1950 - Some encouraging signs

Jim Agnew, who had taken over as captain in the middle of the 1949 season when a recurring shoulder injury forced Bill Heggie to stop playing, continued as captain in 1950 as the team sought to improve on their dismal showing in the previous season when they had finished bottom of the Union table.

Mixed fortunes to start with

The pre-season friendly with Cartha did go ahead this year but it was very much an abbreviated affair due to poor weather and not a lot could be learnt from it. That meant that Greenock went into the opening league game with last year's joint champions Ferguslie at Glenpark lacking decent match practice. They made a poor start to the match but a strong partnership between Duncan Drummond (40) and Laurence Proverbs (57) changed the complexion of the innings and a final total of 160 for 7 was one that could be defended. Ferguslie made an aggressive reply and although wickets fell at regular intervals, the lower order kept up the momentum and victory went to the Paisley team by 2 wickets. Nonetheless there were some promising signs which blossomed in the next two games.

There was a comprehensive win at Langloan when Drumpellier were beaten by 89 runs, the skipper leading the way with a fine 79  in Greenock's 166 and Duncan Drummond with 3 for 16 spearheading the bowling which dismissed Drumpellier for just 77. Even better followed the next Saturday at Glenpark, when last year's other joint champions Kilmarnock were beaten by 20 runs in a match of fluctuating fortunes. It was, the Greenock Telegraph opined, "undoubtedly one of the most interesting games seen at the Fox Street ground for a long time". Greenock had made a slow but steady start through McLeod (32) and Galbreath (52) but the arrival of Proverbs (42) at the crease changed the complexion of the game and Greenock ended on 168. An early success occurred when the prolific Rev Jim Aitchison was bowled for just 2 by Duncan Drummond but Kilmarnock were always in the game, despite regularly losing wickets. Greenock's hero was Ernie Armstrong who finished with 7 for 57, backed up by some fine fielding as Kilmarnock were bowled out for 148.

Greenock were brought back down to earth with a bump at Titwood the following week. In a match played in unseasonably cold and damp conditions, Greenock did well to post 172 for 4, Galbreath and Agnew both hitting half-centuries, 57 not out and 54 respectively. But their bowling could not make any inroads into the Clydesdale batting and the fielding deteriorated as the innings proceeded, Clydesdale winning by 9 wickets with McAllister unbeaten on 110.

Inconsistent form continues

Before the next league match at Hamilton Crescent, the first round Rowan Cup tie was played at Bothwell Policies where a fine win was recorded, the team chasing down Uddingston's total of 125 for 6 to win by four wickets, skipper Agnew top scoring with a fine 57. The batting, however, failed badly against West of Scotland, being dismissed for 98. Considering that Andrew McLeod hit 52 and Ernie Armstrong 28, it can be seen how little the rest of the order contributed. And yet, West were reduced to 43 for 5 at one stage but costly slips in fielding and too much loose bowling, as the Telegraph described it, let the Glasgow side back into the game and they ran out winners by 4 wickets.

Just one league match was played in June at the beginning of the month when Greenock did the double over Drumpellier, winning comfortably by 4 wickets, despite the visitors leaving them just 2 hours to overtake their total of 151 for 9. Greenock's batsmen adopted aggressive tactics in their innings, led by Laurence Proverbs which was in direct contrast to the plodding display of the visitors and they finished the game on 157 for 6, with contributions from most of the batsmen.

The annual friendly with Grange which had been a feature of the fixture list prior to the war was resurrected this year. Unfortunately, it resulted in a heavy defeat for Greenock, the Edinburgh side finishing on 166 for 1 after Greenock had been bowled out for just 112. One interesting participant in the game was Bill Heggie, who was attempting a comeback after retiring the previous year with a shoulder injury. He was dismissed first ball and afterwards announced his retirement again. The next two Union games, against Kelburne and Poloc, both failed to start due to rain.

During the week after the Grange defeat, the second round Rowan Cup tie with Clydesdale was played. Greenock really handed victory to their opponents, thanks to several dropped catches which allowed Clydesdale to win comfortably by 5 wickets. This had followed some reckless batting in the first innings when Greenock were restricted to 120 for 8. Greenock's top scorer was Bill Heggie with an unbeaten 30, his place in the team coming after he was prevailed to play despite announcing his retirement the previous weekend.

