1934 - A season that flattered to deceive

1933 was a most disappointing season, given the success of the season before that, but there would be little change to the side in 1934 with Norman Walker still captain and Hollingdale re-engaged as professional. William Smith had returned to Malaysia and would be a big loss while it seemed unlikely that Robert Ferguson would play any part at all as he was still recovering from a serious illness. Hopes of improvement therefore lay with the younger members of the team. Robert Hodge would be expected to continue his progress as a pace bowler while Jim Agnew and Tom McCrea were also likely to be given their chance to cement their place in the team. Arthur Neill whose availability in recent seasons had been spasmodic was expected to be able to play all season and if he regained his form that would be very welcome.

A reasonable start

As usual the season started with the friendly against Cartha. The Glasgow side batted for over two and a half hours to make 110 and Greenock were left with half that time to reach their target which they did in the last available over. All the bowlers warmed up with wickets while Hollingdale and John Kerr were the top scorers as Greenock won by 7 wickets. There was another exciting finish when Drumpellier visited Glenpark for the first league game of the season. Drumpellier took all of three hours to make 144, a total which could have been considerably lower had Greenock held their catches. Left with just two hours to win the game, Greenock attacked the bowling with Arthur Neill contributing a strong 63 at the top of the order. But it was Bob Hodge's hitting at the end which swung the game, his boundary off the second last ball of the last over giving Greenock the victory by 3 wickets.

The next match at Dam Park against Ayr suffered an unsatisfactory conclusion when rain intervened with the game evenly poised. A half-century from Pat Williamson propelled Greenock to 144 all out and Ayr had reached 95 for 5 when the players were driven from the field. There was better luck when the first round Rowan Cup tie with Kelburne was played at Glenpark. The Paisley team batted first but could only reach 92 for 6 in their allotted 90 minutes and this was never going to be enough as Greenock won comfortably by 5 wickets.

Spectators at the next league match at Glenpark against Poloc were royally entertained by a partnership of 164 in just 95 minutes between Hollingdale and Hodge. The pair came together when Greenock were stumbling somewhat at 46 for 3 and totally transformed the game. They were eventually parted when the professional was bowled for a magnificent 107 and it looked as if Hodge would emulate him but the closure was eventually applied when he was on 88 with the total on 226 for 5. Poloc made little or no effort to go for the victory and were content to reach 93 for 8 as the game finished in an ultimately unsatisfactory draw. Greenock's attack bowled 31 maidens with George Tough taking 3 for 6 in 16 overs and Norman Walker 3 for 16 in 12 overs.

League leaders trounce Greenock

After that fine display of batting, it was all change the following week when the team travelled to Lanarkshire to take on the unbeaten league leaders Uddingston. Conditions were all against decent cricket, but nonetheless this was no reason for such a timid batting display. Having reached 36 for the loss of one wicket, they succumbed to the bowling of Hipkin and Allan to be all out for just 56, and these runs were scored off 39.5 overs. Uddingston lost an early wicket but Turner and Cook ensured that Greenock would not meet any further success and the leaders won by 9 wickets. This was a game that Greenock would quickly want to forget.

They went some way to doing that in the holiday match with Watsonians the following Monday when a magnificent unbeaten opening stand of 192 by John Kerr and Jim Agnew, scored in just two and a quarter hours, put Greenock in control. Kerr reached his century, 104 to be precise, with Agnew making 66 when the declaration was applied. That the game petered out in a draw was a disappointment to the spectators but Watsonians were never in a position to push for the victory.

Later in the week, the next round of the Rowan Cup was played, against Ayr at Dam Park and this turned out to be a most exciting game. Ayr were dismissed for 105 in their allotted time of 105 minutes, Douglas Adam (5 for 32) and Robert Hodge (4 for 25) doing the damage. Any hopes that Greenock would win easily were quickly dashed with the early dismissal of John Kerr. Arthur Neill stood firm and his knock of 40 was key in keeping Greenock in the game. They were always ahead of the required rate in the run chase but lost wickets at key times and there were still 7 runs needed for victory when the last pair came to the crease. Fortunately, Douglas Adam and AG Graham kept their heads and knocked off the runs to give Greenock a one-wicket victory.

