The Day The Scottish Cup Came Up To Maryhill

by William Sheridan



● Ibrox, 1920 (WIK)

Thistle v Hearts (replay) preview

It was back to Ibrox then, for the fourth time in sixteen days! Giving the working man a slightly better chance of making the game, this was the first of our Cup matches with an evening kick-off, proceedings getting underway at 5.15pm. In a micro-statistic which typified Thistle's year so far, Thistle had played Hearts three times in 1921, and had failed to find the net on each occasion. On the other hand, our defence had only been breached once, and from the penalty spot at that. Another cautious and tight affair was therefore on the cards, with a place in the Scottish Cup final (date/venue not yet known) at stake.

For Thistle, there were seven changes to the side which had lost to Celtic 2 days earlier, with Willie Bulloch, Joe Harris, Willie Hamilton, John Blair, Jimmy Kinloch, Alex Lauder and Willie Salisbury retaking their respective places from Watty Borthwick, Bob McFarlane, Fred MacLachlan, Ralph McIntosh, Andrew Comrie, Harry Harper and John Bowie. This was almost a straightforward reversal back to Saturday's line-up, the one exception being Matt Wilson at left half, who continued to deputize for Jimmy McMullan, who had not yet recovered from that “rather nasty knock” (SP) received in the first game. Hearts, with no in-between game to trouble them, were able to field the same starting eleven from the weekend.

Saturday's game had been played in hurricane-like conditions and this was a recurring theme in our Scottish Cup campaign of 1921, foul weather having ruined many of the games as a spectacle. There was no change to this scenario at Ibrox tonight, with no let up from a heavy downpour and a persistent wind.

competition-2.png Scottish Cup Semi Final replay
ft.png Partick Thistle 0 Heart of Midlothian 0
date.png Wednesday, 30th March, 1921
crowd.png 27,000 @ Ibrox
partick-thistle.png Kenny Campbell, Tom Crichton, Willie Bulloch, Joe Harris, Willie Hamilton, Matt Wilson, John Blair, Jimmy Kinloch, David Johnstone, Alex Lauder, Willie Salisbury
heart-of-midlothian.png Alex Kane, Paddy Crossan, Jock Wilson, Jock Ramage, Bob Preston, Robert Birrell, Angus Meikle, George Miller, Arthur Lochhead, Willie Wilson, Jack Sharp
mh-referee.png Tom Dougray (Bellshill)
The Scotsman, 31st March, 1921

The Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle met again at Ibrox, last night, in their semi-final Scottish Cup tie, and another draw was the result. The weather and ground conditions were all against good play, and neither side was able to overcome these handicaps and score. There was again a considerable wind, and heavy rain fell during most of the game. The ground was very soft. Notwithstanding the rain, there was an attendance of about 27,000, the drawings, inclusive of tax, exclusive of stands, amounting to £1,280.


The Hearts had the advantage of the wind and rain at the start, but played poorly, and the Thistle defence were never sorely pressed, the goalkeeper getting very little to do. He should have been beaten by Meikle in the first five minutes. The Hearts' outside-right player was clear of everyone save the goalkeeper, but shot past, and later further chances fell to him which he did not take. The forwards could not settle down, and the Thistle defence, even without McMullan, who could not play owing to an injury sustained on Saturday, played well, and kept the opposition from getting close in on Campbell.

The Thistle forwards, well supported by Harris, who put in a lot of fine work, were frequently troublesome, and for them Salisbury threw away some likely-looking chances. The Hearts' defence was none too sound, and several corners were conceded that might have been prevented.


In the second half the Hearts did better, and against the wind they were more troublesome than they had been with it. For twenty minutes or so, Thistle were without Wilson, who was taking the place of McMullan, and during that time they had generally the upper hand, without often being really dangerous. Campbell had never any great difficulty in saving his charge from downfall, the Thistle halves, notably Hamilton, and the backs playing soundly all through. Towards the end, with Wilson on the field again, the Glasgow forwards were more aggressive, and Kane had to be very alert to save a header from Kinloch from a corner, and, just afterwards, he was seriously harassed in clearing away the danger from another well-placed corner kick.

There were chances going in the second half that the Thistle might have scored from, but as a rule neither set of forwards were prominent in the shooting line, and both goalkeepers had a quiet time. Kane did not have the opportunities to excel that he had on the occasion of the first game. On the whole, the Hearts had the better of the play, but there was little between the sides, and that little, if in favour of the Hearts, was not worthy of a win. Birrell was not a success as a half-back, and the Thistle had the advantage in that line. Ramage was the most serviceable of the Hearts' halves, and Wilson, if shaky at times in the first period, was very good in the second. Result — No scoring.

