The Day The Scottish Cup Came Up To Maryhill

by William Sheridan



Ibrox, 1920
● Ibrox, 1920 (WIK/HFK)

Thistle v Hearts (2nd replay) preview

Demonstrating “stamina of exceptional order”, Thistle were becoming the first team in history to play ten (legitimate) matches before the final. Take a bow Sandy Lister. Building up the record-breaking credentials, six clean-sheets had been registered in the campaign so far, Thistle “hanging on with bulldog tenacity when the fight was uphill”. It had taken three games against Hibs and three games against Motherwell. Now would be a very good time to complete the set by eliminating Hearts at the third time of asking!

Matt Wilson had fared well in the second game, but Jimmy McMullan, buoyed with that call-up for the England game, was now back in the cup team, his recovery having been ably demonstrated during Saturday's 2-2 draw at home to Aberdeen. No such luck for Jimmy McMenemy; a rustiness in Nap's 'match fitness' was evident during his comeback on Saturday, so tonight he made way for Alex Lauder at inside left, once more. The other two changes from Saturday were as expected, Ralph McIntosh and Bob McFarlane stepping down for Tom Crichton and John Blair, restoring Thistle's cup-tie strength.

Hearts were making two changes from the side which had whacked Clyde by six goals to nothing at the weekend, Jock Wilson returning for the injured Robert Birrell, and George Sinclair taking over from Angus Meikle on the right flank. At surface level, that result might have given cause for concern, but no doubt the Thistle contingent had read the reports which stated that the scoreline flattered Hearts, and that Clyde only leaked when they were effectively down to ten men. And, yes, the Edinburgh side may have scored twice at Celtic Park to win through in the Quarter Finals, but so far this season one measly penalty goal was all they had to show for their efforts in 360 minutes of action against Thistle. We were a tough nut to crack.

It was a little windy, but there was no rain tonight, as the Thistle fans reconvened under the 'Bovril Shed' at Ibrox, for the FIFTH time in 3 weeks, potentially just 90 minutes away from a historic Scottish Cup final. No doubt, a fair number of the local partisans mingled throughout, sizing up their final opponents. Let us pray for the safety of the match ball. Hearts had started out as favourites in the tie, but, if anything, Thistle had looked the more likely in the 180 minutes so far. It was all to play for…

competition-2.png Scottish Cup Semi Final 2nd replay
ft.png Partick Thistle 2 Heart of Midlothian 0
date.png Tuesday, 5th April, 1921
crowd.png 30,000 @ Ibrox
goal.png Jimmy Kinloch (1-0, 15 mins); Jimmy Kinloch (2-0, 85 mins)
partick-thistle.png Kenny Campbell, Tom Crichton, Willie Bulloch, Joe Harris, Willie Hamilton, Jimmy McMullan, John Blair, Jimmy Kinloch, David Johnstone, Alex Lauder, Willie Salisbury
heart-of-midlothian.png Alex Kane, Paddy Crossan, Jock Wilson, Jock Ramage, Bob Preston, Jack Sharp, George Sinclair, George Miller, Arthur Lochhead, Harry Smillie, Willie Wilson
mh-referee.png Tom Dougray (Bellshill)
The Scotsman, 6th April, 1921

The third attempt last night to settle the semi-final Scottish Cup tie between the Heart of Midlothian and Partick Thistle at Ibrox Park, Glasgow, resulted in the defeat of the Edinburgh team. The evening was a fine one, but there was, as on the previous two occasions, a good wind blowing. There was an attendance of over 33,000, who saw a tame exhibition of football, especially from the Hearts eleven, who, though they had the greater part of the play in both halves, were nevertheless well beaten. Tho gate drawings came to £1,640, inclusive of tax.

The Thistle made one change on the side that did duty last week, McMullan coming back, having recovered from his injury; but the Hearts made a number of alterations in the hope of getting better results, Sinclair and Smillie being played in the forward line, with W. Wilson at outside right, and Sharp at left half. It bad been intended to play Birrell at back, but at the last moment it was found that he was unfit, and J. Wilson retained his place at left back.


