1935 - Champions again

The two seasons after the Western Union championship was won in 1932 were disappointing as no real challenge was made for the title. With more or less the same players likely to make up the team in 1935 there were doubts as to whether Uddingston could be removed from their top place in the league. There would be one change for Greenock as Norrie Adam replaced Norman Walker as captain but Hollingdale returned for a fifth season as professional and his input would be key. One change would see Douglas Adam, who had been a fixture in the side since 1914 but who had not had the best of seasons in 1934, drop down to the 2nd XI.

There would be a significant change to the way that points were calculated in the Union. Until now, both sides received one point for a drawn match but in future only one point would be awarded for such a match. This would go to the side batting first provided it did not bat for more than half the time allotted to it, otherwise the point would go to the side batting second.

A major change was also made to the playing conditions of the Rowan Cup. Until now, both sides batted for the same amount of time but in future they would bat for the same number of overs, with a minimum of 32 overs per side required to constitute a match.

Bowlers in early form

The annual pre-season fixture against Cartha was a casualty of a rainy Saturday with the result that the team travelled to Langloan to take on Drumpellier in the opening league game having had no match practice. This lack of practice was evident as Greenock struggled to make any sort of headway against the home attack, declaring at the halfway point with just 118 on the board for the loss of 8 wickets, made off 59 overs. Hollingdale made 41 and John Kerr, coming in at number 5 made 26 but none of the batters looked comfortable. The attack however made up for the batting performance, dismissing Drumpellier, who at 73 for 5 appeared to have a chance of victory, for 82, Hollingdale capping a grand all-round performance with 5 for 20, as Greenock won by 36 runs.

Ayr were the first visitors of the season to Glenpark and this match followed along the same lines as that at Langloan. Greenock, lacking the absent John Kerr, could only muster 100 and that after losing their first 4 wickets for just 10 runs. Ayr fared no better and were dismissed for 55, Hollingdale again amongst the wickets at little cost, taking 5 for 9 and Greenock were the victors by 45 runs.

Early exit from Rowan Cup

The following Monday, which was a holiday to mark the King's jubilee, Greenock ventured to Broughty Ferry to take on Forfarshire for the first time for over 20 years. It proved to be an inauspicious visit as they were heavily defeated, despite fielding a strong eleven, by 83 runs. Hollingdale at least remained amongst the wickets, taking 6 for 61, but the rest of the attack failed to control the Forfarshire batting, which was bolstered by their new professional, Gordon Hodgson, the prominent Liverpool footballer. Changed times, indeed!

The batsmen put on a slightly better performance in the next game against Poloc at Shawholm, with John Kerr showing a welcome return to form with a well-compiled 63. A new recruit to the team, Commander Bickford Smith, who was attached to HMS Galatea, presently undergoing fitting out at Scotts of Greenock, scored a pleasant 35 but he would only play a few games of the Club before moving on. Poloc made a decent effort at chasing Greenock's 165 for 9 but ultimately Greenock's attack prevailed with Hollingdale continuing his fine form with 5 for 46 as Greenock ran out victors by 20 runs.

Greenock now played their first round Rowan Cup tie, against Kelburne at Whitehaugh, despite the fact that they had still to play Glasgow University in the 1934 final of the competition. Greenock batted first but a patchy performance was only redeemed by a fine unbeaten 53 from Norman Walker which saw a total of 144 for 9 posted in the allotted 32 overs. Kelburne responded with much better batting and ran out winners by 7 wickets with an over to spare. Greenock were therefore out of the 1935 competition while still in the 1934 one!

Champions defeated

The champions of 1934, Uddingston, were the next visitors to Glenpark. Both they and Greenock had won all their games to date but it was Uddingston whose record would fall. They batted first and reached 133 before being dismissed but had Greenock held their catches, that total would have been considerably reduced. There were four more wickets for Hollingdale and three for Norman Walker. John Kerr again batted with his old elan when Greenock replied to that total and his partnership with Captain Whitworth set Greenock on the path to victory. However, Kerr's dismissal, again for 63, left the game nicely poised but a fine seventh wicket partnership between Pat Williamson and Jim Agnew saw Greenock safely to a four wicket victory.

Greenock's next match was at Hamilton Crescent to play West of Scotland who were also undefeated up to this point. It was a low-scoring affair and Greenock would have felt after bowling West out for 125 that victory would be theirs. But their batting again failed to rise to the occasion and only Hollingdale was able to stay in for any length of time. His dismissal for 46 signalled the end for Greenock and West ran out worthy winners by 32 runs.

