The opening of Greenock's new pavilion

Greenock's new pavilion was officially opened on Saturday 5th May 1923. The Club's patron, Sir Hugh Shaw Stewart, was originally to carry out the ceremony but in the event was unable to do so and his role was assumed by the President of the Scottish Cricket Union, JK Ballantyne, who had assembled an eleven to play Greenock to mark the occasion.

This extract from the Greenock Telegraph provides some details on the facilities provided by the new premises, emphasising amongst other things the up-to-date sanitary appliances and the smoking room! There is also a reference to accommodation for the professionals, who in those days were not allowed to change with the Club's amateurs, such accommodation amounting to little more than a cupboard. The drawing of the clubhouse shows that the basic structure still exists to this day, although there have been many changes made since it was built, both internally and externally.

The Greenock Telegraph commenced its report of the match with this statement. "In after years the first Saturday in May, 1923, will mark the opening of a new era in the history of the Greenock Cricket Club. Not that there is or has been any sign of decrepitude or want of vitality about the organisation, but just that the new housing conditions make a vantage point for a new start, and when the club members are conscious of having the finest and most up to date pavilion in the western area they will be proud to own their allegiance to the club, and strive to promote its interests in especially play." And later they stated " No longer housed in a 'hutch' but in a modern palace pavilion, the dignity of the membership will be augmented, and let us hope the standard of play much more so." Stirring words from journalism of a different era!

The opening ceremony was carried out during the lunch interval of the match and afterwards the players were photographed on the steps leading down to the ground.

The Greenock players are wearing their striped blazers and in the middle of the front row is the captain, Barnhill Walker. Immediately to his left is presumably JK Ballantyne and the figure on the far left of the front row is taken to be John Kerr. The  studied nonchalance of the gentleman on the far right of the front row with a cigarette in his mouth and his hands in his pocket is quite jarring to present-day sensibilities. It is also quite interesting to see the local worthies at the back of the group in their bowler hats. The standard of dress of spectators at Glenpark has certainly gone down since then!

Greenock set visitors a stern target

As for the match itself, Ballantyne had brought through to Greenock a team that was mainly composed of Border League players augmented by three from Edinburgh but it did include three players who had earned Scottish caps in John Grieve, Gilbert Hole and the keeper John McDougall.

Greenock batted first, whether or not by agreement is not known, and their openers, John Kerr and Norman Walker, batted through to the lunch break to put 60 runs on the board. The Greenock Telegraph reporter got somewhat carried away with his description of the play before lunch. "The hour's play prior to the luncheon was a thing never to be forgotten. The surroundings and weather were ideal, but apart from these, the cricket was cricket in excelsis. The best of bowling, the most perfect standard of fielding, and making allowance for local bias, the prettiest display of defensive and offensive batting ever seen at Glenpark."

After lunch, Walker was immediately dismissed by a fine catch by Ballantyne and after John Kerr was the victim of another smart catch with the score at 101, wickets began to fall more regularly. Every one of the top six batsmen got a start but nobody was able to make more than the 39 that John Kerr and Willie Hope managed. The slow bowling of Heriot's Gordon ensured that the lower order were unable to build on the start provided by the earlier batting but enough runs were made to allow Greenock to declare on 196 for 9.

Match ends in a draw

Ballantyne's XI, left just over two hours of batting, made a bad start to their reply losing their first two wickets for just 12 runs. A heavy shower of rain caused a 15 minutes suspension in play and rendered the pitch more amenable to the bowling attack. On the resumption of play, Norman Walker and Douglas Adam continued to weave their way through the top order, the expected runs from Grieve and Hole not materialising, and it seemed that a somewhat easy victory would ensue for Greenock with half the invitational side out for just 44.

But John McDougall and RA Anderson came together to thwart the bowlers and they were able to double the score while protecting their wickets before play was halted at six o'clock to allow the visitors to catch their train back to the east and the Borders.

The Telegraph reporter, still waxing lyrical, ventured that "there is a feeling of disappointment, or, at least, want of satisfaction, that such a game failed to reach a clear issue" and " there will be no one to say that the Greenock side are not good; rather will it be admitted that J.B. (Walker) leads one of the best, if not the best, sides ever seen representing the club." One would be forgiven for thinking that Greenock were playing the Scottish national team rather than just a collection of decent club cricketers.

The scorecard details are as follows (full bowling analyses cannot be found).

John Kerr c Henderson b Douglas 39
WN Walker c Ballantyne b Douglas 26
AH Crawford   b Douglas 29
AT Carnie st McDougall b Gordon 15
W Hope lbw b Storrie 39
JB Walker * c Grieve b Gordon 10
WM Adam st McDougall b Gordon 2
TS Tough not out 8
RW Logan st McDougall b Gordon 0
J Finnie + run out 1
GD Adam      
Extras     27
TOTAL      196 for 9
JK Ballantyne's XI
AM Gordon (Heriot's FP)   b GD Adam 9
RL Henderson (Gala)   b Walker 0
J Grieve (Selkirk)   b Walker 3
J Storrie (Hawick) c Kerr b GD Adam 6
GLD Hole (Edinburgh Accies)   b GD Adam 19
G Anderson (Gala) c Logan b Kerr 10
WE Bryce (Selkirk) c WM Adam b Walker 1
RA Anderson (Gala) not out 12
JR McDougall (Kilmarnock and Gala) + not out 23
AS Douglas (Watsonians)      
JK Ballantyne (St Boswells) *      
Extras     9
TOTAL      92 for 7
Bowler R W    
GD Adam 22 3    
WN Walker 32 3