These changes did not work out for good, and fifteen minutes after the start, with the Hearts having the wind advantage, Crossan allowed a centre from Salisbury to go past him, and J. Wilson, taken by surprise, failed to clear, with the result than Kinloch had no difficulty in beating Kane from close in. Prior to that, Lochhead had missed a fine chance of drawing first blood for the Hearts. Had he seized that opportunity the result might have been different.

The Thistle payed good football, but the Hearts were generally attacking, and on more than one occasion Campbell was shaky is his saving, once in particular from a long shot by Preston. W. Wilson, too, tested him sorely, and it was then that Lochhead threw away his opportunity. Kane was rarely called on. Where the Hearts were weak was in front of goal. The forwards could not settle down — they were always in a muddle — and while they had a strong defence opposed to them in Crichton and Bulloch, and three very capable half-backs, the inability of the forwards contributed largely to the downfall of the side.


At the beginning of the second half the Hearts, against the wind, had a bad time. Blair struck one of the posts with a long drive, and Salisbury shot into Kane's hands, but that over, the Edinburgh team did by far the greater part of the attacking, without, however, appearing likely to score, and five minutes from the end a good shot from Kinloch was too high for Kane to reach. That settled the issue of the game.

The Thistle defence was too good for the Hearts, though Campbell was anything but international form, and if the Hearts forwards had been of any account at all, it did not seem as if the goalkeeper would have been hard to beat. But the Partick halves and backs made very few mistakes, and in Kinloch the Thistle had the cleverest and most effective forward afield. Apart from scoring both the goals, he did much fine work.


Excepting Kane, Crossan, Ramage, and Preston, none of the Hearts was distinguished in good play, and even those mentioned were not seen at their best. The forwards were a very weak line. Lochhead could do nothing right; neither Sinclair nor Smillie paid his way; and Wilson and Miller did clever things, and followed with something feeble or reckless. They were a feckless lot. No one worked harder than Miller, but without effect, and, rarely did a pass or a header of his go where he meant it to go.

The Hearts as a team were off form completely, as they had been in the two previous games with the Thistle, and they had no excuses to offer for their defeat but rank bad play. The Thistle men, who had much the worse of the play, well deserved their win. The better football came from them. Result:- Pattick Thistle 2 goals; Heart of Midlothian, nothing.

● Thistle's first-ever Scottish Cup Semi Final is replayed for the second time. The Jags progress to their first Scottish Cup Final!
● 8 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… WILLIE BULLOCH
Willie Bulloch

Poetic observers of Partick Thistle history might label the 1910-1923 period as the great renaissance, whilst pragmatic students will astutely note that these dates precisely bookend the Willie Bulloch era. Pre-Firhill, Thistle had been near-dead on the ropes, but bounced back determinedly after resettling in the North West.

This Larkhall lad started out as a half-back with his local team, Royal Albert, and was a big hit when he moved to Port Glasgow Athletic, so much so that he (and team-mate Bobby Steel) were snapped up by Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 1908. However, the 25-year-old Willie never got out of the reserves at Spurs, and soon returned home, where he landed at Kilmarnock, even sliding backwards to Royal Albert for a short loan spell. In the springtime of 1910, Thistle director Willie Lindsay was one who was paying attention, and persuaded the board that Bulloch was a real prospect, only temporarily down on his luck, and that he could be the answer to our full back problem, the recent experiment of playing McGregor out of position as a replacement for Bennett having been deemed unsuccesful. Talk about a visionary; to that director a debt is due!

Bulloch's first season at Thistle, playing as a left back for the first time, was a revelation as he and Archie McKenzie solidified the backline, and Thistle ascended to the heady heights of fourth place at Scottish football's top table. Incredibly, the Jags went through that entire top-flight campaign unbeaten in their new home, most certainly fit to be labelled 'Fortress Firhill'. It's a feat which still stands today as a unique occurrence. The Bulloch-McKenzie partnership went from strength to strength in the 1911-12 season which followed, Thistle again finishing fourth but this time returning 17 clean-sheets in competitive action, a new club-record at the time. In 1913, Willie inherited the captaincy from Alec Raisbeck, and would become one of the longest-serving in the role, culminating in his great honour at Celtic Park, 16th April, 1921. In September, 1919, Willie had been granted a benefit, receiving a share of the gate in the 1-0 League win at home to Kilmarnock. Sound the clean-sheet klaxon!