● Thistle's first-ever Scottish Cup Semi Final is replayed. It goes to a second replay!
● 4 consecutive competitive games in which Thistle have failed to score; 19th Mar 1921 to date. (Longest run since the club-record: 6 games; 8th Jan 1921 to 8th Feb 1921.)
● 6 consecutive competitive appearances for Kenny Campbell, 12th Mar 1921 to date. (Longest run since: Willie Salisbury - 9 games, 8th Apr 1922 to 26th Mar 1921. Club-record: Jock McTavish - 61 games, 15th Nov 1913 to 6th Feb 1915.)

sc-1921-badge.png Meet the squad… TOM CRICHTON
Tom Crichton

A manager's dream, this big Sanquhar-born laddie, a model of consistency, was able to play with both feet, and could be relied upon anywhere across defensive or midfield lines. Tom started out with Nithsdale Wanderers and played Army football during the First World War, joining George Easton's Jags in the new year of 1919, as soon as he was clear of national duty. Making his debut alongside Kenny Campbell in goals in February, he was straight in at the deep end at Celtic Park, tasked with taming the super-prolific Jimmy McColl, who, as fate would have it, became a team-mate a few years later. In his first year, Tom was utilised at right half, centre half and left half, and, in April, 1920, he filled in for several games at right back to help the team out. Soon, a partnership developed alongside the team captain, Willie Bulloch, so much so that “Campbell, Bulloch, Crichton” became the backline of choice in the classic season of 1920-21.

Ever the team player, Tom stepped up to the half back line when required, and covered for Willie Hamilton in the first two games of the cup campaign against Hibs. He turned out at right back in 8 of the other games, missing only the Quarter Final decider against Motherwell. He came in for praise throughout: “the defender stood out well in the more experienced Partick side” (vs. East Stirlingshire), “no one did better than Crichton in foiling the Motherwell attack at critical times” (the Motherwell replay), “It was naturally expected that the Hearts would come up smiling when they got the wind behind them, but there was nothing doing, thanks to the very fine defensive work of the Thistle. Both Crichton and Bulloch were very safe” (the first Hearts game), “Crichton, played a wonderful game against the ubiquitous Morton” & “Willie Bulloch was a noble captain, Tom Crichton a worthy lieutenant” (both comments re the final).

As if acknowledging the fact that he'd been a late starter through no fault of his own, the 30-year-old Tom was afforded a benefit match in late April, 1924, 4,000 watching Thistle defeat Liverpool, the English champions of 1923. The Daily Record was somewhat critical of the turnout, opining that such a low turnout was not befitting for such a fine fellow. Tragedy struck in a League game against Queen's Park in October, 1925, as reported in the Sunday Post: “Midway through the first half Tom Crichton, the stalwart right back, collided with Barr, the Queen's centre, and sustained a compound fracture of his left leg. The game was delayed for a time while doctors and ambulance men applied splints and dressings. The sight was too much for some spectators of both sexes, and more ambulance men were requisitioned to deal with quite a number of fainting cases.” Everyone's very worst fears were realised and Tom never played again, 236 appearances on from his debut, 6 years earlier.

Later in the same season, Tom became one of the select few to have received a second benefit game. The noble Queen's Parkers sent five men (four of whom had played in the horror game), and together with six Jagsmen the hybrid eleven faced a Glasgow Select which included Andy Cunningham of Rangers from the '21 final. This time, the Thistle fans turned out in force, around 10,000 of them providing a tangible benefit of some £500 for the player. He was a south country lad, but Tom had become a firm Thistle supporter. Not only did he continue to attend the games as a fan, he also did his bit as a talent scout. Sadly, Tom died in 1936, aged 43, leaving a widow, Janet.

sc-1921-badge.png Meet the squad… MATT WILSON
Matt Wilson

Young Matt Wilson had been with Queen's Park for some eighteen months when Thistle came calling early in the new year of 1920. He was one of three Spiders signing professional terms at Firhill that year, along with Bob McFarlane and Jimmy Kinloch, all of whom played their part in Thistle's Scottish Cup glory run the following year. Winning the cup with Thistle in his first full season was a dream come true for the young half back, whose role was to provide back-up as and when necessary for Thistle's first choice middle line. He would play around one third of the strenuous 55 game campaign of 1920-21, giving the directors an excellent option when it came to constantly refreshening the team inbetween Cup games in the heavy-load springtime. Today, Matt was making his first appearance in the cup, allowing our internationalist left half, Jimmy McMullan, time to recover from a leg knock. Ironically, Matt was forced to retire for treatment for some twenty minutes in the second half, but returned heroically to play his part: “Wilson, if shaky at times in the first period, was very good in the second.

