Reliving memories of Head of the Lake race from over 50 years ago

December 11, 2020

The 1969 SPC Firsts Crew, pictured.

When we shared long-lost footage from the 1969 Head of the Lake race recently, it sparked many memories from our Old Boys, including one of original SPC crew members.

John Coffey (SPC 1965-69) was the stroke in the 1969 SPC firsts crew alongside Gregory Baker (SPC 1967-69), Peter Connelly (SPC 1965-70), bow Graeme Vear (SPC 1964-69) and cox Daniel Cashin (SPC 1964-70).

In the 1969 Head of the Lake, Ballarat High triumphed, followed by Ballarat College, with St Patrick’s finishing third and Ballarat Grammar fourth.

While the black and white footage follows the famed regatta across Lake Wendouree some 51 years ago, it has not dimmed the rowing crew’s memory of that race.

“High School won it that year and were an exceptional crew, in reality the other 3 crews were targeting second place,” says John Coffey.

“We had second place sewn up until about the 350-metre mark at which point Sos (Greg) Baker, who had a lazy habit of dragging his oar across the water, crabbed. To crab is the equivalent of slamming on the brakes.

“College went past us and we were pegging them back on the finish line but it was too late. We finished third and Grammar are still out there I think,” John quipped.

The College stumbled across the unmarked box containing the 16mm film reels recently and we were intrigued to see what secrets they held.

It turns out it was quite a gem indeed! Thanks to John Coffey for sharing his memories of that Head of the Lake day.

St Patrick’s College came second in the Head of the Lake premiership, held for the first time in 1969, and continues to this day. The 1969 College Annual also notes our rowers were waiting for the completion of their rowing shed on Lake Wendouree that year and that the majority of rowers were boarders, with a push for more day students to consider trying out and would be welcomed.