9 of our best defensive seasons in the top-flight were in the Willie Bulloch era, and never was this more in evidence than in season 1920-21, the only top-flight season in Thistle's history when less than 1 goal per game was conceded. In competitive action, a phemomenal 23 clean-sheets were kept, Thistle presenting an extremely tough proposition for any club side, any time, any where. Going into this classic season, Willie was at the "veteran" stage of his career, but was still very much able and close to his peak. He was carrying a few more pounds these days, but this seemed to be of benefit, if anything. Willie Bulloch captained the team with marked ability this season, with a steely determination that truly personified the class of 1921. In the second replay against Hibs, the 37-year-old put the club's cause before himself, playing through the pain of a broken nose, as Thistle held on grimly to their single goal advantage in "the battle of Parkhead". This led to him missing the East Stirlingshire game, but stand-in Borthwick and protégé Crichton did him proud, and the Jags remained on course.

Naturally, I'm pleased for all participants in the Scottish Cup campaign of '21, but if I had to single out two, it'd be the gaffer, George Easton, and the captain, Willie Bulloch. In Willie's case, he had given his all for 11 years, and had come close to first-team gold medals on several occasions, being so unlucky not to at least land one of them. All of that graft was justified on the day of days when Partick Thistle took possession of the national cup, reaching the height of their ambition and creating headlines all around the world.

He was quoted on occasion, but Willie never quite broke into the national team, although he represented the Scottish League in 1911 and 1914, and was selected for Third Lanark's "Scotland XI", playing in 15 of their 25 tour matches in the US and Canada in June & July 1921. He made 476 appearances as a Jag, had 7 "Top 6" finishes, was 4 times runner-up in the Glasgow Cup, twice runner-up in the Glasgow Charity Cup, oh, and was a Scottish Cup winner. After retiring as a player in 1923, Willie remained engaged at Firhill in a coaching capacity, cementing his status as a true club legend. His was a mighty chapter in the annals of Partick Thistle history.

sc-1921-badge.png Meet the squad… JIMMY McMULLAN
Jimmy McMullan

What this 5' 6 left half lacked in height, he more than made up for with brawn, brain and tenacity. A sturdy and clever wee guy, he had all the key attributes necessary for a first class midfielder, being a strong tackler, an astute reader of the play, and gifted in the art of finding the perfect pass. He was regarded as one of Scotland's finest half-backs of the 1920s, attaining infamy by captaining the "Wembley Wizards" in THAT 5-1 triumph of March, 1928. He was described as a quiet man, but always had a humorous twinkle in his eye, wise of mind and clear in purpose. Addressing his team-mates and countrymen in their hotel the night before the game at Wembley, Jimmy left them with one final instruction before bed - "pray for rain". Lo and behold, a steady drizzle the following day was just as the captain had ordered and his boys duly delivered!

Like many of his Thistle team-mates of the 1910s, Jimmy was familiar with the runners up medal, adding several of these to his silver badge gained with Denny Hibs in the Junior Cup final of 1912. However, greater prizes lay in store for this special player. Unfortunately, a Scottish Cup winners medal wasn't one of them! Jimmy missed two games of our eleven Cup ties, being injured for the Semi Final replay against Hearts and, heartbreakingly, the final itself against Rangers, having been injured whilst on national duty against England the week before. By way of some compensation, his international career was positively glittering. He would earn 16 full international caps for Scotland (8 whilst at Partick Thistle and 8 at Manchester City), captaining the country on several occasions. Following on from Neilly Gibson (1905) and Kenny Campbell (1921), Jimmy became the third player to captain Scotland whilst a Jag, doing so in a 1-1 draw at Wembley in 1924. In the final tally-up, he won FIVE British Championships with his country; in 1921, 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1929. This was a fair old twist from his unofficial international debut at Celtic Park on the 8th June, 1918, when Jimmy was the sole Scot to play FOR ENGLAND in a charity match AGAINST SCOTLAND. The English had suffered from call-offs and Jimmy was coaxed into playing. Scotland won 2-0, so our man was still a winner, despite being on the losing side!

