The incredible story of Celtic legend Bobby Hogg – The class of ‘28

The incredible story of Celtic legend Bobby Hogg

Part 4 – The class of ‘28: Scotland captain Bobby makes his mark at schoolboy level

Bobby Hogg first came to prominence as a teenage footballer at Larkhall Academy in the late 1920s, captaining his school team whilst appearing for the Scouts and the local YMCA.

Young Bobby making a name for himself in the football world

On Saturday, 17 March 1928, the final international trial for selection of a Scottish schoolboy team took place at Central Park, Cowdenbeath. Thirteen-year-old Bobby was at right-back in the West of Scotland side, whilst centre-half Malcolm MacDonald would later join him at Celtic Park. East of Scotland outside-right James Colville scored the only goal of the game, the Fife youngster perhaps related to Harry Colville, who played for East Fife, Falkirk, Raith Rovers and Dunfermline Athletic before becoming Cowdenbeath manager, where he was a big influence on the teenage Tommy Callaghan.

Following that trial, the Scotland team listed below was picked to face England at Filbert Street, the home of Leicester City, on Saturday, 21 April 1928.

R Johnstone (Lanark Central), R Hogg (Lanark Central) & W Rennie (Paisley);
Hackett (Midlothian), M MacDonald (Glasgow) & D Muir (Paisley);
J Colville (Dunfermline), R Burns (Edinburgh), J Mulheron (Glasgow RC), A Barnes (Cowdenbeath) & J Phillips (Falkirk).

Reserves; G Crockett (Aberdeen) & T Richmond (Kilmarnock).

Bobby (centre of middle row) with the Scotland Schoolboys team ahead of the clash with England in April 1928

Before that match took place, Scotland’s senior team faced England at Wembley on the last day of March, an event immortalised as the ‘Wizards’ defied the odds to win 5-1. Perhaps inspired by that performance, young Bobby Hogg and two fellow schoolboy internationalists – goalkeeper Johnstone and centre-forward Donaldson – would be back playing with Lanark Central in a Schools Cup derby with Motherwell at Douglas Park, Hamilton five days later, on Thursday, 5 April 1928. Bobby scored from the spot as Central won 4-2 against a Motherwell side which featured another future Scotland schoolboy teammate, inside-forward McLetchie.

A little over two weeks later, Bobby made his representative debut as England’s schoolboys took a bit of revenge for their senior counterparts by beating Scotland 5-0 at Filbert Street in front of 15,000 spectators. The English team featured no fewer than six players who would progress to Football League level, including two who would make their senior debuts within 18 months, Yorkshire-born wingers Reg Stockill and Albert Geldard. Stockill scored at Filbert Street whilst Geldard was one of two future full internationalists for England to play that day, the other being inside-left Raich Carter, undoubtedly the most recognisable name in their team.

Carter would become a legend at hometown club Sunderland, whilst Geldard moved from his local side Bradford Park Avenue to Everton. Incredibly, both would see their paths cross once again with Bobby a decade later, playing against Celtic in the Empire Exhibition Cup. Bobby Hogg and his fellow full-back Rennie were amongst the few Scots who emerged from that 90 minutes in Leicester with some credit, as captured in newspaper reports.

“That the score was not higher was due to the splendid defensive play of the Scottish backs – Hogg (Lanark) and Rennie (Paisley). Tactics will require drastic overhauling in view of the matches v Wales at Aberdeen and v Ireland at Edinburgh.” Edinburgh Evening News.

“Hogg (Lanark) and Rennie (Paisley), the two backs, were outstanding, and of the others only Johnstone (Lanark) in goal and Phillips (Falkirk) justified their selection.” The Scotsman.

Despite that last comment, neither Johnstone nor Phillips would be selected for the match against Wales a fortnight later, as no fewer than seven changes were made to the team. Bobby captained the following Scotland side at Pittodrie on Saturday, 5 May 1928, five days before his 14th birthday.

J Baxter (Kirkcaldy), R Hogg (Lanark Central) & W Rennie (Paisley);
T Richmond (Kilmarnock), G Crockett (Aberdeen) & D Muir (Paisley);
J Colville (Dunfermline), D McDade (Glasgow RC), J Donaldson (Lanark Central), A McLetchie (Motherwell) & N Smith (Aberdeen).

Reserves; R Burns (St Columba’s, Edinburgh) & D Watson (Midlothian).

Scotland v Wales, May 1928

Lanark Central’s Robert Hogg captains Scotland schoolboys against Wales at Aberdeen on 5 May 1928. Scotland won 5-0. Note that future Glasgow Lord Provost Patrick Joseph Dollan was on the committee representing Glasgow RC Schools.

There was an interesting comment in the Aberdeen Press and Journal on the morning of the match, highlighting a key change.

“To allow for the size of the players, the height of the goal-posts is lowered to seven feet, and this means an additional cross-bar being added one foot below the ordinary bar, adding to the perplexities of the referee, for a ball striking above the lower cross-bar, even if it rebounds into the field of play, is given either as a corner or a bye according to the game.”

Scotland bounced back from the defeat by England to win 5-0 in front of 5,000 spectators, with Bobby’s Lanark Central teammate Donaldson scoring four, including a first-half hat-trick. Wing-half Richmond grabbed the other goal but once again, Bobby came in for praise.