Form improves but Clydesdale too strong again

Uddingston were the visitors to Glenpark at the start of July and were easily seen off as Greenock won by 5 wickets. Uddingston were restricted to 137 for 8 with Ernie Armstrong taking 4 wickets and young leg-spinner, Willie Melrose taking 3 for 27 on his debut. Greenock's reply was dominated by Duncan Drummond and despite wickets falling at intervals at the other end, he made sure that Greenock reached their target. When this was achieved, the Uddingston skipper agreed to remain in the field to see if Drummond could reach his century. As the Telegraph recorded "Drummond did reach his century, was congratulated by the Uddingston skipper and ran to the pavilion with the cheers of the spectators ringing in his ears. They were, in their own way, recognising a magnificent batting achievement of 100 not out, scored in 100 minutes." It is a moot point as to how hard Uddingston tried to get him out and the boundary to reach his ton was hit off the Uddingston skipper who had brought himself on to bowl that final over.

With no league game the following Saturday, the team travelled to Edinburgh to take on Loretto School for the first and last time. This rather incongruous fixture resulted in a draw in which the school team were by no means outclassed. The next Saturday saw a third league win on the trot when Ayr were overcome at Cambusdoon by 75 runs. Greenock's total of 165 for 9 owed much to the in-form Drummond who hit a fine 68. Despite dropping several catches, Greenock were too good for the Ayr batsmen and they were dismissed for just 90, the spinners, Simpson and Melrose having identical analyses of 3 for 24. It should be pointed out that Ayr fielded almost throughout the Greenock innings in a continuous drizzle which had stopped by the time that Greenock took the field.

Greenock were now in third place in the table but any hopes of maintaining or improving this position were dashed in the next two games. For the third time in the season Clydesdale proved too strong and won by 6 wickets, despite another grand innings from Duncan Drummond, this time of 63 not out, in Greenock's disappointing score of 136 for 5. Once again, Greenock were the authors of their own downfall as a number of straightforward catches were spilled and Clydesdale were able to score 70 in the last 35 minutes of the game to force the victory. Bill Heggie was again persuaded to turn out for Greenock but he neither batted nor bowled and this was to prove to be the last time that he would play for Greenock. Joining the club after the war, he had two fine seasons but in 1948 he suffered an injury to his shoulder which meant that he was only able to make sporadic appearances after that and which deprived Greenock of an outstanding all-round cricketer.

Poor performances round off the season

The following week against West of Scotland, Greenock got the worse of a draw, hanging on grimly at the end at 130 for 9 after their opponents had reached 162 for 5. The Rangers footballer, Johnny Hubbard scored 63 and he would go on to be a major factor in Prestwick' s rise to eminence in Scottish cricket. Greenock were indebted to their tail-enders for achieving the draw but in terms of league points that was as good as a loss, as no points were gained.

The next Saturday saw Greenock with no league game. A friendly was arranged at Gala but once again their batting was found wanting and a rearguard action was needed to hang on for a draw, Greenock finishing on 80 for 9 in response to their opponents' total of 115. Kelburne at Whitehaugh was the next league fixture with Greenock's opponents near the top of the table. This time, Greenock's batting hit it off and a good total of 165 for 7 was reached, Jim Agnew scoring 45 and Duncan Drummond 43. Kelburne really needed to win the game to have any chance of the title but they crumbled in the face of some fine bowling from two relative newcomers, Charlie Rooke with 4 wickets and Willie Melrose with 2 and were dismissed for 106, leaving Greenock victors by 59 runs. For Kelburne, their professional, ex-Greenock paid player Bert Tobin, whose benefit match this was, stood almost alone with 46 and 4 wickets.

The next two league matches, to Ayr and Kilmarnock, both fell victim to the weather and did not start. The last league game of the season at Glenpark proved to be a total disappointment as Greenock were bowled out for 98 chasing Poloc's 168 for 4. The final game of the season at Uddingston proved equally disappointing, this time with an under-strength side the batting only managing 85 in reply to Uddingston's 145 to continue Greenock's poor run of form at Bothwell Policies. Such poor performances were a real let-down after some encouraging play earlier in the season.

Kilmarnock were convincing winners of the league but Greenock, despite their poor finish, rose to 5th place, having won 6 of the 13 games that they played. Their placing might have been higher had they fielded better but too often the match reports mentioned how dropped catches had cost Greenock dear.

Duncan Drummond's fine season with the bat

The undoubted star of the batting was Duncan Drummond. In all games he hit 634 runs with one century and 6 half-centuries. Jim Agnew and Mac Galbreath both scored over 400 runs and there were good contributions from Laurence Proverbs and Andrew McLeod. In the Union, Drummond scored a fine 377 runs and there were totals of over 200 runs from Galbreath, Proverbs and Agnew.

There was no outstanding bowling performance which was probably the reason for the Club falling short in both the Union and the Rowan Cup. John Simpson showed his potential by being the leading wicket-taker with 31 victims and Armstrong, Drummond and Melrose showed glimpses of good form from time to time.

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.

Some signs of improvement

1950 was undoubtedly an improvement on the previous year, not that that would have been difficult, and if ultimately results were somewhat disappointing they did at least show some promise for the future. If only the fielding would improve.