Greenock's last game before World War Two

At the end of July 1939, it seemed that Greenock would not be able to retain the Union title that they had won in 1938 after a stern tussle with Kelburne. By this stage of the season, the Paisley club had established a clear lead in the table and were strong favourites to go on and claim the top spot from their Renfrewshire rivals.

But fortunes changed quickly. While Greenock were beating Ayr, Uddingston and Clydesdale with ease, Kelburne lost to Kilmarnock and West of Scotland and their game with Poloc was abandoned due to rain. Greenock now had the lead in the table and they went into their home match with Kelburne with the knowledge that a win would give them the title for the second year in a row.

Neither side was at full strength for this crucial encounter with their international all-rounders, Bob Hodge for Greenock and Willie Nichol for Kelburne, both missing.

Kilpatrick sets the tone for Kelburne

Kelburne batted first with Knox and Black facing the Greenock attack of Tobin and Tom McCrea, who assumed the new ball duty in the absence of Hodge. The latter quickly captured Black's wicket, caught at point by Douglas Adam, and he should have a second wicket almost immediately but dropped a return catch offered by Kilpatrick. How costly that would prove to be.

Kilpatrick scored at a fast rate from the start of his innings. He hit two boundaries in an over from McCrea and repeated that feat when facing Tobin. Despite frequent bowling changes, he and Knox could not be separated until the latter hit his own wicket facing Tough when the score was 84. Kilpatrick continued to treat the bowling with disdain, according to the Greenock Telegraph, and took 14 off an over from Tobin. He reached his fifty in 70 minutes but just after this the third wicket fell, Hirst being caught by David McPherson off McCrea's bowling.

Greenock set a challenging target

Glen was bowled by McCrea at 145 and at the same score, Kilpatrick was given out lbw to Adam for a very fine 78, made in 100 minutes and containing fourteen boundaries. He had made the most of his reprieve at the start of his innings and from a further catch dropped by Neill when he was 64. The lower order continued to hit out, allowing the Kelburne skipper to declare with the total on 180 for 7. Tom McCrea was Greenock's most successful bowler, taking 4 for 61 but the rest of the bowling was uninspired, particularly Tobin whose one wicket cost 66 runs.

Greenock opened with their usual pairing of Kerr and Neill. Both batted carefully but steadily and after half an hour, 28 runs had been posted, at which point Neill was bowled by Kelburne's Adam. Tobin was next man in and was immediately given two lives, Black dropping him at point when on one and McNeil failing to hold a hard return catch one run later.

John Kerr's Union career ends on a disappointing note

The Telegraph stated that "Kerr was scoring with his usual nonchalant style, but his first 20 included 18 singles." When he had made 27 and with Greenock falling behind the clock he looked for a run when Tobin hit the ball to mid-off but was sent back and run out. A sad end to his last ever Union innings.

Williamson joined Tobin and they attempted to raise the run rate but were unable to take any chances with the bowling of Claude McNeil who had to this point bowled unchanged. Ninety runs were still needed with less than an hour to play and victory seemed remote. However, the batsmen tried to hard to take runs when they could and Tobin raised the hundred with a boundary off Hirst.

The pair were separated at 131 when Knox ran out Tobin as he attempted a quick single. His 48 had taken 85 minutes, with only five fours, as he struggled to get on top of the bowling. McPherson was next man in and straightaway hit Hirst for four. Kelburne by now had adopted a very defensive field which reduced Greenock to score mainly in singles.

Williamson reached his half-century after batting for 65 minutes but shortly after this he was caught by McNeil off Adam. McPherson quickly followed him and time was called with Norman Walker and George Tough at the crease.

Greenock six runs short of the title

Greenock were agonisingly just six runs short of victory but the points system awarded one point to Kelburne and none to the home team. This meant that both teams were locked at the top of the table with a percentage of 57.14 with just one game to play, Greenock at Kilmarnock and Kelburne at home to the bottom team, Clydesdale.

But on the following day, Britain declared war on Germany and the Government ordered that all sporting activity should cease, an order that would be rescinded in due course. The Western Union committee declared that the Championship as played was a valid one and that the league positions as at 2nd September would stand and therefore Greenock and Kelburne shared the title.

End of an era

And so league cricket came to an end and would not resume until 1946. When it restarted, there would be no John Kerr, Pat Williamson or Douglas Adam in the Greenock team. Nor would Bob Hodge or Tom McCrea feature for them, both having left the district for work reasons and would continue their cricketing careers in the Scottish Counties championship. The game with Kelburne was very much the end of an era.


W Knox hit wicket b Tough 40
WGO Black c Adam b McCrea 1
JS Kilpatrick lbw b Adam 78
CB Hirst c McPherson b McCrea 13
A Glen   b McCrea 10
J Miller   b McCrea 6
G Adam   b Tobin 12
JT Speedie not out 8
C McNeil not out 9
D Murray      
S Johnston      
Extras 2b 1lb   3
TOTAL     40.7 overs 180 for 7
Bowler O M R W   Fall of Wickets
TH McCrea 13 2 61 4   1-7
Tobin 13.7 0 66 1   2-84
GH Tough 5 0 21 1   3-126
GD Adam 9 1 29 1   4-145
John Kerr run out 27
A Neill   b Adam 8
Tobin run out 48
PJF Williamson* c McNeil b Adam 52
DR McPherson c Knox b McNeil 19
WN Walker not out 11
GH Tough not out 1
TH McCrea      
AT Carnie      
GD Adam      
W Muir+      
Extras 7b 1lb 1nb   9
TOTAL     38.7 overs   175 for 5
Bowler O M R W   Fall of Wickets
C McNeil 15.7 2 55 1   1-28
G Adam 9 0 34 2   2-59
D Murray 8 0 36 0   3-131
CB Hirst 5 0 30 0   4-159
W Knox 1 0 11 0   5-169