16 April 1904 started something. It was Celtic’s fourth Scottish Cup win, something that put them on the same level as Rangers and ahead of Hearts, although still a long way short of Queen’s Park. But that was not all. It was also true that a new team was developing, a young, eager, talented side.
A mighty half back line of Jimmy Young, Willie Loney and Jimmy Hay had come together more or less by accident as a result of injuries etc but they were all developing at the same time. In the forward line, wee Jimmy McMenemy was beginning to show his ability and in Davy Adams, big and strong, there looked as if there was a solution to the goalkeeping problem.
They had needed three attempts to beat Dundee in the quarter final, but the third game had been an emphatic 5-0 victory which had the supporters chortling. There was then a tighter game against Third Lanark (who would win the Scottish League that season to add to the Glasgow Cup) in the semi-final but the half back line of Young, Loney and Hay was outstanding. This victory set up a final against Rangers, a team who had declined a little from their 4 League titles in a row side at the turn of the century and were now amassing a huge support, almost as big as Celtic’s in fact!
The Scottish Cup final was the first to be played at the new Hampden, a ground built deliberately by Queen’s Park with the ill disguised intention of dwarfing Celtic Park for the purpose of hosting Scotland Internationals. Not yet totally completed, particularly at the East End of the ground, Celtic fans and Directors had to admit that it was an impressive new ground. In the event a crowd of nearly 65,000 (a huge attendance for the time) came to see this game and Hampden Park held them all comfortably. The SFA deserve credit for their laudable decision not to “cash in”. They kept the admission price at six pence, and got their reward in the shape of a record crowd for a domestic game.
Maley had a problem with team selection. It concerned Alec Bennett, who had done so well as centre forward this season, but now, amazingly, did not seem to want to play in this game! Maley sought him out and endeavoured to find the cause. Bennett was not Irish nor Catholic, but that did not need to be a problem because several of the team were in the same boat – Jimmy Young, Jimmy Hay for example – and they were totally loved and accepted by the support.
The trouble with Alec Bennett was that he was a sensitive soul and did not like some of the insults hurled at him on the street and possibly even in his family particularly concerning his friendship with men like Jimmy McMenemy, for example. In addition, it was no secret that Rangers were “after him” for next season, and possibly one or two illegal approaches had already been made. Bennett, an honest and possibly as yet still vulnerable young man, was upset and confused, and Maley took the reluctant decision that he should be dropped for the Cup Final, making vague statements about Bennet being “unwell” and a “dose of flu” for the benefit of the Press.
So who was to play in the centre position? It really had to be that enigmatic character Jimmy Quinn who normally played on the left wing. Jimmy was painfully shy and socially insecure. His native village of Croy was only 15 minutes away from Glasgow in the train, but the cultural gulf between the small Irish mining village and the huge metropolis of Glasgow was enormous. He was called “Jamie the Silent” sometimes, because he said very little, yet Maley knew he had the ability. His Coronation Cup hat-trick in 1902 had proved that, but he hadn’t always lived up to that since.
Nevertheless, Maley noticed that Quinn in the presence of cheery characters like Young and Somers was beginning to develop a little more confidence. Maley paused, thought about things and then told Quinn he was playing centre forward on Saturday in the Scottish Cup final. Typically, Jimmy showed no emotion, but his insides were churning.
It would turn out to be one of Maley’s best ever decisions. In fact, it changed the course of Scottish football history.
Glasgow in 1904 was in some ways thriving, in other ways a disgrace to those who ran the richest country in the world but saw nothing wrong in the poverty, deprivation and ill health of so many of its inhabitants. The Government of the day was Conservative and its economic policy was one of Protectionism, which basically meant that anything coming from overseas had to play high taxes. The aim was to protect British industries, but it made food so much more expensive than it needed to be.
Starvation was not unheard of, but the main effect on large cities was ill health and disease. 1900, for example, in Glasgow had seen an outbreak of what could only be described as “the Plague”, a disease which had last been seen in medieval times! Life was not salubrious in Glasgow in 1904! The city teemed with social and all sorts of other problems.
In these circumstances, the fortunes of your football team become more important to your psyche. You need something to boost your morale. This was why 64,423 came to Hampden Park that fine spring day to see the battle of the two money makers of Scottish football. They would soon be called “the Old Firm” for their ability to generate the cash!
