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1868 Head of the River

This was the first Public School boat race in Victoria and was rowed on the Upper Yarra down stream on 18th June, 1868.

The race was the outcome of negotiations between two Melbourne Uiversity Boat Club members and school teachers at the schools, Mr. J. H. Thompson, on behalf of Melbourne Grammar School, and Mr. J. G. Johnstone, a member of the Scotch College staff. These gentlemen coached the respective crews. Crews had been rowing on the river for some time, but the challenge for the race issued by one of the Scotch College rowers was only made on 17th June. It was promptly accepted by Melbourne Grammar School, and even in those far-off days the contest aroused no little interest.

The challenge read as follows:
Eastern Hill, Melbourne. 17th June, 1868.

Dear Sir,

I am requested by the Scotch College Rowing Club to challenge you to a friendly four-oar gig race the race to be rowed on Thursday the 18th from the Botanical Bridge to Edwards' boat house, and subject to such conditions as the crews agree to.

1 am, Yours truly,

"Remus" of the Morning Herald of the day reported that despite several plucky attempts to collar their leaders, the "School" was beaten by the "College" by two lengths. [Most records show the margin as 1 length.]

The correspondent continued:
The winners received a regular ovation from their scholl-fellows. Indeed, it was the most hearty, genuine, and impulsive cheering heard on the river for many a day. ... It is hoped that the losers on this occasion will not despair at their first defeat, but that they will, on the contrary, persevere with the oar till victory crowns their efforts. Now that the ice is broken, we may expect to see many such races between our Public Schools.

The starting point of the race at the Botanic Gardens

The finishing point of the race, James Edwards boatshed being the left hand boatshed

Notice the original Prince's Bridge and swamps of South Melbourne

The course was the Upper Yarra from the Botanic Gardens corner to the Edwards boat shed near Prince's Bridge. The bend in the river at the Botanic Gardens prevented serious racing above that point. Both schools would have boated from the commercial boatsheds at Prince's Bridge.

The course was 1 mile.



Starter: Mr John C Johnstone
Umpire: Mr A Ross


Head of the River

No time taken
Margin: 1 length

1st Scotch College - Bow: Arthur C Wilson, 2: Adam Smith, 3: John C Field, Str: John A Brady, Cox: Frederick G White, Cch: John C Johnstone
2nd Melbourne Grammar School - Bow: J Sweeney, 2: George J Teague, 3: W Barker, Str: H Ryan, Cox: H M Strachan, Cch: J H Thompson

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