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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Thirty Three

    It was a busy close season in 1946 but mainly because the footballing authorities in Scotland were at loggerheads with the UK Government over the admission prices to Scottish matches in comparison to admission prices south of the border. In essence, part of the admission price to a football match related to entertainment tax and as the Government had reduced the level of that tax it was insisting that the reduction be passed on to spectators.

    The Scottish Football League took a different view and at its AGM, voted to maintain the 1s 6d admission from the previous season especially as costs had gone up with players’ wages for example having risen by 25%. Perhaps unsurprisingly the UK Government was less than impressed by the stance of the SFL and when the relevant Finance Bill was being debated in the House of Commons the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued a stern warning in saying “I shall be keeping a close eye on practices in the Scottish football field between the present time and the next budget.”

    He went on to warn that if the reduction in admission charges was not passed on voluntarily then the Government would take steps to enforce it. A week later the SFL Management Committee met and decided to ratify its first decision and retain the admission charge at 1s 6d in direct contradiction of the Governments wishes on the matter. A letter would be sent to the Chancellor detailing the reasoning behind the decision and seeking an early meeting to resolve matters. At the same meeting the draw for the Scottish League Cup was made and Hibs found themselves in a section with Hamilton, Third Lanark and Celtic. In general everyone was trying to adjust to living after the horrors of a war that had affected virtually every family but all the roads leading to Easter Road were thronged with people as on 10 August 1946 Hibs fans turned out in huge numbers to watch Willie McCartney’s Hibernian begin its Division ‘A’ campaign. This would be the season in which Eddie Turnbull joined the club from Forth Rangers and Willie Ormond arrived from Stenhousemuir whilst Leslie Johnstone was signed from Clyde.

    The league campaign began with a resounding 9-1 win over Queen of the South. Gordon Smith played on the right wing in that match but it was centre forward Jock Weir that grabbed the headlines with four of the nine goals on a day when in other games Morton won at Parkhead and Hearts drew 3-3 at Brockville with more than 16,000 supporters happily handing over their 1s 6d to get in. Of course the Hibs result put them at the top of the league albeit with just one match played but they stayed there the following Wednesday evening after playing brilliantly at Ibrox in front of 60,000 fans and winning an exciting game 1-0. Still in Glasgow, three days later Queens Park was defeated 1-0 with Archie Buchanan scoring the vital goal. After three matches only Hibs, Aberdeen and Partick Thistle enjoyed a 100% record and Celtic sat in bottom spot with just one point.

    In their next two matches Hibs picked up four more points in defeating Clyde 1-0 at Easter Road with a Jock Weir goal in front of 25,000 and then Hamilton 3-2 at the same venue which meant five starts, five wins, ten points and the only side to remain undefeated at that stage. A pall of sadness descended over Easter Road that night however following the death of club stalwart Paddy Cannon who remarkably had been with Hibs in one capacity or another since 1896. Paddy was a remarkable character and even when in his eighties he could still be found out on the pitch marking the white lines or putting up the nets. An athlete in his earlier days he was an accomplished runner and stunned everyone when he entered the Powderhall Marathon aged 62 and won it! It was said of Paddy that if you cut him he would bleed green, such was his devotion to Hibernian Football Club and it was truly a sad day when he passed away.

    The unbeaten run came to an end at Pittodrie where Hibs lost Gordon Smith to injury after just eight minutes and though he tried to resume he had to admit defeat which left Hibs with ten men for most of the game. Even then it seems the green and whites were the better team but sadly Cuthbertson’s goal was not enough as the Dons notched two, including an unfortunate own goal by Hugh Howie. Ravaged by injury Hibs lost their next game 2-1 as well when they were narrowly defeated by Motherwell at Fir Park.

    At the beginning of September a somewhat unusual occurrence was reported in the press and it concerned the Rangers Supporters Association who had vowed to boycott the stand in the upcoming Old Firm match at Parkhead because Celtic had raised the admission price from 3s to 7s 6d (15p to 37.5p). What made the occurrence so unusual was that when the Rangers Supporters Association contacted the Celtic Supporters Association to explain their intentions the Celtic group agreed to join in the boycott! Somehow I cannot see such a situation developing for any reason today.

