1946 - Western Union cricket resumes

After a gap of 6 years, normal cricket was resumed in 1946 and the Western Union league restarted. Cricket had continued throughout the war years with Greenock playing a fairly full programme of friendly fixtures each year. The Rowan Cup was played for during this time although the cup itself was never presented and remained in Greenock's possession from their victory in 1939.

Greenock's team showed quite a few changes from the 1939 season as would be expected. John Kerr, Douglas Adam and Pat Williamson had retired and Bob Hodge and Tom McCrea had moved to Dunfermline and Aberdeen respectively for work reasons. George Tough was persuaded to captain the team for one more season - he had been the captain throughout the war years - and Arthur Neill likewise agreed to play one more time. Bert Tobin had returned to the Club in 1941 as an amateur and he would feature this season in that role and two Scottish internationalists had moved to Greenock from the East of Scotland, Andrew McLeod from Cupar, having been appointed Town Clerk of Gourock and Bill Heggie from Dunfermline. And there were a number of promising young players who would come to the fore in the next few years.

A winning start

There was no pre-season friendly with Cartha, as had been the case in the inter-war years, and the first game was a home league match with Drumpellier. Greenock got off to a winning start in a low-scoring encounter, winning by one wicket in an exciting finish. Drumpellier had made 113 in their knock and Greenock struggled throughout to reach their target but the tail saw them through in the end. McLeod showed his all-round worth with 24 runs and 4 for 15 and Jim Agnew, Tobin and Heggie all made significant contributions.

The visit to Cambusdoon saw another win recorded, thanks to Andrew McLeod's unbeaten 50 in what was another low-scoring match, Ayr being bowled out for 116 and Greenock replying with 129 for the loss of 8 wickets A third successive victory was achieved when Poloc were defeated by 38 runs at Glenpark. Arthur Neill showed his old form with a dogged 65 and the Greenock Telegraph noted that "Galbraith gave Neill grand assistance and knocked up a scrappy 25"! Galbraith was in fact Mac Galbreath, one of the Club's most promising youngsters and someone who would become a leading member of the team over the next 15 years or so. Greenock reached 176 for 8 in their innings and fine bowling by Tobin and Heggie at the start of Poloc's innings ensured that the Glasgow side would not reach their winning target, being bowled out finally for 138.

Greenock's winning start to the season was maintained in the first round of the Rowan Cup when they easily defeated Motherwell, Bill Heggie scoring 55 and taking 4 wickets. However, the next league match saw Greenock lose to Uddingston in a low-scoring encounter at Bothwell Policies, despite AW Mackay taking 7 for 24. Greenock's batting failed dismally and they could only reach 78 in the first innings. Uddingston did not fare much better but they were able to overtake Greenock's total, despite Mackay's valiant effort, reaching 91 for 9 at the end. Following this, the annual holiday match with Watsonians at Glenpark was drawn but the game was noteworthy for the century scored by John Drummond, who scored exactly 100 in just 66 minutes.

Drummond maintained this form when he top-scored with 68 in the fine win over West of Scotland by 72 runs to round off a productive month of May. The game at Hamilton Crescent was attended by 3000 spectators and they witnessed a strong display by Greenock. The visitors batted first and reached 223 for 7 in their innings with Drummond being well backed up by the rest of the batting. When it was West's turn to bat they made every effort to reach their formidable target but Heggie with 6 for 55 proved to be too good for them as they could only reach 151.

Menzies stars in Rowan Cup successes

If May had been a successful month for the team, June was another matter as Greenock's challenge for the League championship faltered badly, the three matches played that month all being lost. The Rowan Cup brought relief to this disappointing run as the team reached the final of the competition after two splendid wins. Firstly, Kilmarnock, who would go on to win the Union and who fielded a strong side, were swept away, losing by 73 runs and then in a much tighter match with Clydesdale, Greenock prevailed by just 12 runs. The star man in both games was John Menzies, a very promising young opening bowler. He took 7 for 31 against Kilmarnock and followed that with 6 for 37 against Clydesdale.

The win over Kilmarnock was most meritorious as the game was played at Kirkstyle against a team that had not lost a competitive match to that point. Drummond was again a star with the bat hitting 53 as Greenock reached 139 for 6 in their 24 overs. Kilmarnock had no answer to the pace of Menzies who hit the stumps for 6 of his 7 victims and had Kilmarnock's top scorer, Bell, not been dropped 4 times in the course of his innings, the margin of victory would have been even greater. Menzies was just as deadly in the win over Clydesdale, with 5 of his 6 victims being clean bowled. Greenock had scored 132 for 8 in their innings but were always under pressure from the Clydesdale batting who fought hard but were eventually dismissed for 120.

League form falters

These Rowan Cup successes were not matched in the league. Kelburne won at Glenpark, thanks in no small part to the all-round abilities of Willie Nichol, who took 6 wickets and scored 37. Greenock could only score 114 when batting first despite 50 from Jim Agnew and Kelburne knocked off the runs for the loss of 6 wickets, Bill Heggie taking 5 for 35. Greenock would rue the lack of enterprise from their batsmen and the dropping of at least 3 catches. Two weeks later, again at Glenpark, spectators were treated to a much better batting display but the result was the same. Runs from Tobin, Neill and Drummond saw Greenock to 175 but their bowlers, other than Heggie who took 6 for 72, could not keep the Clydesdale batting in check as they reached 187 for 8 for the victory.

