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1884 Head of the River

Scotch College, under their new coach Alfred Pace, won handsomely from their old rivals Melbourne Grammar after defeating Geelong Grammar by 3 lengths in the heat.

The seventeenth Head of the River was conducted over 1 1/4 miles on the Upper Yarra with the heat on 16th May and the final the next day on 17th May.

Wesley withdrew from the race due to illness with the two man.

Index to Results:



Starter: Mr G G Henderson

Umpire: Mr A Nicholls

Judge: Mr J M Colville

Head of the River

Time: NTT
Margin: 2 1/2 lengths

1st Scotch College - Bow: Ewen C McPherson, 2: Andrew R Roberstson, 3: James L Bell, Str: John A Petersen, Cox: Henry N Young, Cch: Alfred W Pace
2nd Melbourne Grammar - Bow: G H B Teague, 2: W C MacKnight, 3: L C Pender, Str: E Champion, Cox: E Higinbotham, Cch: W M Burn

Other crew competing:
Geelong Grammar
- Bow: H S Crabbe, 2: A M Morgan, 3: F W Fairbairn, Str: T W Bailey, Cox: F N Clarke, Cch: Mr Christie

Heat result:
E1: 1st SC, 2nd GGS, Margin 3 lengths.
E2: Wesley withdrew due to illness so MGS secured the bye.

The following is an extract from a speech given by Sir Frank Robinson KCMG on 7th July 1932 about his experiences as a young boy at the Head of the River in 1884.

The first Public School event I saw was the Boat Race of 1884, which took place about three or four weeks after I had entered the School.

One day I saw a huge boy who, to one as diminutive as I was then, seemed a giant, quite eight feet high, I thought. "That's him," said, another boy to me, "that's Peterson, the stroke of the crew!" "What crew?" I asked and then was informed of the boat races which began in 1868, and even then were regarded as the best of the School contests.

In those days the race was rowed from the Botanical Gardens Bridge to Edwards' boatshed. The river's course was more winding than at present, and the good athletes ran the whole way along the bank during the race, shouting encouragement to the crew. Scotch won its heat, against Wesley, I think, [in fact it was GGS] and the next day had to meet Melbourne Grammar in the final.

As I was leaving the river after the first day's heats I met a boy who had been with me at a preparatory school, but who was quite thirteen and a half years old and five feet, three inches high, as compared with my bare twelve years and less than five feet. Besides he had been at a Public School for a year and a quarter. Obviously his knowledge must be as profound as my ignorance. He spoke kindly to me, and patronisingly pointing out the Grammar crew to me. He said, "There, youngster, is the crew that will heat Scotch tomorrow." This made me very despondent, but in the result Scotch won the final by two good lengths, and I went home very happy and very hoarse. Was I not now part of the School? Had I not "barracked" for one of its teams?

Ever since then the Boat Race and contests with Melbourne Grammar in any sport have been of special interest to me. 


Second Crew

(This event was raced on the Upper Yarra but not as part of the Head of the River regatta.)

Time: NTT
Margin: 3 lengths

1st Geelong Grammar
2nd Scotch College

Other crews:
Wesley College
Melbourne Grammar

E1: 1st GGS, 2nd WC. Margin 4 lengths
E2: 1st SC, 2nd MGS. Margin: 1/3 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 magazine 1932 and 1934

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