    Back to back defeats meant Hibs went into their next match in second place behind Aberdeen but they got back to winning ways by thrashing the Kilmarnock 6-0 at Easter Road with Lawrie Reilly amongst the goals. Sadly the next match brought defeat, in front of 39,000 at Easter Road where Hearts scored the only goal of the game. In the Hearts side that day was Tommy Walker, his last appearance for the club before moving to Chelsea for a reported fee of £6,000. Not in the Hibs side that day was Arthur Milne who had been left out more and more resulting in a transfer request being granted and him leaving to join St. Mirren.

    With the League Cup Section matches soon to start Hibs travelled to Greenock on league business and won 2-0 with keeper Jimmy Kerr in outstanding form as he saved a penalty. It was reported that scouts from English league clubs were monitoring the keeper but it was Jock Weir that drew an offer from Swansea City but in rejecting it manager Willie McCartney said he was delighted to have Jock in his team and Jock was delighted to be there so he wouldn’t be going anywhere soon.

    The League Cup Section had Hibs at Parkhead for the opening match and the team that was first to wear the green was comfortable in winning 4-2. A week later at Douglas Park Hibs thumped Hamilton 6-3 to strengthen their hold on top spot in the section but then inexplicably lost 2-1 at home to Third Lanark and then followed that up with a poor 1-1 home draw with Celtic that had the Hibs fans wondering if their favourites would now qualify.

    During the following week Hibs hosted touring side Sparta Prague having met and beaten them in Czechoslovakia in the close season just ended. Around 20,000 enjoyed a good open game with Sparta gaining revenge for that earlier defeat by winning 3-1. Two more League Cup Section matches remained and Hibs won them both 2-1 against Hamilton and Third Lanark to qualify for the later stages which would take place the following March. It is interesting to note that Eddie Turnbull’s name was now being singled out in reports due to his fine play which the Scotsman described as leading to the strongest left side the club has had in some time.

    It would be Turnbull that grabbed the headlines in Hibs’ next league match as he scored twice in a good 4-1 home win over Third Lanark, a result that took the greens back to the top of the league but it was short lived as in their next outing, at Parkhead they lost 4-1 to an ever improving Celtic. Turnbull was at it again when Partick Thistle visited Easter Road in late November as he bagged a hat trick in a 5-1 win and then he laid on the winner for Jock Weir next time out at Love Street. On 7 December 1946 a significant event occurred as it marked the scoring debut of Willie Ormond, newly purchased for £12,000 from Stenhousemuir and in the side that visited Palmerston and defeated Queen of the South 3-1.

    There was always a great deal of excitement at Easter Road when Rangers were due to visit because they had been such a dominant force in the game in Scotland and yet had not dominated Hibernian at any time. Around 40,000 packed into the stadium on a cold, bright afternoon and watched the visitors go ahead before the break. The second half, reported the Scotsman, brought a sustained onslaught on the Rangers goal but the visiting defence was magnificent whilst any lesser side would surely have folded. It looked as though Rangers might survive until Willie Ormond drove home a late equaliser for a share of the spoils. A week later another draw was played out at Shawfield when goals by Gordon Smith and Eddie Turnbull in the last 15 minutes rescued the point.

    On Boxing Day whilst Hibs beat Dundee 2-0 at Dens Park in a friendly the reserves took on Hearts’ second string at Easter Road and won 4-1 in front of more than 10,000 supporters.Earlier in the season Aberdeen had toppled Hibs at Pittodrie and so revenge was sought when the Dons visited Easter Road on the last Saturday of 1946. Leading for a long time through an Eddie Turnbull strike the Hibs were caught out just three minutes from the end when Harris equalised to earn his side a point. Also earlier in the season Hibs had lost 1-0 to Hearts at Easter Road and so once again revenge was in the mind when the sides clashed on New Years Day 1947. Going into the game Hibs were third behind Rangers and Aberdeen with Hearts just three points adrift in fifth. Some 37,727 watched on as Hibs won 3-2 with the Scotsman report describing the result as flattering to Hearts who, but for the form of goalkeeper Jimmy Brown might have suffered a heavy defeat.

    That same day Rangers could only draw 1-1 with Celtic whilst Aberdeen suffered a 4-0 home hammering at the hands of Falkirk which meant Hibs moved up to second and narrowed Rangers’ lead at the top to three points. The next four league matches yielded six points out of a possible eight with the highlights including a cracking 5-3 win at Rugby Park where Gordon Smith was in devastating form and Eddie Turnbull bagged a hat trick.