A third successive defeat was incurred at Kilmarnock as the league leaders proved too strong for Greenock. Batting first, the home team amassed 176 for 8, the Rev Jim Aitchison top-scoring with 56. Greenock's reply started promisingly but faltered as wickets began to fall and despite Heggie's 48, they were all out for 131. During their innings, Drummond was given out caught behind. According to the Telegraph "Drummond appeared to be mystified by the umpire's decision and GH Tough, the Greenock skipper, took the very unusual course of going on to the field to protest." Very unusual indeed but the umpire was unmoved and Drummond had to go.

After the mid-season holiday break from league matches, during which Greenock travelled up to Aberdeen to play Aberdeenshire in a benefit match for the local professional, Alma Hunt, there was a return to winning ways in the Union when Drumpellier were defeated in a tight game at Langloan, Mackay with 6 for 40 and Tobin with 3 for 43, winning the game for Greenock as Drumpellier were bowled out for 143 in reply to Greenock's 166 for 8.  Drumpellier really should have won the game but their last 4 wickets fell for just 10 runs.

Unfortunately, the next game brought defeat at the hands of West of Scotland at Glenpark when the local batsmen failed to cope with the wiles of the old Uddingston professional, Joe Hipkin, who had moved to the Glasgow side. West scored 204 for 5 in their innings but there was apparently not much to admire about their batting as it was quite pedestrian at times, helped by a number of dropped catches and slipshod fielding. Greenock too showed a lack of enterprise when it was their turn to bat but after a good start from Neill and Agnew they collapsed to Hipkin who took 7 for 51 as Greenock could only score 126.

Rowan Cup final disappointment

There followed the Rowan Cup final against Kelburne at Whitehaugh, played in front of a crowd of around 6,000. Greenock had the services of Bob Hodge for the match and he came up trumps with 41 and 3 for 48 but Kelburne ran out winners by 17 runs thanks to a man of the match performance from Willie Nichol who scored an undefeated 74 and followed that with 5 for 62. Kelburne had been struggling at just 37 for 3 at the halfway point of their innings of 24 overs but Nichol's aggression completely changed the complexion of the game and the Paisley side finished on 133 for 5, a good but not unbeatable total. After a poor start, Greenock recovered and with the score at 90 for 2 seemed to be well placed to win but Hodge's dismissal, followed 3 runs later by that of Tobin who had scored 46, was the catalyst for a batting collapse, the last 4 wickets falling for the addition of just 3 runs, the team finishing on 116.

A strong finish

After that disappointment, Greenock's league form took a decided turn for the better and the last five games of the season would see the team undefeated. There was firstly a draw at Shawholm when Greenock's tail just held out against Poloc. The home side scored 155 and Greenock got close to that score but were ultimately indebted to their last pair defending their wickets for the last two overs of the game. Tobin took 6 for 43 and then scored 41.

Ayr were then defeated at by just one run in a very tight game at Glenpark. Greenock batted first and reached 153 with John Drummond scoring 59 and his younger brother Duncan, in one of his first games for the Club, 22. In reply it looked as if Ayr would take the win points but their last wicket fell with them just one run short of Greenock's tally, Tobin taking 5 for 42.

Uddingston were comprehensively defeated by 100 runs when Mackay took 7 wickets for the second time against the Villagers. Tobin continued his fine form with 61 and Jim Agnew scored 51 as the pair put on 109 for the first wicket and Greenock eventually reached 182 before being dismissed. Uddingston were never in the hunt thanks to Mackay's fine bowling and the victory was easily achieved. Next up was a visit to Titwood and this time Clydesdale were no match for Tobin and Menzies. The former took 5 for 13 and the latter 5 for 23 as Clydesdale were bundled out for just 43, a total which was easily and speedily overtaken by Greenock.

The final league game of the season at Whitehaugh saw revenge for the Rowan Cup loss when Kelburne were defeated by 29 runs with Bob Hodge, available for the day,  in what would be his final game for the club, scoring 35 and taking 6 for 43. Batting first, Greenock struggled to 116 all out, with Hodge the top-scorer as only three batsmen reached double figures, Willie Nichol as usual posing all sorts of problems. But this total proved to be more than enough as Hodge ran through the Kelburne line-up with support from Menzies and Tobin. Hodge's performances in this game only underlined what a huge loss he was to the Club.

This late winning run meant that Greenock finished tied for third place with Drumpellier, and just behind Kelburne but the league was won with ease by the strong Kilmarnock outfit.

Tobin's all-round success

The batting averages for the season show that five players dominated. Tobin led the way with 422 runs and both John Drummond and Jim Agnew also broke the 400 run barrier while Andrew McLeod and Arthur Neill failed to do so by the smallest of margins.

It was a similar situation with the bowling with Tobin taking 42 wickets and Bill Heggie, John Menzies and AW Mackay each taking 40 wickets, and all four of them taking 5 wickets in an innings on 3 occasions.

As the scorebook for the season cannot be located and not every scorecard can be found in the printed press, these figures are the best that can be achieved and rely considerably on the figures provided in TC Riddell's book of the Club records.

Start of a new era

Although cricket had continued to be played during the war years, this had only happened thanks to the sterling efforts of a number of Club members and the resumption of league cricket in 1946 was not without its difficulties as well. New equipment was very difficult to find and there was no possibility of using a new ball for every game.

Nevertheless, Greenock could feel reasonably satisfied with how the season played out and be confident of seeing improvements in the succeeding years. Some new blood was coming into the team to take the place of those whose careers had ended before or just after the war. In particular, 1946 would be memorable for being the start of the career of Duncan Drummond who would go on to become one of the Club's most distinguished players.