Too many draws

The next league match, West of Scotland at Glenpark, was another low-scoring encounter. West batted first but struggled throughout their innings before being dismissed for 98, Norman Walker doing the main damage with 6 for 25. West's innings lasted 53.2 overs, an indication of how difficult the batsmen had found it to score runs and this pattern of play continued in Greenock's reply. When they reached 69 for 5, the game was very much in the balance, with no batsman at ease facing Preston's bowling. However, George Tough decided to counter-attack and met with great success to take Greenock to a five-wicket victory, his innings of 30, which contained one 6 and five 4s, being decisive. Play continued for a short while and when it ended, Preston had taken 7 for 27 in 27.1 overs but he did not receive sufficient support from 'the amateur trundlers', despite the fact that it took Greenock 64.1 overs to score their 110 for 9.

Next up for Greenock was a visit to Whitehaugh to take on Kelburne. Greenock's batsmen were in form for this game with all but two of them reaching double figures. Norman Walker was most prominent with an unbeaten hard-hitting 54 and there was a promising debut by Captain JN Whitworth who had been posted to the local artillery. Despite some pacy bowling from Hollingdale which earned him 5 wickets, the pitch played true and Kelburne were able to bat out time for the draw, although they did lose 8 wickets in the process. The annual friendly with Grange, this year played at Raeburn Place, was an inconclusive affair as rain brought proceedings to an early close although the match was probably heading for a draw as Greenock were unlikely to reach Grange's total of 239 for 5 which owed much to 103 not out from AL McClure, who apparently had connections to the well-known Greenock family of that name.

Hollingdale took his benefit match when Clydesdale visited Glenpark but this proved to be another case of Greenock batting first, putting on a reasonable score and then being unable to bowl the opposition out. Greenock had made 186 for 9, there being 40s from Williamson and Hollingdale, leaving Clydesdale 132 minutes to get the runs. They made a good start but when wickets started to fall, they decided to play for the draw point and Greenock's attack was unable to prevent this, the Glasgow side finishing on 120 for 7.

Batting collapses at Kilmarnock but Rowan Cup progress

The visit to Kirkstyle did not end well as the team were heavily defeated with the batting failing badly. Kilmarnock batted first and started hesitantly but a partnership between George Hill and Jimmy Climie, both of whom just failed to reach their half-century, saw them to the challenging score of 191 for 8. A draw seemed likely as the pitch seemed to favour the batsman but Greenock disproved this theory. Before they knew it, they had collapsed to 8 for 5 and there was only one result to ensue from that position. A late flurry from Douglas Adam and Norman Walker saw the final total reach 61, with the latter scoring 21, but this did not prevent a trouncing by 130 runs. The Kilmarnock professional, Hunt, took 6 for 35 and Alf Smith, who earlier had scored 44, 3 for 20 in 15 overs.

As before in this season, Greenock immediately bounced back from this drubbing by defeating Poloc, with some ease, in the semi-final of the Rowan Cup which, for some reason, was played at Hamilton Crescent. Poloc won the toss and batted but were swept aside by the Greenock attack with no fewer than seven batsmen recording ducks. Bob Hodge took 5 for 9 in 11.3 overs and Douglas Adam 4 for 26 as Poloc were dismissed for just 59. Although conditions were not conducive for batting, with poor light and a constant threat of rain, this was still a poor display and Greenock were able to overtake the Poloc total for the loss of just 3 wickets. Greenock's opponents in the final would be Glasgow University but as the latter's season had come to a close it was agreed to hold over the final until the next season. The University side was a strong one and had already beaten Greenock with some ease in a friendly earlier in the season, which meant that Greenock would have a hard struggle ahead of them to win the final.

The last game before the mid-season break and the tour to Belfast saw Ferguslie come to Glenpark. Greenock batted first and showed much better form. Arthur Neill scored a sound 64 and Hollingdale was unbeaten on 73 when Walker applied the closure with Greenock on 196 for 5, scored in two hours and twenty minutes. Ferguslie had struggled with the bat all season and it looked as if they would continue in the same vein but a stout innings of 83 not out from their professional, Creber, saw them safely to the draw as they finished on 161 for 9. Hodge's absence was keenly felt as once again Greenock failed to bowl out the opposition after a good batting performance.

