1932 - Norman Walker leads Greenock to title success

1932 saw Greenock with a new captain, Norman Walker, who was now back to full health. Reg Hollingdale continued as professional but Robert Ferguson would not be available at all due to ill-health and David Bisset had returned abroad and would not play for the Club again. Despite this change in personnel, there was confidence that the Club would have a more successful season than in 1931.

Loss to Ayr after promising start

The annual pre-season friendly with Cartha was not played due to the weather with the result that Greenock went into the first league game of the season at Glenpark having had no match practice. It turned out that this did not matter as Drumpellier were quite comfortably beaten to get the season off to a good start. Hollingdale took 6 for 61 as Drumpellier were bowled out for 142, their professional Carter top-scoring with 67. Greenock steadily knocked off the runs to bring victory by 5 wickets with all the batsmen getting into double figures although nobody reached the half-century. John Kerr scored 37, looking his usual assured self until he was dismissed leg before, as he was prone to get out, while the new skipper was undefeated on 37, a welcome start to his captaincy.

The next match, at Dam Park against Ayr, was a setback for the team after that promising start. The batting never got going with the result that Greenock were dismissed for 120, Walker scoring 30 while the Ayr professional, Harrison, took 6 for 43. Ayr were well on the way to victory at 116 for 3 but the loss of 5 wickets for just 2 runs turned the game on its head. A dropped catch in the slips put an end to Greenock's chances of a sensational victory as not longer after that Harrison hit the winning boundary. Hollingdale was again amongst the wickets with 5 for 37 while Walker took 3 for 19 to cap a good all-round performance from the skipper.

Tight game with Poloc

Before the next league fixture, the first round Rowan Cup tie with Kelburne was played at Glenpark and this resulted in a straightforward win for Greenock against opponents who were not at full strength. A total of 102, in which Dr Willie Hope took 5 for 30, was never going to threaten Greenock's batting and so it transpired. John Kerr and Tom Riddell got Greenock off to a good start and they won by 8 wickets, well before the allocated time for the innings was reached.  Riddell was unbeaten at the end on 61 and Kerr made 39 with young Robert Hodge, in a sign to the future, given a chance at first wicket down. He made just 10 but his would be a name that would feature strongly in the coming years.

The league match with Poloc at Glenpark that followed was a triumph for the bowlers on both sides as neither Greenock nor Poloc could reach treble figures. Poloc chose to bat first but were unable to take any advantage from this. There was some assistance for the bowlers as overnight rain had freshened the pitch - there were no covers in these days - and George Tough in particular used this to his advantage, taking 7 for 26 as Poloc were bowled out for 84. This should not have been a problem for Greenock as the Poloc professional, Tyson, who had found Greenock's batting to be to his liking in 1931, was unable to play due to a throat infection. Nonetheless, Greenock lost early wickets and only Hollingdale (20) and Pat Williamson (18) reached double figures. 69 for 4 quickly became 78 for 8 but young Hodge stepped up to the mark and made sure of the 2 wicket victory. Once this had been achieved, the last two wickets fell cheaply. It was a day of low scores in the Union with the Paisley clubs suffering badly. Kelburne were bowled out for 27 by Uddingston and Ferguslie for 28 by West of Scotland, in each case the opposition professional taking 8 wickets for less than 10 runs.

Rain spoils chance of win at Uddingston

Ran brought an early conclusion to the fixture with Uddingston at Bothwell Policies. After the home team had threatened a large total thanks to Turner's fine 61, excellent bowling from Greenock ensured that they would not be chasing too large a score, Hodge taking 3 for 13 and Douglas Adam 3 for 24. John Kerr and AT Carnie made a steady start in reply, the score reaching 28 for 0 when the rain set in for the rest of the day and spoiled what looked like being an enthralling contest.

The annual friendly with Watsonians followed and despite the Edinburgh side sending a strong eleven to Glenpark, they were easily beaten by Greenock. Watsonians won the toss and elected to bat but could make little headway against the home attack, Douglas Adam to the fore with 4 for 39. When Greenock batted, they lost some early wickets but once Hollingdale and John Kerr got together they eased to a 6 wickets victory, Hollingdale being unbeaten on 70 and Kerr on 52.