Embarrassing performance in delayed 1934 Rowan Cup Final

A return visit to Hamilton Crescent was probably the last thing on Greenock's mind but was required on the following Monday for the delayed 1934 Rowan Cup final against Glasgow University and if anything the outcome was even worse than that of Saturday. The students batted first and having been 89 for 7 at one point, recovered to post 158 for 9. George Tough took 6 for 57 but in truth this was a disappointing performance by the Greenock attack. Worse was to follow as Greenock slumped to 8 for 4, all four wickets clean bowled, to the young bowler from Elgin, JS Cursiter. There would be no recovery from this position and with only Williamson and Hodge reaching double figures, the final total was a miserable 54 and the University had won by 104 runs. This was an embarrassing result for Greenock and the flaws in the Greenock batting were laid bare for all to see.

A response was required, especially from the batsmen, and this materialised at Whitehaugh against Kelburne. After the early loss of John Kerr, attempting a very risky single, Arthur Neill and Hollingdale put on 154 for the second wicket before the professional fell for 67. Neill went on to record his first Union century, making 115 before being dismissed and Greenock were able to declare on 227 for 5. Kelburne gave a spirited response to this total but none of their batsmen was able to stay in long enough to make a really big score and they were eventually bowled out for 166, Robert Hodge taking 6 for 43, as Greenock won by 61 runs to maintain their place near the top of the table.

Kilmarnock spring a surprise

The following Saturday saw Grange visit Glenpark for their annual friendly match. Greenock batted first on a soft wicket and sodden outfield and made a reasonable 166 for 9, Hollingdale top-scoring with 62. When Grange reached 37 without loss, it seemed that a close contest might occur but the first wicket fell at that score and almost before anyone could draw breath, they had collapsed to be all out for 55, Hollingdale taking 6 for 20 to cap a splendid all-round match, and Tough 4 for 7, Greenock winning by 111 runs.

League cricket resumed at Titwood and this match turned into a thriller in the closing stages. Greenock started badly, losing 2 wickets for just 5 runs, but a partnership of 83 between Arthur Neill (47) and Captain Whitworth (36) put a better gloss on the innings. Neill's dismissal was the start of another Greenock collapse and the innings finished on 110. Clydesdale made a poor start in reply and when they lost their seventh wicket at 47 the result seemed inevitable. Clydesdale's eighth wicket pair proved more resolute and seemed to be taking their team to victory. Then Hollingdale, having previously bowled twenty overs unchanged, was brought back and this proved to be crucial. The professional finished with 5 for 25 in 24.3 overs as Clydesdale were dismissed for 107 to leave Greenock victors by 3 runs and back on the top of the table.

Their place at the head of affairs did not last long. Kilmarnock came to Glenpark and to the surprise of everyone left, and deservedly so, with the winning points. The game was played on a very unsatisfactory pitch and Kilmarnock's total of 120 was much better than it looked. Greenock's batsmen were in the toils from the very first over. Only Jack Barclay, promoted from the second eleven, of the top order made any impression and when he was dismissed after scoring 37, the score stood at 74 for 8 and defeat seemed inevitable. However the tail of McCrea, Tough and skipper Adam wagged and got Greenock within touching distance of victory before Tough was caught. Kilmarnock won by 8 runs, thanks to Alf Smith, often the scourge of Greenock, who took 7 for 47.

Jack Hobbs at Glenpark

The highlight of the season, arguably, took place on the next Tuesday. Harry Rowan brought an eleven to Glenpark and included in his team was Jack Hobbs, at the time possibly the most famous name in cricket and who was making his last visit to Scotland. Spectators were advised to get to the ground in good time for the first ball being bowled at 5pm and in the event 1500 turned up. Greenock batted first and it was fitting that John Kerr, whom some had described as Scotland's Jack Hobbs, should exhibit some of his best form. He and Arthur Neill put on 117 for the first wicket when Kerr was bowled for 61, an innings which contained one 6 and five 4s. Neill followed not longer after that for 49 and the innings closed at 147 for 2 after 2 hours and 10 minutes batting.

When Hobbs came out to bat at the start of the second innings, he was afforded a great ovation by the crowd and he did not disappoint them. Despite nursing a knee complaint which did hamper his footwork, he batted effortlessly and in the words of the Greenock Telegraph, "his correct timing and accurate placings were models of perfection". When he reached 62, interestingly just one more than Kerr scored, he was bowled by Jim Agnew and left the field to a great cheer, having hit one 6 and nine 4s in an innings which lasted just 72 minutes. Rowan's XI won the game quite convincingly by 5 wickets but in truth the result was immaterial and the spectators went home with happy memories of witnessing a master craftsman at work.

