a third of a length, and the Geelong crew failed to improve their position at the bend, where they had the advantage of the station. It was a great struggle to Brander’s with the Geelong boys slowly drawing up. Xavier, however, maintained their length with good drive, and the lack of length in the Geelong boat was disastrous for the finishing effort, in which Xavier began to row away, and won by a length and a quarter. Time: 5 min 30 sec.

Second Crews

(This race was conducted amongst Melbourne metropolitan schools on the Upper Yarra on 9th May and was not conducted at the Head of the River regatta)

Time: 2:41.6
Margins: Canvas and 1 foot

1st Wesley College - Bow: N F Pescott, 2: C D A Hanna, 3: A J Horsefield, 4: W D Hales, 5: T R J Walduck, 6: M J Poysden, 7: M R Millikan, Str: H K Richardson, Cox: R J Mason-Cox, Cch: R J D Turnbull
2nd Melbourne Grammar
- Bow: P N Gunn, 2: A Aitken, 3: H Haseltine, 4: P J Alston, 5: C G Pitts, 6: K BBurnside, 7: J H Thomas, Str: R S Forge, Cox: R S McKillop, Cch: H R Hunt
3rd Scotch College
- Bow: B K Armstrong, 2: J D Balfe, 3: R Drummond, 4: D R Stone, 5: J B Todd, 6: R B Hume, 7: W J White, Str: J R Collie, Cox: S N M Stirling, Cch: C G Boyes
4th Xavier College
- Bow: E Fakhry, 2: P Trahair, 3: M Redding, 4: J McCaffrey, 5: R Whitehead, 6: A Grant, 7: C McLean, Str: A England, Cox: J McConvill

The Age reported as follows: The race for the second crews provided a thrilling struggle. Wesley took the lead early, but could not draw much ahead. Over the last one hundred yards ¾ of a length would cover the four crews, and Wesley reached the line a canvas ahead. Grammar beat Scotch for second by only a foot. Time: 2 min 41 3-5th sec.

Third Crews

(This race was conducted amongst Melbourne metropolitan schools on the Upper Yarra on 9th May and was not conducted at the Head of the River regatta)

Time: 2:40.0
Margins: 3 feet, a canvas and one length

1st Wesley College - Bow: W J V Watson, 2: F L Jones, 3: L N Lamble, 4: J B Curtis, 5: T E Ingpen, 6: G C Hartnell, 7: N S Hosking, Str: L M Brown, Cox: A W Stubbs, Cch: W G Rolfe
2nd Melbourne Grammar
- Bow: B A Carnegie, 2: W J Rosenthal, 3: H P Braddock, 4: B J Hoffent, 5: D A Calder, 6: D R Brown, 7: W H Miller, Str: P S Teesdale-Smith, Cox: W Nodram, Cch: C R Franklin
3rd Scotch College
- Bow: D T Galt, A L Kong, 3: J S McK Stewart, 4: L F Orr, 5: A R Paton, 6: B Widmer, 7: F W Mitchell, Str: N J Weston, Cox: N Nicholson, Cch: G G Powell
4th Xavier College
- Bow: A Aird, 2: J Smith, 3: A Gaillard, 4: B Murphy, 5: D Firth, 6: F Barlee, 7: B Buxton, Str: A Rice, Cox: C O'Loghlen, Cchs: W Fox and J Cass

The Age reports as follows: In the race for the thirds, Wesley seemed to be the first to show in front, and after going a short distance Xavier dropped back. MGS kept rather too close to the south bank in dead water. At the end of the Henley staging Wesley and MGS were fighting a great race with Scotch close handy. MGS finished strongly, but Wesley maintained a smart lead, and passed the line with a narrow margin of three feet to spare, whole Scotch were only a canvas behind MGS, with Xavier being a length away. Time: 2 min 40 sec.

Fourth Crews

(This race was conducted amongst Melbourne metropolitan schools on the Upper Yarra on 9th May and was not conducted at the Head of the River regatta)

Time: 2:33.4
Margin: 0.3 length and 1 length

1st Melbourne Grammar - Bow: J G Wilson, 2: D V Hyams, 3: I P James, 4: H M Sandford, 5: E G Arnold, 6: S J Fraser, 7: T I R Walker, Str: J E King, Cox: R L Daniel, Cch: I E Giles
2nd Scotch College
- Bow: P Komesaroff, 2: A Goldsmith, 3: P Peltier, 4: D R Gauld, 5: C C Wark, 6: A Sloan, 7: K B Hume, Str: J O Lavarack, Cox: A Addison, Cch: David B Skewes
3rd Melbourne Grammar fifth crew - Bow: P J Hirst, 2: J M McMillan, 3: A D Johnston, 4: A R Turner, 5: R D Langley, 6: I H Green, 7: D B Grout, Str: C L Thompson, Cox: W Aitkin

MGS Fourth Crew

From left: R L Daniel, J E Klug, T I R Walker, S J Fraser, E G Arnold, H M Sampford, I P James, D V Hyams and J G Wilson
Photo courtesy of MGS archives

MGS fifth crew

From left: W Aitkin (cox), C L Thompson, D B Grout, I H Green, R D Langley, A R Turner, A D Johnston, J M McMillan and P J Hirst
Photo courtesy of MGS archives

The Age reported: Scotch and MGS were the only schools with fourths crews this year, although the four schools were represented last year in this event. MGS also had a fifth crew, which started in this race. The MGS crew, on the south station, soon took the lead, while their school mates in the fifth crew dropped back behind Scotch. Towards the finish Scotch made a determined effort, but the dark blues had established too big a lead in the earlier part of the race to be overtaken, and won by a third of a length from Scotch, who were a length ahead of the Grammar fifth eight. Time: 2 min 33 2-5th sec.


  • 1931 APS Head of the River Program
  • The Pincott Club Handbook 2006
  • Scotch Collegian May 1941
  • 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
  • ROWING. (1931, May 11). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from
  • HEAD OF THE RIVER (1931, May 15). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 11. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from
  • HEAD OF THE RIVER. (1931, May 16). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from

< previous 1930

> next 1932

Website by Hope Stewart—Website Design & Management