Greenock's first game in the West League Cup

After a wet summer in 1950, several clubs in the Western Union were keen to improve their financial position and it was felt that a competition along the lines of the then football League Cup would find favour with the public. A very fine trophy was put up for the competition by Mr and Mrs Andrew McCulloch of Kilmarnock in memory of their son, Stewart, a very promising young player, who had died in the previous winter.

The ten Union clubs were spilt into two sections of five teams on a mainly geographic basis with sectional games being played home and away on midweek evenings, the top two in each section qualifying for the knock-out stage. Greenock were placed with Kelburne, Ferguslie, Kilmarnock and Ayr and on Tuesday 15th May 1951, they travelled to Whitehaugh to take on Kelburne in their first game in the competition.

Kelburne make fast start

Kelburne won the toss and eagerly opted to bat first as they knew that the Greenock attack, which was not at full strength, would have to contend with a greasy ball. The Paisley men got off to a fast start putting twenty runs on the board after three of the twenty eight-ball overs.

Their openers, Willie Nichol, an established Scottish internationalist, and Iain Anderson, who would earn his first cap later in the season, were a redoubtable pair and they put on 63 for the first wicket before Greenock's young leg-spinner, Willie Melrose, dismissed Anderson. Nichol followed at 79 but the Kelburne professional, Bert Tobin - more of him later - ensured that the run rate was maintained and at the end of the twentieth over, the score stood at 138 for 3.

Greenock come up short in fading light

The light was not good when Greenock commenced their innings but their openers, Andrew McLeod and John Drummond - a batsman described by the Rev Jim Aitchison as one of the most unorthodox in the Union - made a good start, putting on 41 for the first wicket before Drummond was bowled by Tobin in the fifth over.

With the light continuing to fade, Greenock began to fall behind the asking rate. Their score stood at 94 with just three overs to go and although they had wickets in hand, the task of scoring 45 from the last 24 balls was always going to be too much. Their keeper, Charles De Boinville, grandfather of the well-known jump jockey Nico, made a stout effort to get the runs but when stumps were drawn Kelburne were the victors.

Greenock had lost by 12 runs, a defeat made more galling by the fact that the man of the match, with five wickets and an unbeaten 39, was their ex-professional, Bert Tobin.

Bert Tobin - first Australian professional in Scotland

Tobin had a meteoric rise to fame in his native Australia and an equally fast drop back into obscurity. Starting his first-class career in 1930, he was promoted unheralded to the Australian squad for the fourth Test in the 1932/33 Bodyline series but his erratic form prior to that match meant that he was restricted to twelfth man duties and was not required for the final Test. His first-class career with South Australia was over by the end of the 1934/35 season, comprising just 26 matches.

In 1935 he travelled to the UK and played as professional in Lancashire with Rishton for two seasons and Stockport for one before being appointed professional at Glenpark to replace the great Reg Hollingdale who had left for Grange after seven successful seasons. He was the first Australian to be employed as a professional in Scotland and the first in a long line of distinguished and outstanding cricketers from that country.

Tobin was an instant success at Glenpark helping the team to the 1938 Union title and a share of the 1939 one. However, he had lost the confidence of the Club's committee, being perceived as somewhat lazy, and would not have been kept on as professional for the 1940 season, had war not intervened to halt the Union. He played with Pudsey St Lawrence in the Bradford League in 1940 before returning to Greenock, where his family continued to live, to play as an amateur for the rest of the war and indeed during the 1946 league season.

Paisley successes

In 1947, Tobin was appointed as part-time professional at Ferguslie and in the following season helped them to win the Union title. They shared the title the following season with Kilmarnock but Ferguslie wished to appoint a full-time professional for 1950 and they amicably parted company with him whereupon he crossed Paisley to Whitehaugh to become Kelburne's professional. With them, he would win the Union title in 1951 thereby claiming a unique, certainly at the time, achievement of winning it with three different clubs. Kelburne also won the West League Cup in 1951 and 1953, which would be his last season in Scotland, and these successes coupled with his five league titles underline the impact that he had on cricket in the west of Scotland.

Bert Tobin returned to Australia in 1954, although his family remained in Greenock, and remained involved with cricket until his untimely death at the age of 58 in 1969. TC Riddell in his obituary of Tobin in the Greenock Telegraph paid him this rich compliment.

"It is generally agreed that he was the greatest stylist of any player, professional or amateur, who graced Scottish cricket fields over a considerable period of years ... He had every shot. He was like Hammond, equally strong off the front foot or the back foot. He could hook and cut and glide - he had in fact every shot that any of the best ever played ... Many of us will miss this lovable, brilliant and erratic character."


IM Anderson c Duthie b Melrose 44
W Nichol c Proverbs b DW Drummond 30
Tobin not out 39
T Stewart c DW Drummond b Agnew 11
J Baxter not out 12
J Hammell      
C McNeil      
AD Crawford      
J McKinnon      
J Martin      
T Cameron      
Extras 1b 1lb   2
TOTAL     20 overs 138 for 3
Bowler O M R W   Fall of Wickets
DW Drummond 10 1 65 1   1-63
IB Campbell 5 0 39 0   2-79
WL Melrose 3 0 21 1   3-112
JM Agnew 2 0 11 1    
AR McLeod   b Tobin 33
JS Drummond   b Tobin 17
CL Proverbs c Hammell b Tobin 21
DW Drummond *   b Nichol 16
CAC de Boinville + not out 24
JM Agnew   b Tobin 1
JPT Thomson   b Tobin 7
DM Galbreath not out 6
RG Duthie      
IB Campbell      
WL Melrose      
Extras 1lb   1
TOTAL     20 overs   126 for 6
Bowler O M R W   Fall of Wickets
Tobin 10 0 48 5   1-41
T Cameron 4 0 28 0   2-62
W Nichol 6 0 49 1   3-79