West of Scotland were the next visitors to Glenpark for a match which would be Hollingdale's benefit. The two innings bore remarkable similarities in that both sides suffered an early collapse before a unbeaten half-century by their captain rescued them. West had batted first and they were indebted to their skipper Mathieson to enable them to reach 154 before being dismissed, Douglas Adam taking 4 for 35. The opposition professional, Preston, was responsible for Greenock's early problems but Norman Walker, aided by an obdurate Arthur Neill, restored their fortunes. Walker's counter-attacking 55 not out, which included 3 maximums, saw Greenock safely to a draw, as they ended 24 runs behind with 3 wickets in hand.

Hollingdale misses out on century

A high-scoring game ensued at Whitehaugh against Kelburne with Greenock eventually emerging as the winners. Kelburne batted first and reached 189 thanks to half-centuries from their professional, Pope, and Charlie Hirst and to some less than impressive fielding from Greenock. The visitors made a reasonable start but seemed to lose their way as three wickets fell in quick succession. However, Hollingdale remained at the crease and, partnered by Willie Hope, took Greenock to a 6 wickets victory with splendid stroke play in his finest innings to date for the club. Stumps were drawn when the professional was dismissed just 4 runs short of what would have been a deserved century.

Greenock's interest in the Rowan Cup was ended when they went down to a 25 run loss at Hamilton Crescent against West of Scotland in front of around 3000 spectators. The home team amassed 153 for 7 in their allotted time of one hour and 45 minutes, a decent score which would tax Greenock. When they reached 86 for 1, it seemed that Greenock had a good chance of victory but John Kerr's dismissal at that score for 57 led to a rush of wickets which effectively put an end to their challenge and in the end they were dismissed for 128.

The annual friendly with Grange was played this year at Raeburn Place and ended in a draw, in favour of Greenock. They had batted first and had declared on 215 for 3 with John Kerr, Hollingdale and AT Carnie all scoring half-centuries. Left less than two hours to bat, Grange lost early wickets and were ultimately forced to play for the draw, which they did quite comfortably but when stumps were drawn they had only made 116 for 6.

Winning run leads to league challenge

While Glenpark was hosting the Scotland versus Ireland international, Greenock travelled to Titwood to take on Clydesdale without the services of John Kerr who was captaining the Scottish side. The match was a triumph for Hollingdale who followed his 3 wickets in the Clydesdale innings as the Glasgow side were bowled out for 123 with a fine innings of 67 which only ended when the scores were level. Greenock went on to win by 3 wickets and inflict the first defeat of the season on Clydesdale. Scotland incidentally fell to defeat when their batting collapsed after Ireland had rescued a fairly unpromising position. A crowd of around 2000 witnessed the latter stages of the game on the third day.

Next up for Greenock were Kilmarnock, another away game, the third in succession. This proved to be no problem as Kilmarnock were easily overcome. Hollingdale, Douglas Adam and Tough were too potent for the home team's batting line-up which could only muster 82. In reply John Kerr scored a brisk 35 and AT Carnie was unbeaten on 50 when the closure was applied after Greenock had won by 9 wickets.

These three wins had propelled Greenock into a challenging position in the league table, just behind the unbeaten leaders Uddingston. The last game before the mid-season break took place at Glenpark against Ferguslie and the expectations were for a comfortable win. Ferguslie had other ideas, though, and a combination of hard hitting and poor fielding which resulted in several catches and stumpings being missed saw them to 214 for 9 at the tea interval. Showers before and during the game had led to difficult conditions and when the rain started to fall in earnest while tea was taken there was no alternative but to call the game off, probably to Greenock's advantage.

Belfast tour ends well

During the midweek break, Norman Walker led the club on another tour of Belfast. Results in the first three games were disappointing, to match the weather which was as damp as the west of Scotland. A shortened game with Woodvale ended in a draw with the Irish team holding out with 3 wickets to fall but both North of Ireland and North Down inflicted convincing defeats on the tourists. The former was another match where rain intervened and the Greenock batting collapsed when set 129 for victory, only the openers, Riddell and McCrea getting into double figure, both scoring 14. The North Down professional, Pearson, took 8 for 39 as Greenock could only muster 139 and their opponents overtook this total with ease, winning by 7 wickets.

