The fifty-second Head of the River race is the one most spoken about in APS Head of the River history. There were many reasons for this. Not only was the result a dead heat and the two crews had to re-row the final later in the day, but also there was the euphoria of the Armistice which contributed to huge crowds attending to witness both the heats and final.
Details of the racing which took place on 23 and 24 May 1919 on the Upper Yarra are detailed below.
Margin: dead heat and 2 lengths
Margin: One canvas
1st Scotch College - Bow: Inglis H Cowling, 2: James M Buchanan, 3: Henry C Maling, 4: John G Paton, 5: Beresford H Cole, 6: Russell H Keon-Cohen, 7: George M Dallimore, Str: Cecil N McKay, Cox: Darell D Best, Cch: Alexander B Sloan
2nd Xavier College - Bow: A C Keane, 2: H E Shiel, 3: L J Lewis, 4: R E Foran, 5: I M McGinnis, 6: R S Porter, 7: V J Lanigan, Str: John S Acton, Cox: J Hunter, cch: David Ross
3rd Geelong Grammar - Bow: C R Speeding, 2: W S Fraser, 3: R E Webb-Ware, 4: F S Cole, 5: F S Gilder, 6: J S Bloomfield, 7: A R McLeod, Str: C R Hesketh, Cox: R H H Perry, Cch: E J Curnow
Other crews competing included:
Melbourne Grammar - Bow: I G McLean, 2: G A Soilleux, 3: E O James, 4: G T McMahon, 5: M L Baillieu, 6: D S M Faulkner, 7: K G Begg, Str: I H Tuckett, Cox: J H Fitts
Wesley College - Bow: H T Gamble, 2: C W Scott, 3: D J Lawson, 4: E A Wells, 5: A D McIntosh, 6: E L Bedggood, 7: A N L Patten, Str: A P Tulloh, Cox: R M Barden, Cch: Charles Donald
Geelong College - The crew had to withdraw due to illness. The nature of the illness was not known but there was considerable anxiety about the influenza epidemic at the time. Bow: J M Carmichael, 2: C C Bell, 3: J A T Horne, 4: P Adzen, 5: J W Robertson, 6: J G Steele, 7: W C Peter, Str: W I MacPherson, Cox: K J Tayor, Cch: H J Young
E1: 1st GGS in a row over. GC withdrew due to 5 members of crew suffering from influenza
E2: 1st SC, 2nd WC, Time: 5:24.0. Margin 1/2 canvas
E3: 1st XC, 2nd MGS, Time: 5:30.0. Margin 3/4 length
A crowd estimated to be 20,000 attended the Yarra River on Friday 23rd May 1919 to witness the heats. Xavier College raced a win all the way heat from Melbourne Grammar.
An even greater crowd of 50,000 attended the Yarra River at 3pm on Saturday to witness the final. Geelong Grammar started well and led Scotch by a quarter of a length at Morell Bridge with Xavier third. Scotch and Xavier then overhauled Geelong with Scotch leading at the half mile by third a length.By half way down the Henley staging, Xavier had drawn level with Scotch. Both crews surged for the line in a frantic finish.
The result in those days was indicated by the raising of a flag of the winning crew. In the awkward time following the finish and the fact that two flags were raised, one obscuring the other, that the crowd was confused and supporters Xavier and Scotch both thought their crew had one.
After a long delay the announcment was made of a re-row at 5pm late day. Many supporters of the crews suggested that this was too much for the rowers. The coaches and rwowers had different views.
In the row off, Scotch had the better start and led by half a length at Morell Bridge. At the half mile, the crews were only a canvas apart and by Swan Street level. It was again a tight race with Scotch winning by a canvas is a time some 25 seconds slower.
When the Fairbairn Cup was presented to Cecil McKay, the Scotch stroke, his acceptance speech was simply Three cheers for Xavier College!
Geelong Grammar School First Crew
W S Fraser (2, Captain of Boats), F S Cole (4), F S Gilder (5), R E Webb-Ware (3), C R Speeding (bow)
A R McLeod (7), C R Hesketh (str), J S Bloomfield (6)
R H H Perry (cox)
1st Scotch College