Greenock's first win at Raeburn Place

The Edinburgh side, Grange, has often been regarded as the premier club in Scotland, indeed sometimes being referred to as Scotland's MCC. Greenock first met Grange in 1887, when the long trip to Edinburgh resulted in a fairly heavy defeat, but in 1893 there started an annual friendly, played alternately at Glenpark and Raeburn Place, that continued, almost without interruption, up to 1955. Greenock long guarded their friendlies with the leading East clubs and none more so than that with Grange.

46 matches were played in this run of fixtures, split equally between the two grounds. Greenock's record at Glenpark was reasonable, winning 12 and losing 7 with 3 matches drawn and another abandoned but it was a different matter at Raeburn Place. Only 2 matches were won, 9 were lost, 10 drawn and 2 abandoned and it took until the twelfth match played in Edinburgh before the first win would be recorded.

Feeling of reverence

Initially, the match was played at different times in the summer but from 1899 onwards it found a more permanent date in June, on either the second or third Saturday of the month. In 1923, Greenock, who were the reigning Western Union champions, travelled to Edinburgh on Saturday 9th June to take on their illustrious opponents.

The Greenock Telegraph in its report on the match remarked that "The position of the Grange Club, its ample housing accommodation, and its fine record of playing ability make it the desire of all cricketers to enjoy its hospitality. Doubtless all these qualities associated with the club tend to create a feeling of reverence for it, and sometimes with a chastened spirit the place may be approached because of all that has been done in the past and the abiding ability that is always resident in the membership." From this, one can gather exactly what Greenock felt about their opponents.

Greenock's sound batting

Grange won the toss and elected to send Greenock into bat. Reports on the match reveal that Greenock batted soundly throughout despite the presence of Harry Preston, Grange's professional, in the opposition attack. John Kerr, who was Scotland's captain at the time, was on his very best form and the best partnership of the match was put together by himself and William Adam for the third wicket, the total reaching 94 before they were parted, Kerr making 52 and Adam 40.

From this point, the middle order did not make much of a showing but Carnie stuck around, aided by a number of lives, and with the help of Hope and Logan, saw Greenock to the double century, their final total of 208 putting them in a strong position. Carnie had a reputation as a dour player, one who over a long playing career was never able to cement his place in the 1st XI, but on this occasion, he was described by the Scotsman as "happy-go-lucky". He made good use of his three lives and ensured that the Greenock bowlers would have something to defend in the second half of the match. For Grange, Preston finished with figures of 6 for 61 and throughout was a constant threat to the Greenock batsmen.

Harry Preston

Harry Preston had played intermittently for Kent before the First World War but in 1920 had joined Grange, where he played until joining West of Scotland in 1929. In 1933, at the age of 49, he broke the record for most wickets in a Western Union season, capturing an amazing 94 victims, a record later equalled by Joe Hipkin, the Uddingston professional. He left West in 1937, spending one season at Ayr before retiring from the game.

Cyril Horne wrote in the history of the West of Scotland club that "Preston was a bowler of skill and cunning who gained extraordinary speed off the pitch with his medium-paced deliveries especially if the wicket was of the firm type. He was a master of length, flight, and pace, and could disguise his off-break most disconcertingly for batsmen." He was reckoned to have taken just under 2000 wickets during his 18 seasons-long career in Scotland and on nine occasions he took five wickets or more against Greenock.

Last wicket stand doubles the score

Grange's reply to Greenock's score of 208 started disastrously, two wickets falling in Norman Walker's first over. The Scotsman noted that "the Grange batsmen made a more or less continuous procession to and from the wicket." Five wickets were down for just 12 runs and at 39 for 9, Grange were facing a humiliating defeat. Last man Preston joined Green at the crease and as a steady drizzle fell which caused difficulty for the bowlers in gripping the ball, they more than doubled the score. Preston was never known as a batsmen, his normal position in the order being that of number ten or eleven, but on this occasion he played some fine shots. The partnership lasted for almost an hour before Carnie managed to penetrate the professional's defences to give Greenock a resounding win by 120 runs with thirty minutes to spare. Walker finished with 7 for 32.

Greenock were far superior to Grange in all departments of the game. The Telegraph stated that the Edinburgh side was a team somewhat past its prime, unrecognisable from that which had soundly defeated Greenock the previous year at Glenpark. "The fielding of the Grange players was not of the brilliant or speedy type, and perhaps on this occasion there was a shade too much footwork." Ouch!

28 years to next victory at Raeburn Place

It should be noted such was the strength of Grange that in many years they often fielded two 1st XIs of equal ability on a Saturday. However that was not the case on this occasion, just the one team being fielded, and it would certainly seem that this was not one of their strongest years. But Greenock would not complain given that it had taken them so long to achieve a win at Raeburn Place and it would be another 28 years before they would be able to claim another win there.

The friendlies with Grange eventually came to an end after 1955. The Western Union ordered that Greenock must play Ferguslie home and away - remarkably they had only played them once each season up to that point. This and the formation of the East League in 1953 was the death knell for this long-standing fixture.

It would be 1978 before the teams would meet again but since then the sides have played a further 39 fixtures, mainly competitive games in the National League which had been formed in 1998 and in the Scottish Cup. Of those games, 17 were played at Raeburn Place, only 3 of which resulted in wins for Greenock. Since 1887, a total of just 5 wins in 41 games goes to show how difficult a ground Raeburn Place has proved to be for Greenock.



John Kerr c Logan b Preston 52
WN Walker   b Preston 14
AH Crawford   b Preston 0
WM Adam   b Noble 40
AT Carnie   b Preston 38
JB Walker *   b Preston 4
JR Kerr   b Preston 0
W Hope run out 20
RW Logan run out 14
GD Adam c Noble b Watson 3
J Finnie + not out 2
Extras 19b 1lb 1nb   21
TOTAL      208 all out
Bowler R W    
Preston 61 6    
HB Watson   b WN Walker 1
MM Logan   b WN Walker 0
Major ND Noble c John Kerr b GD Adam 1
GH Mason c John Kerr b WN Walker 6
AW Duncan   b WN Walker 1
JS Milne c JB Walker b WN Walker 4
GP Cronk   b GD Adam 3
Lt Col EF St John lbw b WN Walker 7
GB Green not out 19
FB Freeman   b WN Walker 1
Preston   b Carnie 33
Extras 12b   12
TOTAL      88 all out
Bowler R W    
WN Walker 32 7