Matt would not have been expecting to play again in the Scottish Cup this season, but play again he did - in the final itself! It became clear on the morning of the big match that Willie Hamilton wasn't going to make it, but the directors had every faith that Matt could step up to the mark, after all, he had plenty of League experience by now. Indeed, in Matt's 9 appearances so far this term, only 3 goals had been conceded, a testament to his determined defensive style aligned with the fact that he would “bust-a-gut” for the cause. And what a shift he put in for the final… “Their reserve men, especially Wilson, played exceedingly well” said James Black of the S.F.A. “None did better than Wilson and Borthwick, the reserve halves” said the Dundee Courier. Willie Maley in The Sunday Post observed that “Wilson showed amazing virility for an untried youngster”. Matt's gutsy performance typified the whole team's spirit on the day, beating the odds through grit, determination and a sheer will to win. It was the making of him as a Jag and he became much more of a first team regular in the seasons to come, peaking with 39 appearances in the 43 competitive games of 1922-23.

With the emergence of the likes of Alex Lambie and Jimmy Gibson, Thistle's half-back line went from strength to strength in the mid-20s; Matt found himself labelled as utility man, but he yearned to play centre half and was granted a (financially beneficial) free transfer to East Fife late in 1924. After two years there, and a short spell at Clyde, Matt cottoned on to the emerging trend for Scottish players to try their hand in the North American game, and he emigrated to Canada, where he would spend the rest of his life, in 1927. He played with the New York Nationals in 1927 and 1928, even coming on once as a sub goalie. He'd played in the main three field segments whilst a Jag, but goalie? That was a career first! From there, Matt went on to play with Toronto Ulster United as the decade turned into the 30s.

Partick Thistle 0 Heart of Midlothian 0 (27,000 @ Ibrox)


Jimmy McMullan

Some of our Jagsmen had been competing for the very highest honours for club and country this year, and we were now heading for 'the business end' of both the Scottish Cup and British Home Championships. Scotland's seven-strong selection committee had an afternoon meeting in Glasgow, with a view to finalizing the national eleven for the deciding match against England at Hampden on Saturday week. However, the team was not announced to the press until after they'd all visited Ibrox Park to take in the Thistle v Hearts match. Our Kenny Campbell was competing with Brownlie (Third Lanark) and Ewart (Bradford City) for the goalie's jersey, and it was the latter who got the nod for a surprise debut, having greatly impressed at the last trial match. In the mid-line, Harris and McMullan (pictured) had played in the first two victories, but only Jimmy McMullan (who never actually played tonight) made the final eleven for the ultimate game. Perhaps there was a degree of disappointment for the Firhill contingent but, still, it was nice to have confirmation that Thistle would be playing their part all the way in this year's campaign, more so than any other club side.

Somewhat prematurely, and seemingly without authority, the selection committee announced that, in view of McMullan's selection, the Thistle v Hearts second replay date would be fixed for Tuesday, 12th April i.e. 3 days after the international. This was printed in all the papers the next day, but this 'decision' would very quickly be overturned. On the same night, at an entirely separate S.F.A. meeting, a venue - Celtic Park - and a date - Saturday, 16th April - was agreed upon for the final. The season was already running late, and S.F.A. central had a strict plan of action to deal with it. Obviously, forcing a team to play a semi final just days before the final was simply not on, never mind the fact that there was every chance Thistle could draw the match forcing another delay. Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right was doing! By the Friday, it was publically made clear to all that the Thistle v Hearts game would actually be replayed this coming Tuesday (the 5th), not the 12th. Scotland, and the selection committee, would have to deal with it.