The 26-year-old was given a mid-career boost in April, 1920, when he received a benefit, 5,000 turning out to see Thistle in a 4-4 thriller against an International Select. Although Jimmy had recently made his 250th appearance for the club in the Motherwell replay just 4 weeks earlier, no-one could possibly have dreamt that tonight might be his last game for the club but, as it soon transpired, that very much appeared to be the case. As previously stated, he missed the final through injury, and actually never appeared again in the 5 games which followed. What went on there, I cannot say, but Thistle supporters would have been dismayed to read the close season reports which emerged, intimating a financial dispute between he and the club. Disgusted, Jimmy refused to play the transfer game, despite an eye-watering sum of £5,000 being on the table from Newcastle. On a point of principle, Jimmy signed (as a player/manager) for non-League Maidstone United in Kent, where he was free of his senior registration papers, at once depriving Thistle of their best player and prize asset. In doing so, he sacrificed his international career, but got an early taste of management as compensation.

Thankfully, the Jimmy McMullan / Partick Thistle love/hate relationship didn't end there, an armistice being declared in the summer of 1923, whereafter Jimmy racked up another 100 appearances over the course of the next few seasons, naturally assuming the captain's role along the way. In February, 1926, Jimmy made a big money move to Manchester City, this time leaving with a great deal of goodwill and best wishes. He'd been a great servant to Thistle, and the club did very well to receive such a handsome fee of almost £5,000 for a 32-year-old player. Within a couple of months, Jimmy became the 13th Jag to play in an FA Cup final, but it was a runners-up medal again, Bolton winning the Cup for the second time in four seasons. Compounding the heartache, Jimmy arrived too late to save City from relegation. The Citizens bounced-back at the second time of asking though, and Jimmy added a Division 2 winners medal to his collection in 1928. He served at Maine Road until he was nearly 40, becoming a bit of a club legend as they re-established themselves in the top-flight, notably finishing 3rd in 1930. He never did win an FA Cup gold, again losing out (as a 39-year-old) in the 1933 final to Everton, three to nil.

Almost inevitably, Jimmy went on to manage a number of famous old clubs including Oldham Athletic, Aston Villa, Notts County and Sheffield Wednesday, eventually retiring from the game during the second World War. What a career, and what a character. 'The Rainmaker' was a Thistle man of the highest order.

Partick Thistle 2 Heart of Midlothian 0 (30,000 @ Ibrox)



Hamilton Academical 1 Partick Thistle 0 (SFL - game 38)

In the aftermath of Tuesday night's result, the club officials forged ahead with their plan to bring this game forward from Saturday afternoon to Friday night, thus keeping the diary unconflicted for any supporters wishing to attend the big international at Hampden and, possibly, maximising the gate. From Thistle's point of view, there were no further games scheduled between now and Saturday week, so an extra days rest ahead of the big final would be no bad thing, especially considering how demanding the programme had been of late. This season had been one of the most strenuous we'd ever known, with the abnormal number of drawn cup-ties and heavy pitches compounding the demands of a 42 game League campaign. Five changes were made to Tuesday's starting eleven:

IN: Watty Borthwick; Matt Wilson; Fred MacLachlan; Andrew Kerr; Jimmy McMenemy
OUT: Willie Bulloch; Joe Harris; Jimmy McMullan; David Johnstone; Alex Lauder

The last team before the Cup final therefore lined up:

Kenny Campbell; Tom Crichton & Watty Borthwick; Matt Wilson, Willie Hamilton & Fred MacLachlan; John Blair, Jimmy Kinloch, Andrew Kerr, Jimmy McMenemy & Willie Salisbury