    The Scottish Cup journey began with a first round away tie at Alloa but it would be the ‘Wasps’ that got stung as Jock Weir netted four times in an 8-0 win. That result meant that Hibs still had an interest in all three domestic competitions but in the very near future those competitions would be seriously disrupted by a very severe spell of winter weather. On 1st February Hibs surprisingly lost 2-1 at home to Motherwell in a league game and would not play again until the 28th of the month when they faced Rangers at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup. In a tense match in front of a near capacity attendance neither side could find the net and so a replay would be required.

    Ahead of that replay Hibs faced Airdrie at Broomfield in the quarter final of the league cup and fought out a stunning 4-4 draw with Gordon Smith of Hibs and Bobby Flavell of Airdrie both notching hat tricks. The following midweek in front of 23,000 at Easter Road the goal glut failed to materialise but importantly the one goal that was scored came from Willie Finnegan and took Hibs into the semi final of the League Cup. At the weekend a massive crowd of 50,000 packed into Easter Road for the Scottish Cup replay against Rangers and most would have been anticipating extra time when the game reached the 83rd minute without a goal. It was not to be as within the space of 120 seconds Hibs struck twice through Willie Ormond and Gordon Smith to knock Rangers out of the competition to set up a third round home tie against Dumbarton when again the score was 2-0 in Hibs’ favour and Motherwell would be the opponents in the semi final.

    Still smarting from their Scottish Cup exit Rangers promised Hibs a tough game when they met at Hampden in the League Cup Semi Final. A massive crowd of 125,000 watched on as Rangers took the game 3-1 and ended Hibs’ hopes of reaching the final. The game was closer than the scoreline suggests with reports indicating a draw would have been a fairer result but it was not to be. A week later Hibs were back at Hampden to face Motherwell in the semi final of The Scottish Cup and although the attendance didn’t reach the same dizzy heights as it had a week earlier, those that did attend witnessed a marathon with the sides level at 1-1 after 90 minutes. The rules of the competition dictated that the sides would require to continue playing until a winning goal was scored and that’s what they did, until the 146th minute when Motherwell keeper Johnston launched a clearance from hand only to watch on dumbfounded as, some 40 yards away Hugh Howie volleyed it straight back into the Motherwell box, over the keeper’s head and into the net for the clincher. On the same day in the other semi final, Aberdeen took until the 130th minute to overcome Dundee to secure a cup final spot against Hibernian.

    Newly bought centre forward Leslie Johnstone arrived from Clyde in time to face Celtic at Easter Road in a league match and indeed he scored one of the goals in a 2-0 win with Lawrie Reilly getting the other. In time Reilly would take the number nine shirt and make it his own but for the moment he was playing more as a winger.

    The Scottish Cup Final drew a crowd of 82,000 to watch twice winners Hibernian take on an Aberdeen side that had never lifted the trophy. Inside 30 seconds Hibs were ahead when the Dons keeper fumbled a pass back and John ‘Cubby’ Cuthbertson pounced but this would not be Hibs’ day as they allowed nerves to take over and a more composed Aberdeen scored twice to secure the trophy and take it north to Pittodrie. With four league matches still to play Hibs were anxious to keep the pressure on leaders Rangers and they did just that by winning all four but sadly even that was not enough and the green and whites had to settle for second place, just two points behind Rangers and five ahead of Aberdeen in third.

    In one last attempt at giving the fans something to cheer Hibs took on and defeated Hearts 2-1 in the final of the East of Scotland Shield at Easter Road in front of around 20,000 fans.The close season of 1947 saw Willie McCartney active in the transfer market again as he swooped to sign Alex Linwood from Middlesbrough. At 27 years old Linwood had moved south from St. Mirren after scoring around 130 goals and being capped for Scotland against England. Having reached the semi final of the league cup the previous season, Hibs were anxious to go one better in 1947/48 but found themselves in a tough qualifying section alongside Hearts, Clyde and Airdrie. Indeed their League Cup campaign started really badly with a 2-1 home defeat by Hearts as Willie Ormond’s goal was cancelled out with interest by Archie Kelly and Johnny Urquhart in front of more than 43,000 fans.

