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History of the Victorian APS Head of the River rowing regatta

1953 Head of the River

Geelong Grammar did the Barwon proud with a half length win in the Head of the River, and also victories in 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th crews.

This was the eighty-sixth Head of the River which was conducted on the Barwon on 18th and 19th April.

Head of the River

Time: 4:45.0
Margins: 1/2 length and a canvas

Losers final
Time: 4:45.0
Margins: 3/4 length and 3/4 length

1st Geelong Grammar - Bow: W R R Beggs, 2: W N Stretch, 3: N E R Lawrence, 4: G F Collisson, 5: R Jamieson, 6: John E Sutherland, 7: Robin B Ritchie, Str: Ian E Douglas, Cox: R McK R Southby, Cch: John E L Barber
2nd Wesley College - Bow: J C Ruddock, 2: R V Sarah, 3: M G J Higgs, 4: J E S Martin, 5: P J Hoadley, 6: J W Frederick, 7: R H Blyth, Str: A R Boyt, Cox: H N Hall, Cch: Alan W Mitchell
3rd Geelong College - Bow: J G Waugh, 2: J P Saxton, 3: G T McKinnon, 4: B H Scott, 5: N R McDonald, 6: W A W Wood, 7:J M Buntine, Str: I W Macmillan, Cox: J F H New, Cch: Albert B Bell

The Age reported on the finals follows.

The three crews got away well together, and it was not until the ¼ mile mark when Wesley faltered momentarily, that Geelong Grammar hit the lead.

At the half mile, the three crews were locked together, but at this point, as they did in their heat, Geelong Grammar sprinted suddenly and went to a half length lead.

Maintaining this lead for the rest of the race, the light blues showed they were one of the strongest crew ever. They were untroubled to withstand a finishing burst by Wesley and crossed the line with half a length to spare.

Geelong Grammar won by ½ a length to Wesley, with Geelong College a canvas further back. 4min 45 sec.

Losers Final
1st Melbourne Grammar - Bow: H Wallace-Mitchell, 2: M D Holt, 3: P J Hunt, 4: E M K Hilditch, 5: R L Simpson, 6: R B Gowan, 7: J W Mitchie, Str: C J Smith, Cox: P W L Humphris, Cch: Roger D Day
2nd Scotch College - Bow: Robert J Grant, 2: Alan J B Bell, 3: Richard B Hatherley, 4: Jeffrey D Hawes, 5: Garry S Day, 6: James D Moran, 7: Robert J O'Neill, Str: Leonard D Fisher, Cox: C Peter H Boykett, Cch: Charles G Saleh 3rd Xavier College - Bow: J F Edmonds, 2: J T Stevens, 3: M J Eatter, 4: K C Andrews, 5: R M Galbraith, 6: Leo R Hart, 7: B W O'Dwyer, Str: Brendan G Belleville, Cox: A M Macleod, Cch: Kevin J Corridon

Melbourne Grammar First Crew

Standing: M.D. Holt (3), E.M.H. Hilditch (4), R.G. Day, Esq. (Coach), P.J. Hunt (3), H. Wallace-Mitchell (Bow). Seated: R.B. Gowan (6), C.J. Smith (Stroke), P.W.L. Humphris (Cox), J.W. Michie (7), R.L. Simpson (5)
Photo courtesy of Melbourne Grammar Archives

The losers’ final resulted in a fine victory for MGS. The Grammar boys rowed in copy-book style to defeat Scotch College by ¾ of a length, with Xavier a similar distance away third. 4min 45sec.

Scotch College First Crew

Photo: The Scotch Collegian June 1953

Heat results:
E1: 1st WC, 2nd XC, Time: 4:46.0, Margin 4 lengths
E2: 1st GC, 2nd SC, Time: 4:46.0, Margin: 2 lengths
E3: 1st GGS, 2nd MGS, Time: 4:37.0, Margin: 1/2 length

The Age reported on the heats as follows.

First Heat - Xavier v Wesley

Getting away well, both crews moved quickly through the smooth water near the start, with Xavier stroking at a higher rating.

However, Wesley soon forged to a half length lead, rowing with greater length, and, nearly a stone heavier than Xavier, they were using their extra weight to their advantage.