Tense win at Meikleriggs

Before the annual tour to Belfast took place, there was one more league game to be played, at Meikleriggs against Ferguslie. Tom McCrea's 6 for 37 was instrumental in restricting the Paisley side to 131 in the first innings but if Greenock thought that they had the game won they were rudely shocked when Ferguslie's professional, Arthur Creber, took all seven wickets to reduce Greenock to 59 for 7, which was effectively for 8 wickets as Norman Walker had been required to return to Greenock and would not bat. McCrea and George Tough fought back and their partnership of 55, enlivened by some strong hitting by Tough, brought Greenock back into the game. Tough's dismissal for 35, brought Norman Adam to the crease and amidst mounting excitement and he and McCrea inched Greenock to victory. McCrea finished on 21 not out and Adam 12 not out as Greenock won by 2 wickets to maintain their position near the top of the table.

Creber finished with 8 for 43 and was in the middle of a quite astonishing spell of bowling. From June 15 in six league games he took 44 of the 52 wickets that fell to Ferguslie at the ridiculous cost of just 5.16 per wicket. He took all 10 wickets against Kilmarnock for just 27, 9 wickets for 25 against Kelburne (he ran out the 10th wicket to fall!) and of course all 8 wickets against Greenock. It is hard to believe that such a sustained spell of wicket-taking has ever been bettered in the history of the Union.

Hollingdale's outstanding form on tour

Six games were played on the Irish tour with mixed success. The first match, against long-standing opponents North Down, resulted in a draw after Greenock had compiled 183 in their innings, Hollingdale making 56 and Jimmy Sinclair was undefeated on 42. North Down made a creditable attempt at getting runs, led by their internationalist James Macdonald but once he was dismissed for 83, the game drifted into a tame conclusion. It was much the same story in the next game with Donacloney. Greenock batted first, making 158 for 7 with Arthur Neill and Jimmy Sinclair both making 30s. Donacloney never looked like overtaking that total, finishing on 96 for 5 when stumps were drawn. There was better luck in the third game at Cliftonville. The hosts batted first but could not handle Hollingdale who took 7 for 39. The professional then scored 33 in Greenock 's reply which saw them reach their target with 6 wickets in hand.

There was further success in the fourth game against Woodvale when a splendid all-round performance by Hollingdale saw Greenock to a 71 run victory. The professional scored an unbeaten 46 in Greenock's 138, which also saw Arthur Neill score 45 and he followed that with 5 for 35 as Woodvale were bowled out for just 67. Hollingdale had another five wicket haul in the next game with Lisburn where a close finish saw Greenock just hold out for the draw. Greenock had scored 153 for 5 with Jim Agnew scoring 41 but Lisburn looked to be heading for victory until they ultimately ran out of time just four runs short of Greenock's total. The last game of the tour was probably one game too many for Greenock. Waringstown amassed 197 despite Hollingdale taking 8 for 38 and Greenock's reply came up well short. They were bowled out for just 113 with Hollingdale alone able to handle the locals' bowling, hitting a fine 49. The professional could be well pleased with his performances on the tour, hitting 207 runs at 41.40 and taking 27 wickets at 9.63.

Greenock now joint top of the table

The return to league cricket saw Drumpellier visit Glenpark. Four of their team were late in arriving as their car broke down en route and had to be brought to the ground in a lorry dispatched from Greenock. Drumpellier were forced to take the field with four subs provided by Greenock but this did not affect them greatly as once restored to full strength they restricted Greenock to 152, a total achieved with no individual score of higher than 24. Drumpellier's reply started reasonably well as they reached 46 for 1. At this point Hollingdale took control of proceedings and ran through the batting, taking 8 for 20 as Drumpellier were bowled out for 80. Greenock thus won by 72 runs which enabled them to keep hot on Uddingston's tail at the top of the table.

West of Scotland, third in the table, were the next visitors to Glenpark and a tense, low-scoring game ensued. Greenock took first lease of the crease. The difficulty of a soft wicket was evident in the fact that John Kerr took two hours to score 40 but had he not done so Greenock would have been in a perilous position. As it was they fell to 64 for 8 but the last three batsmen, McCrea, Walker and Norman Adam put on 44 crucial runs and allowed Adam to declare at the mid-way point of the game at 108 for 9. West made a positive start to their reply and looked in command at 41 for 1 but Hollingdale found his length and wickets start to fall to him and also George Tough. Hollingdale finished with 6 for 30 as West were bowled out for 94, leaving Greenock victors by 14 runs and more importantly they were now level on percentage with Uddingston at the top of the table.