    The remaining section games at home brought a 5-1 win over Clyde and a 5-0 win over Airdrie but it was the away games that cost the greens a place in the next round as they could only draw 1-1 at Airdrie with Alex Linwood scoring his first for the club and lost 4-3 at Clyde and 2-1 at Tynecastle where Bobby Johnstone scored for Hibs but Archie Kelly and Davie Laing secured the goals that would satisfy the majority of fans in the 39,268 crowd. Around this time the club held its AGM and declared a profit from the previous season of £16,636 with the double cup run helping to create a profit when a loss had existed from the previous campaign. Hibs immediately invested some of that money to purchase five acres of ground and intended to use it to develop the stadium further.

    The league campaign for Hibs began at Pittodrie where just fewer than 40,000 turned out to watch the greens win 2-0 thanks to goals from Gordon Smith and Eddie Turnbull. The first home league match of the season saw Hibs demolish Airdrie 7-1 which meant that in the space of three weeks the sides had clashed three times with Hibs scoring thirteen goals and conceding only twice. Having beaten Hibs twice in the League Cup section Hearts made it a hat trick of wins when they overcame their opponents 2-1 at Tynecastle in front of 33,810 fans. Willie Ormond got the Hibs goal and the Hearts keeper George Paton was hailed as man of the match as he denied the green and whites on numerous occasions.

    A 2-1 home win over Clyde followed with Bobby Combe and Eddie Turnbull on target but the main talking point concerned a ‘goal’ scored by Gordon Smith who rode a tackle, skipped into the Clyde penalty area and shot the ball home only for the referee to call play back and award Hibs a free kick just outside the box. It was a curious decision and a number of Hibs players took the referee to task but his mind was made up and thankfully the home side didn’t need the goal to collect both points. On the road Hibs narrowly won at Queens Park before demolishing Queen of the South at Easter Road in a 6-0 blitz in which Lawrie Reilly secured a hat trick.

    Those wins preceded a visit to Ibrox where needless to say they would face the league leaders. It would be nip and tuck all season between the two but on this occasion the home side won out and took both points with a 2-1 victory after Hibs had scored first through Bobby Combe. A disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Morton saw out October and then on the first three Saturday’s in November Gordon Smith grabbed all the headlines as first Hibs beat Motherwell 2-0 at Fir Park where he scored both goals and his first was described as a wonder strike after he had beaten five defenders in a great dribbling run in the build up; Third Lanark conceded eight without reply at Easter Road and Smith got five of them before Dundee went down 2-1 at Easter Road and Smith scored the winner. Those results put Hibs at the top of the table but a 3-1 defeat at Falkirk allowed Rangers back into the mix in a league title campaign that already had the look of a two horse race about it.

    A hat trick from Willie Ormond helped Hibs towards a 5-0 home win over St. Mirren but two consecutive 1-1 draws in early December did little to help the cause although the first of those was away to Partick Thistle, a club tucked into third place and with title aspirations of its own. A 4-0 win over Aberdeen at home looked good on paper but it is only fair to point out that the Dons finished the match with just nine men, having lost two through injury. That win over Aberdeen put Hibs back at the top on goal average but Rangers had three games in hand and so remained firm favourites to lift the title.

    On the last Saturday of the year Hibs went to Broomfield and won 3-0 against bottom of the table Airdrie and that set them up nicely to meet Hearts at Easter Road on 1st January 1948. The visitors arrived with new £10,000 centre forward Bobby Flavell who had arrived from Airdrie a month before but he saw little of the ball as Hibs thrilled their fans in the 45,000 crowd by winning 3-1 and returning to the top of the league albeit for just 24 hours as the following day Rangers won 4-0 at Parkhead to resume that mantle. A 2-2 draw at Shawfield was quickly followed by a 4-0 home win over Queens Park but that same day Rangers won 5-1 at Falkirk to keep it as tight as can be at the top. In mid January with the Scottish Cup looming Hibs won 3-0 at Palmerston thanks to a Cubby Cuthbertson hat trick but Rangers won 2-0 at home to Motherwell meaning that they sat at the top on 35 points from 19 games with Hibs second on 32 points from 21 games and Partick Thistle miles behind in third with 24 points from 21 games.

