Hibs in the Final (Part 1)

Good luck to Hibs in the Scottish Cup. They’ll hopefully do better than they’ve managed in finals against Celtic. Manfred Lurker looks back at the all-green finals of the past.


Hibs have a great tradition in the Scottish Cup. They have a great tradition of not winning it.

True, they haven’t won much of anything during the last 50 years or so, but the Scottish Cup really is one of their speciality acts.

The last time Hibernian had the cleaners polishing up the famous old trophy was in 1902. Arthur Balfour was Prime Minister, Lord Kitchener was busily organising concentration camps for detaining the Boers in South Africa, a law was enacted in Parliament to restrict the number of public houses in Ireland in order to prevent drinking (who says British colonialism wasn’t harsh?) and Boxers in China were revolting. Nearer home, work was just beginning on the Edinburgh tram network.

Meanwhile, in the USA Charles R Debevoise was inventing what was later to become known as the brassiere. To begin with it never took off, and had we but known at the time, it was to prove a fitting metaphor for the Hibs; apart from their solitary 1902 triumph, they too failed to lift any cups, although at least the brassiere did make a comeback. To be fair to them Hibs have also subsequently had more than their fair share of diddies hanging around Easter Road.

The 1902 Cup win was secured at Parkhead, of all places, against Celtic. The fact that scorer McGeachan had time to back heel the ball into the goal suggests that the marking was not exactly of Paolo Maldini standard.

The final had been due to be played on the Saturday following an international between Scotland and England. However, due to the disaster that befell the spectators following the collapse of part of the wooden terracing at Ibrox, the venue for the game, the Scottish Cup final didn’t take place until April 24th.

Willy Maley takes up the story in his jubilee year history of the club:

“The gate was naturally affected, only £700 being drawn for admission. A further £120 was drawn at the stand, and this was handed over to the Disaster Fund.

Campbell was unfit and his absence caused a rearrangement of the Celtic attack, McCafferty being brought in at outside right.

CELTIC: McFarlane; Watson and Battles; Loney, Marshall and Orr; McCafferty, McDermott, McMahon, Livingstone and Quinn.

HIBERNIANS: Rennie; Gray and Glen; breslin Harrower and Robertson; McColl, McGeachan, Divers, Callaghan and Atherton.

Referee: R. T. Murray, Stenhousemuir.

Divers, the ex-Celt, was very prominent in the early movements, having a steadying effect on his colleagues, although the wind was proving difficult.

Celts were showing good football but their shooting was atrocious, and as the game proceeded it became obvious that McMahon was most uncomfortable at centre.

Only Livingstone caused any trouble to Rennie in the first half, during which Hibs were surprisingly methodical and more than held their own, without, however, managing to score.

Early in the second half it appeared as if Celtic were going to win. Livingstone released a ball that seemed certain to beat Rennie, but it struck a colleague and diverted on to the upright to be cleared.

Fifteen minutes from the end Hibs made a desperate effort. They forced a corner, and Bobby Atherton whether by accident or design, sent it along the ground, McGeachan, very cleverly be it said, backheeling it into McFarlane’s net.

This roused Celts and until the end they hammered Rennie’s charge, even Battles being up among the forwards in order to force the equaliser.
It was all in vain, however; Hibernians won the Cup for the second time in their history and for the second successive year the trophy went to the capital, where, it might be added, it has only once reposed since.”

cup hibs team
Above: The Hibs team that won the 1902 Scottish Cup. The trophy isn’t on display – a situation they would get used to over the next 115 years.

One wonders what Maley would have replied had someone told him back in 1939 when he was writing his book that nearly three-quarters of a century later Hibs would still be trying to win the cup for a third time.

As a postscript to the Ibrox disaster, the accident almost brought financial ruin on Rangers, as they were known then, as well as the SFA. Financial assistance came from several clubs, including Celtic, and a tournament was organised featuring the two Glasgow teams along with Sunderland and Everton from south of the border. Rangers put up the trophy they had won in the 1901 Glasgow Exhibition Football Tournament. Celtic beat Rangers 3-2 after a replay in the final, played at Cathkin Park on June 19th (yes, during the off-season) and they followed this up with a 7-2 win in another fund-raiser between the teams two months later at Hampden.

Thereafter the story of Celtic and Hibs in Scottish Cup finals makes for happier reading for Hoops supporters.

In 1914, before the Kaiser started a strop on the Continent, Celtic, starring Patsy Gallacher, beat the Hibees 4:1 in a replay after a 0:0 draw to secure the double.

