1949 - A depressing season

Bill Heggie assumed the reins of captaincy from John Drummond but his time in this position was sadly limited to just a few weeks as a persistent shoulder injury, which had affected him from time to time in previous seasons, forced him to retire from the game. Jim Agnew replaced him for the rest of the season but it was to be a difficult season for him as the team never performed to its potential and finished bottom of the Union table for the first time since 1928 and for only the second time since the league started.

As well as losing Heggie to injury, the side would also have to do without the bowling of AW Mackay for the first two months of the season after he had suffered cartilage trouble in the rugby season. But on the plus side, a new wicket-keeper in the shape of Charles de Boinville had moved to Greenock as had Laurence Proverbs, a Barbadian dentist who would delight Glenpark supporters in the years to come with his dashing stroke play. For a time they also had the services of ex-Loretto schoolboy, HF Neilson, who was considered an outstanding prospect with his left-arm spin bowling. Sadly, after making quite an impact in the first couple of months of the season, he left to join the Army and would not be seen in Greenock colours again.

Mixed fortunes to start

With the annual pre-season friendly with Cartha rained off, the team went into the first league match of the season against the reigning champions, Ferguslie, at Paisley distinctly undercooked. The first half of the game went well with Ferguslie dismissed for just 116, Ernie Armstrong and Neilson both capturing 4 wickets but that could have been much better as the last pair put on 41. Greenock in reply batted slowly and never got on top of the home team's attack and were eventually bowled out for 100. To rub salt in their wounds, ex-Greenock professional Bert Tobin took 6 for 21 for Ferguslie. What could have been a morale-boosting start to the season rather set the tone for what was to come.

In fairness, the next league game did see the team record its first victory when Drumpellier were defeated by 21 runs, with skipper Heggie very much to the fore with both bat and ball. He top-scored with 35 as Greenock struggled to a less than impressive 139 and then when Drumpellier stood at 84 for 2 he was instrumental in prompting a collapse, taking 5 for 18 as Drumps were dismissed for 118. The next game at Kilmarnock was abandoned in the first innings with Greenock on 109 for 4 looking as if they might set their opponents a challenging total. This game marked the appearance for the first time in a Greenock team of Laurence Proverbs and while he only scored 4 this time he would go on to be one of the most attractive batsmen in the Club's history.

The following week, another lacklustre batting display led to a big loss to Clydesdale. 111 was never going to be enough for a win, only Heggie making much of a showing with 34. Clydesdale started slowly and lost their first four wickets for just 16 but they never looked back after that and won by 4 wickets. Further disastrous batting against West of Scotland seemed to herald another resounding defeat as Greenock were bowled out for just 89, veteran spinner Joe Hipkin taking 5 for 26, but an heroic bowling performance, as the Greenock Telegraph deemed it, almost created a stunning turnaround before West eventually triumphed by 2 wickets.

Progress in the Rowan Cup

June started with another abandoned match, this time with Drumpellier at Langloan. In its preview of the game, the Telegraph pointed out that the team had been narrowly defeated on a number of occasions with the blame being laid at the feet of the bowlers. The scorecards and indeed the reports on the games published in the paper seemed to suggest the exact opposite in that it was the low scores achieved by the batsmen that was the main cause for the defeats.

The team returned to Langloan in midweek for the second round Rowan Cup tie. The first round tie with Hillhead had seen a routine victory and this was followed up with a fine all-round performance that saw Drumpellier defeated by 20 runs. The highlight of the Greenock innings was a quick-fire 31 from Laurence Proverbs, his first decent score for the team, and it is interesting to note that the Greenock innings of 24 8-ball overs was completed in just 65 minutes, although it has to be said that the two Drumpellier spinners, Winrow and Nicol, bowled throughout. Greenock only made 101 for 9 in their innings but their bowling, backed up by keen fielding, restricted Drumpellier to just 81 for 8.

This win was followed up by a second league victory when the short trip upriver to Whitehaugh saw Kelburne defeated by 1 wicket in an exciting finish. Young Neilson had shown his pedigree with a five-wicket haul as Kelburne were restricted to 150 for 8, a reasonable but not match-winning total. Greenock forced the issue throughout their innings and as a result lost wickets at regular intervals but a 39 run stand for the 7th wicket between Ian MacArthur and Ernie Armstrong turned the tide and the last pairing of Neilson and Menzies saw the team over the line.

Defeat in Rowan Cup Final

John Menzies turned his attentions to his bowling in the Rowan Cup semi-final against the holders, Clydesdale. The Glasgow side batted first but never got going and were dismissed for just 79 with Menzies taking 4 for 28. Greenock's batting was given a fine start when Jim Agnew and Andrew McLeod put on 55 for the first wicket before Agnew was caught for 34. The Drummond brothers both fell cheaply but McLeod stood firm and saw Greenock across the line for a seven wickets win.