John Kerr in imperious form against North Down

The next Saturday's match with Poloc was rained off and the following weekend was a blank league one for Greenock, during which time they played a two-day match with North Down. Uddingston managed to play on both Saturdays and winning both games, took a small lead in the race for the title. The match with North Down was a personal triumph for John Kerr with the bat and Hollingdale with the ball. Greenock batted first and Kerr batted at his very best to repel the Irish bowlers. When he was ninth out with the score on 243, he had scored 119 and batted flawlessly for almost three hours. Greenock were bowled out for 257 and North Down commenced their first innings with 90 minutes to the close of play. They made a poor fist of it, closing on 79 for 6, Hollingdale having captured five of the wickets to fall for 34. The next morning, their innings finished on 124, the last wicket having added 26 runs, with Hollingdale taking 7 for 49.

Greenock changed their batting order for their second innings with John Kerr coming in at number 11. Only George Tough, promoted to first wicket down, made any show, scoring a rapid 57 in his inimitable hard-hitting style and the innings ended when Kerr was hit on the face off the first ball he faced. Greenock's score of 95 left the Irishmen needing 229 for victory. While James Macdonald was at the crease they had a slight chance of reaching this target but his dismissal, caught by Tough off Norman Walker's bowling, opened the way for Greenock to win. The last wicket fell at 154 with ten minutes left for play and Greenock were worthy victors by 74 runs. Hollingdale captured another 4 wickets in the second innings to finish with match figures of 11 for 101, while George Tough took 7 for 96 overall to go with his half-century in the second innings. Thus ended the last two-day match to be played by Greenock.

Rain interferes in title decider at Uddingston

Attention now switched solely to the league with five games left to play for the title. The first of these games was against Ayr, played at the local team's new ground, Cambusdoon and Greenock celebrated their first appearance there with a resounding victory. Ayr won the toss and batted first but could make no progress against Hollingdale, Hodge and McCrea and were bowled out for 57 in 95 minutes. Greenock knocked off these runs for the loss of just 2 wickets and play continued until Greenock finished at 179 for 6, scored off just 30 overs. John Kerr scored 82 as Greenock's batsmen hit out at the bowling with the pressure off. And at the same time as Greenock were winning, Uddingston were losing to West of Scotland which meant that Greenock now had a lead at the top of the table.

These positions in the table leant spice to the next fixture, Uddingston at Bothwell Policies, as the winner would be clear favourites for the title. Greenock won the toss and elected to bat first. John Kerr and Arthur Neill made good, if somewhat slow, progress before the first wicket fell, Kerr being caught for 27 with the score on 61. From this point, Uddingston and especially their professional Hipkin took control. Neill fell for an excellent 43 but only Whitworth of the rest of the batting line-up got into double figures and when the last wicket fell, Greenock had only managed to make 127. Hipkin bowled unchanged, taking 8 for 56 in 31.5 overs and the odds now favoured Uddingston. However, the light was fading badly and Uddingston now found batting to be a chore. Nonetheless they had reached 44 for 2 when the heavens opened but it quickly became clear that further play would not be possible. The game was evenly poised when the rain interfered with favouritism possibly leaning slightly towards the Villagers but the intervention meant that Greenock kept their slender lead at the top of the table.

Winning end to league season

Clydesdale were the next visitors to Glenpark and they pushed Greenock all the way before the home team claimed the victory. Greenock batted first on winning the toss and John Kerr and Arthur Neill gave them the perfect start, putting on 87 for the first wicket before Kerr fell for 51. Neill went on to record 69 and there were good contributions from Walker and Hollingdale which allowed Greenock to declare at 217 for 3. Clydesdale made every effort to get the runs, seemingly shrugging off the loss of each wicket. There was a typically swashbuckling 39 from Dan Mackay and 51 from Sandiford but Greenock's attack eventually triumphed. Tough took 4 for 44 and Hollingdale 3 for 53 and when the last wicket fell with seven minutes left to play, Greenock had won by 24 runs and their position at the top of the table was consolidated when word came through that Kilmarnock had beaten Uddingston.