Maley takes up the story again:

In 1913-14 we were given the opportunity of avenging our Scottish Cup Final defeat of 1902 as we met Hibernians in the final.

Ibrox Park was the venue and there were 56,000 present in the expectation of seeing a keen game.

Our luck was out that season so far as home draws were concerned as not once were we fortunate in the ballot, our opponents having choice of ground in every round.

It is true we beat Clyde in the first round at Parkhead but that was after we had drawn 0-0 at Shawfield – we entered the second round by a 2-0 victory.

Then to Forfar where we won 5-0, on to Motherwell in the third round to win by 3-1, and in the semi-final we beat Third Lanark by 2-0.

Many changes had taken place in the team since the riot year; only MCNair, Dodds, Young and McMenemy of that lot took part in this final.

CELTIC: Shaw; MCNair and Dodds; Young, Johnstone and MCMaster; McAtee, Gallagher, Owers, MCMenemy and Browning.

HIBERNIANS: Allan; Girdwood and Templeton; Kerr, Paterson and Grosert; Wilson, Fleming, Henderson, Wood and Smith.

Referee: T. Dougary, Bellshill.

Quinn had more or less dropped out owing to knee trouble and M’Coll, who was regarded as his successor, although a newcomer, was also unavailable. Owers had been transferred from Clyde to help us out some time before but had not proved very satisfactory, although he still retained his place.

Hibs made a very plucky effort but were very much flattered with a draw at the end of the game as had Owers – to mention only one of the forwards – accepted half the gifts sent him, we would have won with something to spare.

In the replay he was dropped, M’Coll being pronounced fit to play, and as it turned out his inclusion made all the difference.
We were set to face a brilliant sun and Hibs took due advantage as they lashed the ball in the air and generally attempted to get our lads on the run.

They missed one great chance early in the game when three of their forwards failed to reach a pass, Charley Shaw being in the same category.

Then Celts’ forwards got going; M’Atee sent over a lovely ball and M’Coll deftly diverted it past Rennie to open our account.

Three minutes later the clever young leader sent in a magnificent shot which Rennie could only palm out and M’Coll, who had stumbled after delivering his shot, struggled to his feet to return it into the net.

Five minutes from the interval Browning scored a third and the cup was as good as won, but the scoring was not yet finished as early in the second half M’Atee sent across a ball from right to left for Browning to register number four, Hibs taking a slight consolation when Smith scored their solitary goal shortly thereafter.

The next time the clubs met in the final was in 1923.

If you haven’t heard many songs about this particular glorious chapter in Celtic’s history it’s probably because it is widely acknowledged as one of the most dour finals ever, a proverbial ‘defences on top’ game, decided by a blunder from Hibs’ international goalie Harper. The game merits little more than a paragraph or two in Tom Campbell and Pat Woods’ seminal ‘Glory and the Dream’:

The final was perhaps the dullest of all Scottish Cup finals, so tedious that one fan admitted to having had more interesting days watching his grass grow. As always, however, some features emerged. Once again the Maley brothers were in managerial opposition and, just as when he was in charge of Clyde back in 1912, Alec was on the losing side; the former Celtic player, Jimmy McColl, who had scored two of the goals that helped defeat Hibs in the 1914 replay, was now playing for the Edinburgh side, but he too was doomed to disappointment.

The teams lined up before 80,000 at Hampden on 31 March, 1923.

Celtic: Shaw, McNair, McStay W., McStay J., Cringan, McFarlane, McAtee, Gallacher, Cassidy, McLean, Connolly.

Hibernian: Harper, McGinnigle, Dornan, Kerr, Miller, Shaw, Ritchie, Dunn. McColl, Halligan, Walker.

It turned out, as expected, to be a grim defensive battle. Hibs had not given up a goal on their progress to Hampden but it was a tragic mistake by their international goalkeeper Harper that decided the final. Ten minutes after half-time he completely misjudged a long lob from McFarlane and the alert Cassidy had the simple task of heading the ball into an empty net.

The match was perhaps notable mainly for the appearance of Alec McNair (below) in Celtic’s defence at the sprightly age of 39.

cup mcnair

In his Centenary history of the club, Brian Wilson quotes James Handley on McNair’s performance in the final of 1923:

“Like the veteran actor who summons to his aid all the dramatic skill and experience of a lifetime to give the greatest performance of his career on the eve of his retirement, Alec, realising probably that this was his last appearance in a Scottish Cup final, proceeded to illustrate, in the effortless way that was characteristic of his play, what perfect defensive work could look like.”

Hibs in the Final (part 2)

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