The Rowan Cup success however did not lead to better results in the league. Poloc came to Glenpark and under a 'broiling' sun, as the Telegraph put it, knocked up an impressive 212 for 6 in their innings, spearheaded by Harry Sheppard who hit 101*. Greenock replied gamely with the Drummond brothers both hitting 40s but they were ultimately dismissed for 183. The following week saw a visit to Bothwell Policies and the by now customary defeat on that ground. Greenock's score of 151 was better than might have been expected given that they were 15 for 3 at one point but their bowlers were unable to make many inroads into the Uddingston batting, who took few risks, and they were beaten by 4 wickets.

This was not the best form to take into the Rowan Cup Final against Kilmarnock, which was played at Whitehaugh in front of a crowd of over 5,000. Kilmarnock's innings was dominated by the Rev Jimmy Aitchison who stroked a fine 71 and although Ernie Armstrong bowled a fine spell, taking 3 for 22 in 6 overs, Kilmarnock finished on 145 for 5. Greenock reached 98 for 3 at one point with 8 overs left and John Drummond and Proverbs going well, but the loss of three wickets for just one run in the 17th over put paid to any chance of victory and despite a late flurry at the end they fell 11 runs short.

Greenock move off foot of the table

It was then back to league business with Ayr the visitors to Glenpark. Greenock batted first and made a poor start but a fine unbeaten 52 from Duncan Drummond saw them reach 142 and give a chance of victory. That chance looked more than likely when they reduced Ayr to 112 for 7 after the visitors had put on 69 for the first wicket. However, slack fielding by Greenock, which saw a couple of chances missed, and some sturdy batting from the lower order saw Ayr to a one-wicket victory.

By now Greenock were at the foot of the table but there was an improvement in their position after the next three games. They had by far the best of the game at Titwood but were unable to dislodge the last Clydesdale pair, despite having plenty of time to do so, and the Glasgow side held out for a draw with their score on 105 for 9. However, Greenock who scored 159 for 6 in their time at the crease, with Proverbs unbeaten on 49, did get the draw point.

The following week at Hamilton Crescent rain caused play to be abandoned after Greenock had posted 172 for 3, both Galbreath and Proverbs hitting half-centuries. Kelburne were then the visitors to Glenpark and they were comfortably beaten by 6 wickets after having been bowled out for just 110. Greenock were not at their strongest but one of those brought into the side, slow left-armer AE Heap, starred with the ball, taking 4 for 27. In Greenock's reply, there was a bright undefeated knock of 34 from Wallace Hughes, an Australian from NSW who looked a decent prospect but who did not remain long at the Club, as the team reached 114 for 4 and in doing so, consigned Kelburne to the bottom of the league table.

But finish at the bottom

That was as good as it got for Greenock as the last four games of the season were all lost, thereby ensuring that it was they who propped up the table at the end of the season. In three of these games, the batting failed miserably, being unable to reach three figures. In a turgid game at Cambusdoon, only two Greenock batsmen reached double figures as the side collapsed to 66 all out, in response to the home side's less than convincing 133 for 8. The following week, defeat was even more comprehensive as Kilmarnock hit 196 for 7 whereupon their professional Preston was instrumental in Greenock's paltry reply of just 73 with figures of 5 for 21.

There was a slight improvement at Shawholm when, batting first, Greenock amassed 162, thanks in the main to a fine 6th wicket partnership between Jim Agnew and Ernie Armstrong. Despite capturing some early wickets, the bowlers were unable to restrict Poloc and the latter eventually squeezed home by 3 wickets. The final game of the season saw Uddingston at Glenpark and once again the batting collapsed after the visitors had been restricted to 140 for 8 in the first innings. Greenock were bowled out for 90, the only bright spot being 30 from Robin Duthie in his first innings for the 1st XI.

Ferguslie and Kilmarnock shared the title with identical records while Greenock finished last with a record of just 3 wins in 14 games.

Mention should be made of one exceptional performance in the 2nd XI. AW Mackay, making his return from serious injury, captured all 10 wickets at a cost of 42 runs against Ayr at Cambusdoon on 16th July

No outstanding performances

Runs were spread throughout the side with 8 batsmen scoring over 200 runs in all games with Jim Agnew the leader with 429 closely followed by Duncan Drummond with 413. In league games however there were less encouraging results with Duncan Drummond the leading run-scorer with 312 runs at an average of 24. Given the number of games played in the season these figures were not outstanding.

There was a lack of penetration in the bowling with most of the work done by just three bowlers, Armstrong, Menzies and Duncan Drummond, the latter the leading wicket-taker with a relatively meagre total of 43 wickets. He also took the most wickets in the Union but that figure of 25 showed how hard it had been for the attack to better the opposition.

A season of more lows than highs

The achievement of reaching the Rowan Cup final was the only really bright note in what was a most disappointing season, a fact that was reflected in the league table. The younger members of the team had not really pushed on that much, although from time to time the performances of Duncan Drummond and Ernie Armstrong showed promise for the future.