Bulloch and Harris, we can take it, were being rested and McMullan was on Scotland duty. Is Nap in or his he out? McMenemy was being groomed like an old champion horse, the trainer and selecters carefully nurturing their prized possession for an athletic peak. His inclusion made little difference tonight though, as the Jags just weren't at it, Kenny Campbell excepted. They seemed to have the big match on their minds. Perhaps they were simply hoping to get through the 90 minutes free of injury, but even that didn't work out as, worryingly, Willie Hamilton retired in the second half, reportedly injured. Another nil nil was on the cards until 5 minutes from time, when James Balloch's effort went in off the post, undoing Campbell's heroics hitherto.

After the dust had settled on the weekend's action, Thistle had, almost inevitably, slipped out of the Top 3, for the first time in over 4 months. This wasn't exactly the morale booster that we might have hoped for but, then again, it had been a momentous week in the club's history and, besides, for months now, we've been saving our best form for the Cup.



Hampden Park, 9 April 1921
● Gates closed at Hampden, 9th April 1921. (AFA)

Scotland 3 England 0 (British Home Championship - game 3)

In a blaze of beautiful spring sunshine, the nation's workers descended upon Glasgow's south side, determined to forget about their troubles for a day. The Hampden gates were closed at ten to three, with almost 100,000 reportedly in attendance, the vast majority dead set to roar Scotland on to the Championship. The men in navy blue lined-up:

Jock Ewart (Bradford City); Jock Marshall (Middlesbrough) & Jimmy Blair (Cardiff City); Stewart Davidson (Middlesbrough), George Brewster (Everton) & Jimmy McMullan (Partick Thistle); Alec McNab (Morton), Tom Miller (Manchester United), Andy Wilson (Dunfermline Athletic), Andy Cunningham (Rangers) & Alan Morton (Rangers).

From an Alan Morton corner in 20 minutes, Andy Wilson chested down to his right foot, and drove it hard from close range, the Dunfermline man netting in a 5th successive international. Just after the break, Morton's shot from the touchline slipped through Gough's hands, and, just before the hour mark, Andy Cunningham headed Wilson's cross in over Gough's outstretched arm. Scotland's win was justified, if a little flattering, and they now led the Auld Enemy by 19 to 14 in the "official" series.

Ahead of next week's final, Partick Thistle diehards would have mixed emotions about those Rangers boys being singled out for the utmost praise. Certainly, Scotland were most dangerous on the left, but much of this was due to our Jimmy being on his game, supplying Cunningham & Morton with the necessary ammo to maximise trouble for the English defence. “McMullan was the star of the half-back line. He was perfect in his placing, and his defensive work was first class” (SP). The only thing which spoiled the day for Jimmy was the fact that he'd picked up an ankle knock. That said, it hadn't been serious enough for him to leave the field of play, so he'd have been hoping to be fine for the Cup final.


Thistle fans fretting over their poor League form lately may have taken some comfort from the fact that Rangers, in their last match prior to the final, had also seemingly caught the bug. Celtic's challenge for the title had collapsed lately, and they went down tamely this afternoon, losing by two goals to nil at Kirkcaldy. Thus, had Rangers won today, they'd have been going into the Cup final as declared champions. A minor point it may be, but the champagne was kept on ice, as they could only draw 1-1 in Edinburgh, as the Sunday Post reported:


It may be safely suggested that the absence of Cunningham, Morton and McCandless materially affected the strength of the Rangers side at Easter Road. They gave quite a mediocre display - not one associated with that of the probable Cup and League winners. On the first half's showing they were decidedly inferior to the Hibernian side, and beaten practically in every department.

And so, the psychological build-up to next week's Scottish Cup final had begun. To lift the cup against the odds, Partick Thistle would need to play on every small advantage that they possibly could.

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, 05-Apr-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 31-Aug-2021.

© The Thistle Archive 2015-2024. All rights reserved. Third-party trademarks and content are the property of their respective owners, and subject to their own copyright terms and conditions. See the website links provided in each case.