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1879 Head of the River

Heats for the twelfth Head of the River race were conducted on the Upper Yarra on 10th and 14th May. The final was conducted on the Barwon River for the first time on 17th May. Despite the change, again a two crew final format was adopted.

Scotch and Geelong were now equal with two wins each for the Sumner Challenge Cup. There was therefore keen interest in the race, accentuated by a controversy between the schools as to the correct interpretation of the conditions laid down by the donor.

The heats however were conducted on the Upper Yarra on the insistence of Scotch College. Geelong Grammar tried the same argument used by Scotch a couple of years earlier, namely as holders of the event, they need not race the heats. This was not agreed to by the other schools. They also claimed that they should not have to row the heats in Melbourne. They lost this argument also. The dispute was fully documented in correspondence in the Australasian. In the end, Geelong came to Melbourne to compete in the preliminaries.

Geelong was a clear favourite having the same crew as the previous year which had performed so well. The opinions of rowing men supported this conclusion. However the race was an easy victory for Scotch with resulting great enthusiasm shown at the finish.

Scotch, having won the Sumner Challenge Cup this year and thus three times, became the owner of the trophy in perpetuity.

Index to Results:




Starter: Prof Martin Howy Irving

Umpire: Prof Martin Howy Irving

Judge: Mr Tom Colles

Prof Martin Howy Irving


Head of the River

Time: NTT
Margin: 5 lengths

1st Scotch College - Bow: William T Whan, 2: David Aitken, 3: Sampson J R Greville, Str: Henry C Elliot, Cox: Frederick J Edwards, Cch: John Wallace
2nd Geelong Grammar - Bow: W Manifold, 2: F L Armytage, 3: Stephen Fairbairn, Str: G M Smith, Cox: R A D Hood, Cch: James L Cuthbertson

GGS were the favourites for this race but SC despatched them easily.

Other crews competing:
Melbourne Grammar - Bow: R Henderson, 2: A W Brazier, 3: F E Thoneman, Str: H B Barlow, Cox: Arthur Edwards, Cch: Mr Stirling
Wesley College - Bow: G Stewart, 2: J W Parnell, 3: C A Macdonald, Str: A Turnbull, Cox: E K Cuths, Cchs: Prof H M Andrew & G H Brown

E1: 1st SC, 2nd WC, Time: 8:45.0. Margin: 3 lengths
E2: 1st GGS, 2nd MGS, Time: 9:00.0. Margin: 3 lengths

School Second Four

(This race was conducted on the Upper Yarra on 13th and 14th October and so not part of the Head of the River event.)

Time: No time available
Margin: 1/2 length

1st Wesley College
2nd Geelong Grammar

Other crews competing:
Scotch College
Melbourne Grammar

E1: 1st WC, 2nd SC. Margin: 2 lengths
E2: 1st GGS, 2nd MGS. Margin: 3/4 length



  • 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.
  • Scotch Collegian 1940
  • Photo - Victorian Oarsman as above

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