Thereafter, results improved with the final three matches all being won. Norman Walker and George Tough ran through the Cliftonville batting to dismiss them for 106 and while Greenock's batting was not overly impressive, they were still able to win by 4 wickets, thanks in no small part to 'Mr Extras' whose 48 was more than double the highest score obtained off the bat. Far more impressive was the win over Lisburn, with Hollingdale in prime form, taking 5 for 21 in 18 overs and then scoring 50 not out as Greenock eased to a 6 wickets victory. Tom Riddell continued to enjoy the Irish conditions, as he had in 1931, with 57 at the top of the order. Hollingdale again impressed in the last game of the tour, top-scoring with 46 as Greenock scored 146 against Holywood, and then skittling them for 109, taking 7 for 29 in 17 overs.

High-scoring friendly with Wood's XI

The first league game after the resumption was at Langloan against Drumpellier and resulted in an easy win for Greenock. There was some patchy batting during the visitors' innings but nonetheless they reached 177 for 8 before declaring, Williamson contributing 50 and John Kerr 42 while Norman Walker was unbeaten on 49. Wickets fell regularly during Drumpellier's reply and Hollingdale, Tough and Walker each took 3 wickets as Drumpellier were all out for 107, Greenock winning by 70 runs.

Before the next league game, the last friendly of the season was played when GEC Wood's XI paid a return visit to Glenpark. Wood's team of Oxbridge cricketers had been well beaten in the previous year but it was a different matter this time. Nonetheless Greenock very much held their own and the 600 odd spectators were treated to some magnificent batting. The Nawab of Pataudi had featured in the team in the games played earlier in the week but to the disappointment of the spectators was not able to play in this one. John Kerr showed all his class with 63 at the start of the Greenock innings and Williamson followed this with 77 and there were 30s from Hollingdale and Walker as Greenock declared on 283 for 6 after 2 hours 45 minutes of batting. Wood's team gave a spirited reply to this formidable total with Wood himself opening the batting and scoring 58. The Kent player Christopherson was in splendid form but the task of scoring 100 runs in the last 40 minutes of the innings was just too much and Wood's XI finished on 265 for 8, with Christopherson unbeaten on 106, to leave the match drawn to the credit of both sides.

League challenge maintained

John Kerr was again absent on international duties when Greenock travelled to Hamilton Crescent to play West of Scotland in a match watched by some 3000 spectators. Greenock elected to bat first and all the batsmen got a start but only Williamson, whose 62 was his fourth half-century in a row, and Carnie with 40, were able to build on this. Greenock's total of 187 for 6 was a challenging one but West made a reasonable reply and the result did seem to be in the balance when rain brought proceedings to a halt with West needing 53 runs for victory with 4 wickets in hand.

The next league match, at Shawholm against Poloc, was equally inconclusive as rain interfered with the game again. Greenock batted first but in poor conditions they struggled to get on top of the bowling. Only John Kerr, who made a stubborn 49 in over two hours, made any headway until Bob Hodge came to the crease towards the end of the innings and made a breezy 21.  Walker eventually declared with Greenock's score on 110 for 8, achieved in 3 hours of batting and off 62 overs. Poloc found run-scoring to be equally difficult and finished on 82 for 8 but the game did not count in the league standings as too much time had been lost to the weather. Such a dreary game would not live long in the minds of those unfortunate enough to watch it.

Ayr then visited Glenpark with Greenock looking for revenge for their only league reverse of the season to date and more importantly to keep their title challenge on track. They managed both of these aims with some ease. Ayr never looked comfortable when batting and they took almost three hours to score 138, their internationalist opener, Parker, taking two hours to score just 22 as Hollingdale took 6 for 60. Greenock lost two quick wickets in their reply but John Kerr and Norman Walker were not to be parted as victory was achieved by 8 wickets. Kerr scored an unbeaten 106 as Greenock continued batting, closing their innings on 158 for 2, with his unbroken third wicket partnership with Walker yielding 141 runs.

Adam cousins rescue league challenge

Expectations were high the following week when the leaders Uddingston came to Glenpark. The match was billed as being a title decider and over 2000 spectators crammed into Glenpark to watch it. Uddingston batted first and would have been well satisfied to finish their innings on 185. Their top scorer, Stark, who scored 82, made the most of two lives early in his innings and his partnership with Tennant, who always seemed to make runs against Greenock, saw the total reach 117 for 1. At that point, Greenock started to make inroads into the Uddingston line-up but they were unable to prevent their opponents registering a formidable total.

