Willie Hope's 40 minute century

In the years after World War One, Greenock were fortunate in that they were able to field a number of fine all-rounders. Norman Walker, William Smith and William Carnie were all strong players for the club and their ability was recognised by international selection. There was one other all-rounder who did not quite reach those heights, perhaps because of his medical duties, but who was responsible for one of the most memorable innings ever played for the club - Willie Hope.

Hope played a few games at the start of the 1919 season but with no success and did not appear again that season. He did though make more of a mark in the second half of the 1920 season and was marked out as an outstanding prospect. When the 1921 season started, Hope was in the eleven and quickly established his position in the team.

Drumpellier at Glenpark

On July 16th, Greenock welcomed Drumpellier to Glenpark. They batted first and the local spectators were eager to welcome John Kerr back to Glenpark after his magnificent 147 which he had made the previous day against the all-conquering Australians. Consequently they were very unhappy when their hero was given out leg before to the Drumpellier professional, Benham, for just 3 and made their feelings known.

Two more early wickets fell, Willie Adam and David Riddell also falling to Benham and Greenock were 37 for 3. Hunter Crawford and Reid Kerr stabilised the innings but when both of them together with Norman Walker also became victims of Benham, Greenock were definitely struggling. The exact score at this point is not known but it cannot have been any more than 80 with 6 wickets down. When Willie Hope came to the crease, what happened next could not have been imagined.

Hope transforms Greenock's innings

Hope immediately went on the attack, while his partner Carnie was content to just keep up his end. Although the pitch was soft after early morning rain and was cutting up, this did not deter Hope. The Greenock Telegraph described his innings thus

"The advent of Hope playing with his old schoolmate Carnie gave the historic touch to the game. One admired Carnie's restraint and contentment to hold a watching brief, while Hope thrilled the field with such an exhibition of fine hitting as has not been seen in Glenpark for long enough, perhaps not before. One over of Skeil's bowling was driven - each ball to the boundary. There was a sufficiency of defensive strokes, but the ease of the hits was a striking feature, the accurate turning, and withal the clear vision that enabled him to accomplish this were an enjoyable revelation to all in the field. Skeil is a bowler of repute, and this should not be forgotten, for while the batsman made the deliveries look simple the cricketer's instinct alone could have enabled Hope to place the varying balls in all parts of the field."

In all, Hope was at the crease for just forty minutes, hitting twenty boundaries in his innings of exactly 100. At one point he scored 33 from nine deliveries and all the bowlers came alike to him. Certainly he made a mess of Benham's figures after the bowler had taken the first six wickets. From a position of quite some difficulty, Greenock's innings had been transformed and they were able to declare on 198 for 8.

Walker clinches victory for Greenock

Hope was not finished when Drumpellier began their reply as it was his fine catch from a difficult chance that captured the early wicket of the Drumpellier veteran, Charlie Mannes and when he came on to bowl, he quickly dismissed Benham, well caught by Riddell on the leg boundary.

Wickets fell regularly and when Skeil, after an obdurate innings, was bowled by Norman Walker, it seemed that Greenock would win easily. But Carter and Lewin came together for a most productive partnership, Carter in particular playing with great skill. It took the return to the attack of Walker at the Fox Street end to make the decisive breakthrough. Firstly he bowled Lewin and then with just five minutes of play left he had Carter well caught in the gully by John Kerr for a very fine 63 and Greenock had won by 45 runs.

Play finishes in heavy rain

The Telegraph also commented on "the magnificent sporting spirit shown by our visitors. Because of the heavy rain during the last fifteen or twenty minutes of the play there was much justification for an appeal for cessation of play. The fighting instinct prevailed on both sides, and in spite of the elements the players held on, and though the visitors were risking - and latterly realising - the loss of the game, they preferred in this manner to face up to the inevitable, and thereby gained much in reputation as good sportsmen though losing a point on the League table."

Willie Hope, pictured above, fourth from the left, in the 1922 title-winning team, would go on to score over 2400 runs and take 145 wickets in his career with Greenock. This career was much interrupted by his off-field duties as a doctor. After 1921, he played full seasons up to the end of 1925 but missed the entire 1926 season. He returned in 1927 and 1928 but missed 1929 and only played twice in 1930. His last full season for the Club was in 1931 and thereafter he played spasmodically in the next two seasons, finishing his career in 1938 with two appearances. One can only surmise how his career would have played out had he been able to play every year.

CD Stuart in the Club's centenary booklet paid him this complement. "With bat and ball Hope went from strength to strength and his carefree batting won many a match. He was a very hard hitter, but there was nothing of the baseball player in his make-up. What he did do was punch the half volley and crack the short pitched ball off the back foot."


John Kerr lbw b Benham 3
WM Adam   b Benham 10
AH Crawford   b Benham 34
DA Riddell c Anderson b Benham 1
JR Kerr   b Benham 23
WN Walker c Hanson b Benham 4
AT Carnie c Benham b Carter 14
W Hope c Hanson b Barton 100
JB Walker * not out 4
DB Bisset +      
GD Adam      
Extras     5
TOTAL      198 for 8
Bowler R W  
Benham 82 6    
CT Mannes c Hope b GD Adam 4
AP Skeil *   b WN Walker 32
JM Denholm lbw b WN Walker 6
Benham c Riddell b Hope 6
J Mitchell lbw b Carnie 4
AJJ Carter c John Kerr b WN Walker 63
J Anderson c Riddell b Carnie 0
A Barton c and b John Kerr 0
HW Taylor c WM Adam b WN Walker 5
HW Lewin   b WN Walker 23
DC Hanson not out 10
Extras     0
TOTAL      153
Bowler R W  
WN Walker 28 5