The crowd was in fine mettle and supporters of both persuasions mingled together, some with rattles and these noisy corncrakes of crawmills, and some wearing rosettes to show their allegiance. Celtic kicked off towards the Mount Florida goal against the slight breeze, but it was Rangers who were soon smiling when Finlay Speedie (possibly their best player of that era) scored twice but in both cases goalkeeper Davy Adams must bear some of the blame. He dropped the ball for the first one, and was totally unsighted for the second in the aftermath of a corner kick. Rangers 2 Celtic 0 and the game was only 20 minutes old.
But captain Willie Orr steadied his young team down, and slowly the half back line of Young, Loney and Hay took command of the midfield playing sensibly along the ground to minimise the breeze. Somers had a fine shot saved by Watson, and then a long ball from defence saw three men in a parallel line running for the ball – Smith and Stark of Rangers, and Quinn of Celtic. Quinn was never short of pace and got there first to reduce the deficit.
It was no more than Celtic deserved and now the “green star was in the ascendancy”. Before half time the teams were level. A fine run from Bobby Muir on the right wing, an inch perfect cross after evading two tackles and Jimmy Quinn was waiting. “Hit it aince, an mak it a guid ane” was the accepted wisdom in the early days of goal scoring, and Jimmy did just that, so that the half time score was 2-2. Celtic now had the wind, and the psychological boost of having come back from a 2-0 deficit. Their supporters were happy, but everyone noticed that Quinn was not smiling as he walked off the park, arms swinging with a look of grim determination on his face, ignoring the social overtures of his team mates.
The second half was actually quite even for a spell, but once again the Celtic half back line took a grip of the game, and Celtic gained the ascendancy. Fifteen minutes remained when a through ball from Jimmy Hay found Quinn about halfway up the Rangers half of the field. He charged for goal, and with two Rangers defenders trying to barge him off the ball, he kept his head and coolly lobbed the ball past the advancing goalkeeper.(If you can imagine Odsonne Edouard in 2019 scoring the winner against Hearts, you might have some idea of what that goal was like, although the Rangers defenders were possibly a little closer than the Hearts ones, and the ball was more “softly tipped” in 1904 that Odsonne’s was in 2019.) The points of similarity were that it was the same King’s Park goal, and this goal also released delirium among the fans.
The remaining quarter of an hour saw Young, Loney and Hay in total command of the midfield over a now dispirited and demoralised Rangers side.
As was the custom in those days, the Scottish Cup was presented to the Directors of the winning side in the Board Room after the game, or possibly even at the post match banquet in the Alexandra Hotel in Bath Street. The Celtic fans however were in little doubt who the trophy should have been presented to, and that was Jimmy Quinn.
This was the game that made him immortal. It was also the launching pad to the six League titles in a row won by the team that could claim with some justification to be the greatest team on earth. And what about the great man himself?
He took his quiet departure from the banquet, and made his way without any fuss to Buchanan Street station to get the next train back to Croy. There was no great celebration, although he may have had a drink or two at the banquet or when he got home. He was, as they said “just like an ordinary man”, and yet he was now well on his way to becoming the greatest player in Great Britain.
For the Maley family, there was a further cause for celebration a week later. While his players duly disposed of Motherwell in a meaningless League game, (the rampant Jimmy Quinn scoring five!) Willie Maley took himself off to the Crystal Palace to see his brother Tom’s Manchester City beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0 to win the English Cup. It was the first (and only) time that brothers as managers had won the Scottish and English Cups in the same year. Celtic and Manchester City winning the honours in both countries? Sounds a wee bit like 2019 as well!
So 1904 did at least have something to make everyone happy. Rangers, injuring Quinn in the process, won the Glasgow Charity Cup, but that would be their last reason to smile for some time. Celtic were now launched, and summer 1904 resembled that of 1965 in the anticipation of the support for what was to come.
A FAMOUS football with strong Croy connections is now on show in the village on a permanent basis. The 115-year-old ball, used in the 1904 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park, was presented to Croy Miners’ Welfare Charitable Trust at a presentation concert in the Pender Hall in the new miners’ welfare hall in July 2004.
Croy’s footballing legend, Jimmy Quinn, scored all three of Celtic’s goals on that occasion, to win the Scottish Cup after Rangers had gone into an early 2-0 lead.
The ball was bought by Croy man Dick Pender at an auction in Christie’s in Glasgow in 1989, and patiently restored by Jim Lochrie. It was then given into the ownership of Croy Miners’ Welfare Charitable Trust, and Croy Historical Society acts as custodians.
A display case was bought and the ball forms a unique feature of the society’s archives see HERE.