That total soon seemed well out of reach as early wickets, including that of John Kerr, fell in Greenock's reply. Only Tom Riddell was able to defy the varied Uddingston attack, batting for almost two hours before playing on for 35. He was ninth out with the total on 72 and  it was left to the last wicket pairing of the Adam cousins, Norman and Douglas, to bat for twenty minutes to save Greenock from defeat. They managed to accomplish this but the final Greenock total of 90 for 9 was a long way short of Uddingston's score and the Lanarkshire team headed home in the knowledge that another title seemed secure in their grasp.

Uddingston stumble and Greenock take the title

Just seven days later and the picture had changed dramatically. Clydesdale were the visitors at Glenpark, a third home game in a row for Greenock, and electing to bat they made a strong start, reaching 115 before their second wicket fell, Hart caught for a forceful 72. Wickets fell at regular intervals after this as Clydesdale did not make the most of their fine start and they were ultimately bowled out for 162, Douglas Adam taking 5 for 46 and Norman Walker 3 for 24. Riddell fell early in Greenock's reply but John Kerr and Hollingdale came together for the match-winning partnership. The pair put on 136 for the second wicket when Hollingdale fell for 40 and shortly after that Kerr was dismissed for an imperious 84 but Greenock were not to be denied and they proceeded to win by 6 wickets. Meanwhile Uddingston travelled to Kilmarnock where they met with an unexpected defeat, comprehensively beaten by 63 runs. These two results meant that the top two places had been swapped and Greenock were now on top by just over 2 percentage points.

1932 had not been the best of summers as regards the weather and the latter would show its hand again in the last two weeks of the season. Not a ball could be bowled in any of the games scheduled on these weeks and as a result Greenock were crowned champions, just ahead of Uddingston. While this was not perhaps the most satisfying way to win a championship, nevertheless, Greenock could be considered worthy champions, having been beaten just once, by Ayr.

John Kerr still dominant

No prizes for guessing that John Kerr would head the batting averages and although his total was down on the previous year, he still totalled 747 at the fine average of 46.69. That there was more depth in the batting this year was underlined by Hollingdale scoring 563 runs, Pat Williamson 406 and Norman Walker 364. Tom Riddell and AT Carnie both made over 200 runs.

These same batsmen not unnaturally also featured in the Union averages. John Kerr's 456 at 45.60 led the way, as he did for the whole of the Union, and Hollingdale with 312 and Norman Walker with 249 gave him good support. Williamson, Riddell and Carnie all made over 100 runs. The average number of runs per wicket in the Union was 21.47, more than 7 runs greater than in 1931, which further emphasised the improvement in the batting from that of the previous year.

Norman Walker led the way in the bowling averages. Excluding the tour games, he took 36 wickets at an average of 12.50, followed by Hollingdale with 51 at 14.86. Douglas Adam took 48 wickets and George Tough 35 while Bob Hodge underlined his potential with 21 victims at 15.57. It was the same with the Union figures with Walker taking 24 wickets at 11.33 ahead of Hollingdale with 41 at 13.71. Adam had 31 victims, George Tough 25 and Hodge 10. The greater support for Hollingdale and Adam, who both bowled more than 200 overs in the season, was another factor in Greenock's league success.

Hollingdale certainly cemented his position as professional and it was a foregone conclusion that he would be re-engaged for 1933. His all-round ability was in contrast to the likes of Harrison of Ayr and Preston of West of Scotland. These two took 71 and 68 wickets respectively in the Union but both contributed little to the batting. It could be argued that while Hollingdale took less wickets, his contribution to the team with his batting made him more valuable. There was also more bowling support for him from Adam, Tough and Walker than there was for the other professionals.

A successful season after a slow start

After the disappointments of 1931, to win the league was a pleasant surprise, especially as performances at the start of the season had not really suggested that a title win was likely. There is no doubt that the team responded to Norman Walker's captaincy and his improved form in both batting and bowling was a major factor in the team's success. It was also pleasing to see the emergence of new talent in Bob Hodge and Tom McCrea and their form augured well for the future. Pat Williamson had also enjoyed a greatly improved season and with Hollingdale's all-round capabilities to bolster the amateur players and John Kerr showing no signs of his batting powers waning, everything pointed to another succssful season ahead. However, Greenock had always struggled to follow up a title-winning season and this trend, allied to the fact that Uddingston could be argued to still be the dominant team in the Union, meant that it would be no easy feat to win the title again.