50% record on tour

The Belfast tour got off to a good start when familiar opponents, North Down, were beaten by 42 runs. Hollingdale's unbeaten 125, supported by Pat Williamson's 55, was the foundation of Greenock's total of 232 and while North Down were well placed at one point in their reply, the loss of their last five wickets cheaply condemned them to defeat as Tough, Walker and Hollingdale each claimed three wickets. Donacloney were a different matter in the next game and claimed the victory by 6 wickets. Williamson was again in good form with 54 as Greenock reached 190 but their bowling was unable to stop Donacloney easing to the win. Better fortune awaited the team when they took on North of Ireland. Williamson scored his third successive half-century, 55, in Greenock's 158 and Hollingdale with 6 for 54 was instrumental in North of Ireland being dismissed for 140.

Lisburn provided strong opposition in the fourth match of the tour. Walker with 5 for 50 and Hollingdale 4 for 50 kept the Irish team to 166 but the batting succumbed to the bowling of Horsley, Lisburn's professional, and were all out for 69, Tom Riddell with 20 and George Tough 13 alone reaching double figures. Another defeat followed against Woodvale. Arthur Neill scored 55 as Greenock made 167 but despite two early successes their attack made no real impression on the batting as Woodvale won by 7 wickets. The final game of the week at Cliftonville brought Greenock's third win and gave them a 50% record overall. Walker's 4 for 37 helped to restrict the home team to 145 for 9 and solid batting by nearly everyone brought the tour to a conclusion with a 3 wicket win, Williamson returning to form with the top score of 34.

Roller-coaster league performances continue

Greenock made a winning start to the second half of the league season when they overcame Drumpellier at Langloan, despite being bowled out for just 96. Only Arthur Neill (24) and Bob Hodge (20) made any headway against the bowling of Dickson, who took 7 for 30 while a last wicket stand of 22 between Douglas Adam and Tom McCrea at least brought the final total closer to three figures. If Greenock's batting display was woeful on what was a decent pitch, what words could describe Drumpellier's response as they collapsed to Hollingdale and Norman Walker. The professional took 5 for 17 and the skipper 5 for 8 as Drumpellier were dismissed in just over an hour for 36, leaving Greenock victors by 60 runs, a result that could not have been anticipated at the interval.

Greenock's batting frailties were again on show when they met West of Scotland at Hamilton Crescent. Their attack, lacking Walker and Adam, was toothless as West made 183 for 2, Fairbairn unbeaten on 107. They had batted for more than half of the allotted time and it seemed that Greenock would have no difficulty in avoiding defeat, if unable to force the win. But such ideas proved to be pie in the sky as the batting crumbled, not for the first time. Only Norman Adam with 20 presented any obstacle to the West attack, led by Elder who took 5 for 31 and Cowan 3 for 8, as Greenock fell to defeat by 112 runs. For once, Preston was not the main instigator of Greenock's troubles, although he did bowl 20 overs for 2 for 27 and tied down the batsmen while wickets fell at the other end.

A third away league match in a row took Greenock to Shawholm to play Poloc and resulted in a sweeping victory for the visitors. Poloc batted first but were restricted to 115 all out with Hollingdale taking 6 for 30. Greenock's reply was led by John Kerr who showed a welcome return to form. Almost an hour was lost to rain but once play restarted Kerr and Neill took the score to 74 before the latter was dismissed. Hollingdale joined Kerr and together they saw Greenock to victory by 9 wickets, the winning run being struck with ten minutes left to play. Kerr was undefeated on 66, remarkably his first score of note in the Union this season.

Another heavy defeat by Uddingston

The following week, the friendly match with Brunswick from Edinburgh was abandoned in the first innings due to rain and the same fate befell the league fixture with Ayr. The runaway league leaders Uddingston then visited Glenpark and their display showed conclusively why they would be the champions. Greenock were without Hollingdale who had a strained shoulder and decided to bat first on winning the toss. When they reached 57 for 1, they seemed well placed for a reasonable score but the loss of John Kerr at that score led to a tumble of wickets and they were dismissed for 77, scored off 41.2 overs. The Uddingston professional, Hipkin, tormented all the batsmen and well merited his analysis of 7 for 30 off 20.2 overs. Uddingston lost two quick wickets in their reply but this only delayed the inevitable as Greenock went down to a seven wickets loss.