“The best back on view was Hogg. This lad kicks a good length ball. His partner, Rennie, also made it evident that he knows what is wanted.” Daily Record.

“Their outstanding successes were Hogg, Rennie, Richmond, Crockett, Donaldson and McLetchie.” Aberdeen Press and Journal.

Scotland’s third and final match in the 1928 Victory Shield was against Ireland at Easter Road, Edinburgh on Saturday, 19 May 1928. The following team was announced to face the Irish.

R Johnstone (Lanark Central), R Hogg (Lanark Central) & W Rennie (Paisley);
T Richmond (Kilmarnock), G Crockett (Aberdeen) & D Muir (Paisley);
M McPhee (Canonmills, Edinburgh), D McDade (Glasgow RC), J Donaldson (Lanark Central), A McLetchie (Motherwell) & J Phillips (Falkirk).

Reserves; R Burns (St Columba’s, Edinburgh) & D Watson (Midlothian).

Scotland v Ireland, May 1928

Lanark Central’s Robert Hogg captains Scotland schoolboys against Ireland at Easter Road on Saturday, 19 May 1928. Scotland won 5-0.

A 4,000 crowd witnessed a Scotland side – showing greater physique and no little skill – beat the Irish by that now familiar 5-0 scoreline, Donaldson and McLetchie with doubles and local boy McPhee with the pick of the bunch. Once again, Bobby’s performance was highlighted in the post-match reports.

“The Scots’ backs declined to allow the little Irishmen to get to close quarters. Hogg was a bit of a hustler; Rennie did equally well in a quieter way.” Daily Record.

Seven days earlier, England had beaten Wales 3-1 at Swansea’s Vetch Field. Despite attempts to have them play Ireland, the English refused and with only games between the other three nations counting, duly regained the 1928 Victory Shield from Scotland. England would be in a strong position to defend it 12 months later, with a young Stanley Matthews taking his bow.

The following is the list of players on Scottish Schools’ FA website credited with international honours for 1928.

N Smith Aberdeen
G Crockett Aberdeen
Arthur Barnes Beath High School
J Donaldson Blackwood School
J Colville Dunfermline
R Burns Edinburgh
M McPhee Edinburgh
J Phillips Falkirk
D McDade Glasgow
J Mulheron Glasgow
M MacDonald Glasgow
R Johnstone Greenfield Secondary School
T Richmond Kilmarnock
J Baxter Kirkcaldy High School
Bobby Hogg Larkhall Academy
D Muir Paisley & District
W Rennie Paisley & District

Note that Hackett (Midlothian) and A McLetchie (Motherwell) are missing from this list for some reason but are very much part of the Class of ‘28.

If you recognise any of those players and have further information on their lives and careers, then please get in touch. That would be a lovely addition to Bobby’s story.

As is usually the case, despite being chosen as the elite at schoolboy level, few of the Class of ’28 would go on to enjoy senior careers. I am trying to establish if the D Muir from Paisley and J Phillips from Falkirk were wing-half David and outside-left John who turned out for St Mirren in the 1930s but one of the team who definitely did play at that level was Fifer Arthur Barnes, who spent time at Raith Rovers and Dunfermline Athletic – where he played alongside Bobby’s younger brother James Hogg – either side of a spell at junior outfit Lochgelly Albert.

But undoubtedy the saddest story from that group relates to the inside-forward R Burns from Edinburgh, who played against England and was an unused reserve in the other two games. That was Robert, who turned out for the reserves at Hearts, having signed from junior side Ormiston Primrose in December 1931. Robert’s elder brother John Burns was briefly on the books at Celtic Park and had been viewed as a potential successor to the veteran Alec McNair.

Tragically, Robert and his sweetheart Alice Ramsay were killed on Bank Holiday Monday, 19 September 1932, when his motorcycle went out of control on the Jedburgh-Hawick road as the couple headed to Whitley Bay, Robert having been granted permission to miss training by Hearts manager Willie McCartney. He was just 18 years old, whilst Alice was one year older, and there were heartbreaking scenes in Liberton two days later as the young couple were buried together, with thousands lining the funeral route. That Saturday, Celtic were the visitors at Tynecastle for an Alliance League match, players from both sides wearing black armbands whilst the 10,000 spectators observed one minute’s silence as a mark of respect.

There was then a programme article dedicated to Robert when Celtic’s first team travelled to Gorgie on League business on the opening day of October. At left-back for the Hoops at Tynecastle that afternoon was Robert’s old schoolboy teammate, Bobby Hogg, whilst a third member of that Class of ’28 – Magnus McPhee – is also referenced in the article and was on the books of Hearts for three seasons without breaking into the first team.

No doubt, the thoughts of Bobby and the other Celts on duty that day would recall the tragic events surrounding John Thomson exactly one year earlier. And sadly, death had not finished with that wonderful young Celtic team for the early part of that decade, with Peter Scarff suffering from tuberculosis and no longer well enough to be retained as a player that current season, having kicked his last ball for the club the previous December. Tragically, despite the occasional report of positive progress, Peter would not recover, and he had joined the ranks of the young immortals before 1933 passed into history.

God bless and rest all three fine young players.

Hail, hail!

Matt Corr

Follow Matt on Twitter/X @Boola_vogue

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