At the half-way mark both crews were rowing smoothly, and their smart blade work suited the conditions of the day.

However Wesley showed no mercy, and, as Xavier began to tire, they increased their lead to win easily by four lengths. 4 min 46sec.

Second Heat - Scotch v Geelong College

Neater bladework and a better start enabled Geelong College to provide the surprise of the day when they defeated Scotch College in the second heat.

Over the first half Scotch trailed Geelong College through washing out on many strokes. A near crab at the mile post cost them half a length.

Scotch staged a determined recovery at the ¾ mark. They were able to get within half a length of Geelong College, who were rowing well within themselves and went away to win by two lengths. 4min 46sec.

Third Heat - Geelong Grammar v MGS

Both crews got away to a fast start, with Geelong Grammar establishing a lead of half a canvas, before settling down to match Melbourne Grammar’s steady rhythm and good balance.

Until the ¾ mile post, neither crew had established a clear advantage. Both crews were putting plenty of power behind their strokes, with Geelong Grammar striking a higher rate.

After the first mile, the Geelong stroke showed good judgement when he increased the rating and opened up a lead of ¾ of a length before entering the rough stretch of water near the woolen mills.

An exciting finish was provided when the light blues became unsettled by a near crab on bow side when they were 50 yards from the line. However, they recovered quickly to cover a sharp finishing burst by MGS and cross the line with half a length in hand. 4min 37sec.

Second Crews

Time: 2:27.2
Margins: 3/4 length and a canvas

Losers final
Time: 2:31.4
Margins: 3/4 length and a canvas

1st Geelong Grammar - Bow: R M Legoe, 2: G L Falkner, 3: J N Black, 4: J B Sutherland, 5: A A Gibson, 6: A F Chirnside, 7: C J Siemer, Str: J G Learmonth, Cox: J Peter King
2nd Scotch College - Bow: D M Bruce, 2: D L Bardas, 3: N R Scott, 4: A Kirsner, 5: A M W Courtney, 6: D H Munro, 7: M J Edgar, Str: D I Tilley, Cox: G D Lawrence, Cchs: A W L Mitchell and L H Christie
3rd Geelong College

1953 Geelong Grammer Second crew, photo courtesy of Peter King

Scotch College Second Crew 

Photo: The Scotch Collegian June 1953 

Losers final:
1st Melbourne Grammar
2nd Wesley College
3rd Xavier College
- Bow: N Regan, 2: A Feely, 3: P Dowling, 4: M Henderson, 5: D Jones, 6: J Breheny, 7: H Clark, Str: P Sulivan, Cox: G Reilly, Cch: Fr M O'Mahoney SJ

Melbourne Grammar Second Crew

Photo courtesy of Melbourne Grammar Archives

E1: 1st GGS, 2nd MGS, Time: 2:27.2, Margin: 1/3 length
E2: 1st SC, 2nd WC, Time: 2:28.0. Margin: 3/4 length
E3: 1st GC, 2nd XC, Time: 2:29.0, Margin: 1 3/4 length

Third Crews

Time: 2:32.6
Margins: 1/3 length and 1 length

Losers final
Time: 2:33.0
Margins: 1/4 length and 1/2 length

1st Geelong Grammar
2nd Wesley College
3rd Xavier College

Losers final
1st Scotch College - Bow: C W Johnson, 2: W A Johnston, 3: D J MacDonald, 4: D K Sennitt, 5: R E English, 6: N R C Cooper, 7: J R Lacey, Str: M Stigter, Cox: R F Pitman, Cch: L H Christie
2nd Melbourne Grammar
3rd Geelong College

E1: 1st XC, 2nd MGS, Time: 2:32.4, Margin: 1/2 length
E2: 1st WC, 2nd GC, Time: 2:31.0, Margin: 2 feet
E3: 1st GGS, 2nd SC, Time: 2:34.2, margin: 3/4 length


  • 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
  • Geelong Grammar Set for Rowing Title (1953, April 18). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved April 24, 2017, from
  • Times: Geelong crews, Wesley, win heats (1953, April 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 38. Retrieved April 24, 2017, from
  • Head-of-River Title to Powerful Geelong Crew (1953, April 20). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved April 24, 2017, from

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