The last away match of the season was played at Titwood. Greenock batted first and made somewhat uneven progress in their innings. Some aggressive hitting from Bob Hodge, who top-scored with 37, enabled Walker to declare at 149 for 9 and when Clydesdale stumbled to 49 for 7, there seemed to be only one result. However, the Greenock attack, which was still minus Hollingdale, who played only as a batsman, could only capture two more wickets and Clydesdale were able to ensure that the game ended in a draw, their score finishing on 97 for 9.

Winning end to the season

The final two games of the season, both at Glenpark, did bring success to Greenock. The first visitors, Kelburne, were beaten in a low-scoring game, played on a pitch made difficult by heavy rain preceding the game. Greenock batted first but found run scoring difficult and at one point had fallen to 46 for 6. Norman Walker came to the rescue with a typically aggressive innings and his 42 was key to the final total of 110. Kelburne had even greater difficulty and had their professional, Horridge, not made a gusty 41, would have struggled to reach 50. As it was they were dismissed for 76, Greenock therefore winning by 34 runs, with Hodge taking 4 for 21, Douglas Adam 3 for 8 and the fit again Hollingdale 3 for 17.

It was a repeat performance on the following Saturday when Kilmarnock were defeated in much the same way. Greenock were indebted to Arthur Neill (57) and Bob Hodge (21) for reaching 121 as the rest of the batting struggled on another difficult pitch. Kilmarnock in reply had no answer to Hollingdale and had it not been for George Hill's 39 would have been dismissed for a very small total. As it was, they made 69 as Hollingdale took 8 for 21 and Greenock ended the season with a 52 run victory.

After a roller-coaster of a league season, Greenock finished in third position, not that far behind second-placed Clydesdale but well adrift of the champions, Uddingston, who did not lose any games and won 14 of their 16 games played. Greenock were very inconsistent, especially in their batting, being apt to follow a good performance with a dire one. The fact that they were bowled out five times for less than 100 tells its own tale. And too often when their batting did click, their attack was unable to bowl out the opposition.

Averages underline decline in batting

The batting averages showed the inconsistencies in the batting that dogged the team throughout the season. John Kerr once again topped the averages but his tally of runs for the season (536) was down by over 300 on the previous season and his average fell by over 10 points. Hollingdale and Williamson both scored araound the same as in 1933 but Norman Walker's total was down by almost 100 runs. On the other hand, Arthur Neill showed a welcome return to form, scoring 656 runs in total while Bob Hodge also showed promising signs with 259 runs for the season.

The Union averages showed a similar picture. Douglas Adam actually headed them purely on the basis that he was only dismissed twice in 10 innings. Arthur Neill was next best with 379 runs at 23.69 and Hollingdale's total of 329 was on a par with the previous season. But John Kerr had his poorest Union season for a while with only 244 runs at 20.33 and just one half-century.

Hollingdale was far and away the leading bowler of the season, his 83 wickets in all games costing 11.64 runs per wicket. Norman Walker took 45 wickets, George Tough 41 with the other main bowlers, Hodge and Adam taking around 30 wickets but they were quite expensive with George Tough's wickets as an example being obtained at a cost of 22.51 runs per wicket. It was the same story in the Union with Hollingdale's 45 wickets costing just 8.47 runs per wicket. Norman Walker's 19 wickets cost just 11.11 runs on average but the other main bowlers were costly and Douglas Adam captured just 9 wickets, well down on his usual seasonal total.

Inconsistent season

Viewed from the perspective of the Western Union, Greenock's third placed finish would seem to suggest that 1934 had been reasonably successful. There was also the fact that another Rowan Cup final appearance had been achieved with the chance of acquiring the trophy still a possibility. But these facts papered over a number of cracks with performances over the season being very inconsistent. Low scores followed high ones as the batting line-up failed far too often while the bowling again failed to deliver on a number of occasions when the opposition could not be bowled out. At best, it seemed that 1935 would bring more of the same unless more consistency could be found.