Kelburne then came to Glenpark for a match which was confidently expected to result in Greenock's coronation as title winners. However the game did not play out as everyone expected. The visitors won the toss and decided to bat first whereupon their professional Wigginton set about punishing the Greenock attack. His dismissal for 34 altered the complexion of the game and it took a sturdy last wicket stand to see Kelburne to 126. Greenock's reply struggled in the face of persistent bowling by Neilson and McKenna and when they collapsed to 34 for 6, the odds on a home victory were long indeed. JN Parkes, who had come to the town on naval business and had played mainly for the 2nd XI, then joined George Tough and they set about repairing Greenock's fortunes. When Tough fell at 68, his replacement Williamson helped Parkes to take the total to 107 before he too was out. Hodge was then dismissed at 118 and it was left to the captain, Norrie Adam to stand firm while Parkes hit the winning run to see Greenock to victory by 1 wicket and the Union title had been won again. Play continued after the winning run had been hit but ended shortly after when Parkes was dismissed for an invaluable 63.

The last game of the season at Kirkstyle was academic but Greenock were able to win a low-scoring game to end the season in style. They batted first but Alf Smith, as was his wont, ran through the batting to see Greenock all out for just 95, Smith taking 7 for 34. But Hollingdale was in even more devastating form, taking the first three Kilmarnock wickets for 5 and then when Climie and Ferguson had taken the score up to 39 for 3, he and McCrea took the last seven wickets for just 6 runs. Seven ducks were recorded in the innings as Hollingdale finished with 7 for 20 and McCrea 3 for 11, and Greenock won by 50 runs, their 13th win out of 15 games played.

Championship winning form

Greenock therefore finished top of the Union table, some ten percentage points ahead of Uddingston. The latter had dominated the Union since it restarted after the First World War but their success in 1934 would prove to be the last time that they would win the league until it was reconstituted at the end of 1997. Greenock's strength this year lay undoubtedly with their bowling. On several occasions their batting was quite fragile, although they showed great fighting spirit with the tail providing some match-winning performances. More often than not they came out on top in a close finish, epitomised by their win from a perilous position at Ferguslie, which was crucial for their title challenge. The contribution of their professional, Reg Hollingdale, was paramount to their success and it was no wonder that he was coveted by other clubs.

There was also further reason for the Club to celebrate when the 2nd XI clinched the Second Division title on the last day of the season, losing only one game out of the twelve that they played and triumphing after a hard-fought tussle with West of Scotland 2nd XI. This was the first season when both club teams had won their respective titles and only the third time in total that a club in the Union had achieved this feat.

One interesting footnote regarding the league season was that the decision to change the playing conditions in a drawn match had resulted in not a single drawn game all season!

Hollingdale's stellar bowling figures

John Kerr again headed the batting averages and his tally of runs (678) was higher than last year and at an average of 32.29. He was given solid support by Hollingdale who scored 731 runs at 28.12 and Arthur Neill although he was not as prolific as last year, with a total of 597 runs. George Tough was much more prominent this year and his total of 375 runs represented his best-ever seasonal return. Tom McCrea, Jim Agnew and Norman Walker all scored over 200 runs, McCrea in particular enjoying his best season to date but there were disappointing returns from Robert Hodge, Pat Williamson and Captain Whitworth.

It was much the same picture with the Union averages. John Kerr scored 436 runs at 29.07, Neill 331 at 20.69 and Hollingdale 310 at 20.67, although Norman Adam had the best average, having been dismissed just twice in 9 innings. The next best was George Tough with 174 runs and it was no surprise that the average number of runs per wicket in the league games was 16.69 which was quite low for a title-winning team.

For the first time in his career to date with Greenock, Hollingdale broke the 100 wicket barrier, taking 128 wickets in all at a cost of just 8.73, quite remarkable figures.  George Tough also had an outstanding return, taking 62 wickets at 15.06 and Tom McCrea, Norman Walker and Robert Hodge each took more than 20 wickets.

Hollingdale was again well to the fore in the Union bowling figures, taking 66 wickets at the astonishing average of 7.68. Tom McCrea actually headed the league averages with 22 wickets at 7.18 while Tough and Hodge also made telling contributions. However it is sobering to think that Hollingdale's total was nowhere near the best bowling figures. Uddingston's professional Joe Hipkin took 94 wickets at 7.12 and Ferguslie's Arthur Creber 87 at 8.01. These are scarcely believable figures. West's professional, Harry Preston, had also taken 94 wickets in a Union season, 1933, at an average of 5.53!

Ingredients for a successful season come together

Given the performances of the past two seasons, there was not a strong feeling when the 1935 season started that it would turn out to be as successful as it did. The playing complement was more or less the same as previous years and as the season progressed the batting frailties of earlier seasons were still evident. However, a strong fighting spirit, excellent leadership from Norman Adam and an outstanding season from Hollingdale all combined to bring the Union title back to Glenpark. Previous league wins had been followed by disappointing seasons. Would 1936 be any different?