The Day The Scottish Cup Came Up To Maryhill

by William Sheridan



And there it is; the oldest trophy in world football, one of the most handsome, and arguably the most sought after in the Scottish game, given the number of clubs who see it as their most realistic chance of winning a top prize. We take its presence for granted in our sporting calendar, but it hasn't always been that way. When Thistle won the national cup in 1921 it was only the second year back for the tournament, after an absence of several years.


The delegates, feeling strongly that the honour of Scottish Football is at stake, recommend that this Association respect the requirements of the War Office, and resolve to withdraw international matches and Cup ties from this year’s programme.

So read the rather grave statement from the SFA back in December, 1914, several months into World War I. Such was the heated nature of the debate, that a second meeting had to be called before a decision was made, where the motion to suspend was carried by a single vote. A Dundee U-Turn most likely. Ahem. In all, 5 seasons of competition were lost to the “honourable abeyance”. Post-war, the cry for a “return to normalcy” was heard all over the world in every walk of life and, and at the annual general meeting of the SFA, held in Glasgow on the 6th May 1919, a recommendation that the Scottish Cup competition be resumed in season 1919-20 was warmly applauded by delegates, the speaker still in mid-sentence. This time there was no debate, and the motion was carried unanimously.

Normal service was resumed, but there was a twist in the tale, as Kilmarnock and Albion Rovers contested a romantic final in April, 1920, witnessed by a huge crowd of around 95,000, with many more locked out of the gates at Hampden. The former prevailed by 3 goals to 2, and the Cup was Ayrshire bound for the first time, appeasing those Kilmarnockers still fretting over the lack of return for their club's £1, as co-invested in the purchasing of the original trophy back in 1873. The final make-up of 1920 offered great hope to provincial sides up and down the country. Could Thistle emulate Killie in this new romantic era? Time would tell, but, as we'll discover, there was good reason to believe that yes we could.

The next SFA AGM was held at 6 Carlton Place, Glasgow, on Wednesday, 5th May, 1920, Mr Thomas White (Celtic) presiding over a large attendance of delegates, where it was decided that all 22 League clubs (there was only 1 League at the time) would be joined by 22 non-League clubs from the Scottish Qualifying Cup in the first round draw. In recent years, the bottom top-flight clubs would be bundled into the Qualifying Cup to encourage them to do better, as had happened to Thistle themselves back in 1909. Interestingly, and fairly, a motion was carried that would see neutral linesmen in place for all Scottish Cup ties, as opposed to an appointed official from each club running a line each. 83 non-League clubs began their Qualifying Cup campaigns in September, 1920, and, in a rousing finale at Central Park on December 18th, East Fife defeated Bo'ness by 3 goals to 1. As the 1920s would bear out, these prosperous coal mining towns were on the rise! In all, the 22 who made it through to the Scottish Cup proper draw were:

Southern Counties (10)
Renton, Vale of Leven, Queen of the South, Mid-Annandale, Stevenston United, Solway Star, Nithsdale Wanderers, Galston, Dykehead, Johnstone

East, Midlands, and Border Counties (9)
Alloa Athletic, Broxburn United, Armadale, Stenhousemuir, East Fife, Blairgowrie Amateurs, East Stirlingshire, Bo’ness, Arbroath

North of Scotland (3)
Elgin City, Caledonian, Peterhead


The SFA met in Glasgow on 8th December, 1920, Mr. Thomas White (Celtic) again presiding, when the draw for the first and second rounds of the Scottish Cup was made all at once, unseeded with no bye predetermined. The ties to be played on the grounds of the first named clubs, were reported as follows:-

Third Lanark v Hibernians
Queen of the South v Blairgowrie Amateurs
Arbroath v Kilmarnock
Alloa Athletic v Falkirk
Ayr United v Queen's Park
Caledonian v Dundee
St Mirren v Armadale
Bo'ness v Galston
Clyde v Airdrieonians
Johnstone v Stevenston United
Peterhead v Dykehead
Hamilton Academicals v Raith Rovers
● ties to be played on 22nd January

Byes were afforded to twenty clubs in total, namely: Celtic, Renton, Rangers, Motherwell, Nithsdale Wanderers, Clydebank, Broxburn United, Aberdeen, East Stirlingshire, Mid-Annandale, Heart of Midlothian, East Fife, Stenhousemuir, Partick Thistle, Morton, Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Albion Rovers, Solway Star & Elgin City.

Ayr United or Queen's Park v Peterhead or Dykehead
Stenhousemuir v Caledonian or Dundee
Albion Rovers v Mid-Annandale
Solway Star v East Stirlingshire
Bo'ness or Galston v St Mirren or Armadale
Alloa Athletic or Falkirk v Clydebank
Motherwell v Renton
Rangers v Morton
Third Lanark or Hibernians v Partick Thistle
Vale of Leven v Celtic
Dumbarton v Elgin City
Broxburn United v Hamilton Academicals or Raith Rovers
Johnstone or Stevenston United v East Fife
Queen of the South or Blairgowrie Amateurs v Nithsdale Wanderers
Arbroath or Kilmarnock v Aberdeen
Clyde or Airdrieonians v Heart of Midlothian
● ties to be played on 5th February

We would have had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, our quest to emulate Kilmarnock's success in April was off to a great start by virtue of having received a first round bye, but a tough away tie in round two balanced out our luck somewhat; we had lost 6-2 on our last visit to Easter Road, and we'd never known Cathkin Park to be anything other than a very tough battleground, nil nil last time out.

Still, at the time of the draw, Jags were hitting a bit of a purple patch; 5 consecutive top-flight wins had rocketed us to 3rd in the table, comfortably ahead of Third Lanark (10th) and Hibs (14th).

06.11.1920 Kilmarnock [a] W1-0 (SFL - game 16)
13.11.1920 Falkirk [h] W2-1 (SFL - game 17)
20.11.1920 Airdrieonians [a] W2-1 (SFL - game 18)
27.11.1920 Queen's Park [h] W5-0 (SFL - game 19)
04.12.1920 Dumbarton [a] W1-0 (SFL - game 20)

We were in a good place.

sc-1921-badge.png Scottish Cup Winners 1921

back: Sandy Lister (trainer), Willie Hamilton, Tom Crichton, Kenny Campbell, Jimmy McMenemy, Matt Wilson, John Bowie, Watty Borthwick.
middle: David Johnstone, Jimmy Kinloch, Joe Harris, Willie Bulloch, Jimmy McMullan, Bob McFarlane.
front: John Blair, Willie Salisbury.


Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 20-Jan-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 02-Apr-2021.

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