Ever since the Old Firm riot of 1909 (deemed so disgraceful that the cup was witheld) there seemed to be some sort of barrier to Hampden Park being allocated the final tie. Since then, eight of the ten Scottish Cup finals or replays (none of which featured Rangers) had been played at Ibrox. I rather suspect this boils down to the Queen's Park officials being reluctant to rent out the old place without a fair degree of financial surety whenever either side of the Old Firm were involved, mindful that a repeat performance of the wanton destruction of their premises and property could be an expensive business. Having said that, it seems that Celtic Park didn't come cheap either, an issue which came to light during discussions with regard to the admission charge for the season's showpiece game. President Thomas White of Celtic (conflict of interest?) said that unless the tariff was raised it would be impossible to find accommodation for the crowd.

On the motion of H. Christie, it was agreed to make the admission charge 2 shillings. This was a new high, double the price of last year's Killie v Rovers final at Hampden, which had attracted almost 100,000 spectators. It seems that the lesser capacity of Celtic Park (65,000 at a squeeze) was factored in to this decision. This was against a backdrop of considerable financial unrest; Britain had not yet adjusted from a wartime to a peacetime economy, and we were in the midst of a (delayed) post-war depression. In fact, the very day after the S.F.A.'s price hike announcement, this social unrest would be aggravated by the formal return of the mines to private ownership. The inevitable strike action was almost immediate, as the build up to this year's Scottish Cup final continued. Bearing all of this in mind, it'd be fair to say this ranks lowly in the great list of smart moves by the governing body of our national game.

Not everyone in Scottish football was upset though. Responding to the public outcry some days later, Celtic manager Willie Maley, ever-ready with an opinion on any given subject, commented: “The ground that can hold the the crowd at Celtic-Rangers New Year encounter is big enough to hold the final.” Not that he, or S.F.A. president Thomas White, were biased in any way you understand. Perhaps he had a point though, all things considered. At 2 shillings entry fee, it might reasonably be argued that Shawfield would be big enough for this year's final!



Partick Thistle 2 Aberdeen 2 (SFL - game 37)

At such a crucial stage in Thistle's campaign, we really could do with having our strongest eleven on the pitch for Tuesday's second replay against Hearts, so it was great to see that Jimmy McMullan was back in fine fettle, as reported in the Sunday Post:


That McMullan, the Partick Thistle and International half-back, had fully recovered from the leg injury which kept him out of the semi final replay against Hearts, was amply demonstrated by his display against Aberdeen. He was up against a fast and strong wing in Middleton and Connon, but he held them well, and came out of the game with flying colours. A feature of his play was in making openings for his wing men, whom he fed to perfection, and at times he had a pop at goal, with not so much success as usual, however.

40-year-old Jimmy McMenemy, the pre-season star signing, had missed 6 consecutive games, his tired limbs taking that bit longer to recover from the stresses and strains of first class action on heavy pitches. There's no doubt that our chances of Scottish Cup glory would be greatly enhanced with 'old boney' directing at the top of his game. A rustiness in Nap's 'match fitness' was evident today, but the very fact that he was back in action was a boost, and he improved as the game went on.

Aberdeen were twice in the lead with a goal in each half, but a Willie Salisbury penalty and a Joe Harris free-kick salvaged a point. It was now one League win in the last eleven but, incredibly, Thistle were still clinging on to that third spot, albeit a tightly bunched pack lay in wait for the run-in, and we could just as easily slide back to the mid-table. Were Thistle to win the Scottish Cup, the sacrificing of League points would be a small price to pay.


Elsewhere this afternoon, there was a degree of encouragement on the footballing front for both Thistle and Hearts, as the confirmed Scottish Cup finalists were held 0-0 at Cappielow. Unfortunately, it wasn't the actual football that was making the headlines. An S.F.A. directive (remember part 6?) that clubs should refuse to admit rowdies (conspicuous by their bugles, flags and wearing of tin hats), was seemingly ignored at Greenock this afternoon, opening up the home club to criticism of their admission policy and the away club to criticism of their notoriously disgraceful hooligan element. Ten minutes from the close of the game, the ball landed in the area of the crowd where the Ibrox 'rowdies' were strongest. Seemingly frustrated by the stalemate, the ball was ripped open and thrown back onto the pitch. This sparked a fair degree of chaos, as a section of the crowd engaged in a series of free fights, some throwing stones and bottles on to the playing pitch. The referee had to stop play for the players safety on a number of occasions, and, twice, there was a stampede over the barricades by the crowd. Eventually, the police managed clear the field and restore order.

Mathematically, Rangers now only required 4 points from their final 6 games to clinch the title. I'd hate to see their 'fans' reaction were it neck and neck.

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, 30-Mar-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 02-Apr-2021.

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