    Rangers had scored 49 goals and conceded 13 whilst Hibs had scored 62 goals and conceded 18.* Clearly the league meeting between the two at Easter Road would be a real clash of the titans and it was only a fortnight away. Firstly, Hibs had been drawn away to Albion Rovers in the first round of the Scottish Cup and it took a double from Cuthbertson to see them into the hat for the next round. Interestingly, Rangers scraped through 1-0 away at Stranraer. All thoughts of that clash with Rangers disappeared when the news broke that having been taken home from the Albion Rovers game due to feeling unwell, Willie McCartney had collapsed and died at home on the Saturday evening.

    This was truly devastating news and the whole of Edinburgh’s footballing public went into mourning. In his sixteen years as manager of Hearts, where he succeeded his father John he did not win any major trophies but would forever be remembered as the man who discovered Tommy Walker and many other Hearts stalwarts. Ten months after resigning at Tynecastle he took over the reins at Easter Road and guided Hibs’ fortunes in an upward direction, signing the players that will forever be remembered as the Famous Five.

    On the last day of January 1948 some 52,000 fans flocked to Easter Road as league leaders Rangers arrived with a three point cushion over their hosts. It was wet and windy in Leith that day and both teams served up some fantastic football without really looking as though they might score. With just seconds remaining, Alex Linwood chased a ball that looked as though it might be going out for a goal kick to Rangers, right down near the corner flag. Linwood reached the ball in time, fired over a brilliant cross and joined in the roar of celebration as Johnny Cuthbertson headed past Bobby Brown from six yards to win the points for Hibs.

    It was ‘game on’ for the title now and Hibs knew that they could not afford to drop many points in the run in. Of course they were still in the Cup and disposed of Arbroath 4-0 at Easter Road in round two. A 2-1 win at Cappielow earned two valuable points before round three of the Cup brought Aberdeen to Easter Road. These two sides had contested the final last season and Hibs were keen on revenge, something they achieved despite having only ten men for the whole of the second half after Willie Ormond was unable to continue. A goal up in the first minute and though Aberdeen equalised when both Ormond and Jimmy Kerr were off the park being treated they were never in front at any stage and further goals from Cuthbertson who had scored the first, Smith and Linwood carried Hibs through 4-2.

    Following the untimely death of Willie McCartney Hibs appointed Hugh Shaw as his successor and he was in place to guide the club to a stirring 4-1 win at Cathkin over Third Lanark. That same day a stunning scoreline was being fed through from Ibrox as Rangers went down 3-2 to relegation threatened Queen of the South and the combination of those two results put Hibs back at the top of the table. Interestingly with Jimmy Kerr unfit Hibs played a young lad named George Farm in goal at Cathkin and he distinguished himself by saving a penalty.

    The Scottish Cup quarter final at the beginning of March brought St. Mirren to Easter Road where Smith, Combe and Linwood scored the goals that took the green and whites into the semi final. Back on league duty Hibs saw off Falkirk 2-0 at Easter Road and then on 20th March went to Love Street and won 4-2 whilst at Ibrox Rangers lost two late goals to bottom club Queens Park which meant that Hibs topped the league with 42 points from 26 games and Rangers were second with 39 points from 24 games.

    With the league race so finely balanced it is hardly surprising that the Scottish Cup semi final between Rangers and Hibs at Hampden on 27th March 1948 caused a frenzy of excitement. Astonishingly, the match attracted 143,570 fans, a record to this day for two clubs meeting in domestic competition, outside of a cup final. Sadly for Hibs they would go out to a single goal scored by Willie Thornton after Jimmy Kerr’s replacement George Farm made an uncharacteristic error in goals.

    The Cup dream was over yet again but Hibs had their eye firmly fixed on the league title and their chances of lifting it were increased the following Saturday when they won 4-2 at Parkhead whilst Rangers could manage only a point from a draw at Pittodrie. Hibs now had a three point lead with three games to play whilst Rangers had four and it was shaping for a quite thrilling close to the season. Another week further on and Hibs won a crucial two points at home to a very strong Partick Thistle thanks to a solitary strike from Eddie Turnbull. On the same day Rangers were facing and drawing 1-1 after extra time with Morton in the Scottish Cup Final that would now require a replay.

    Elsewhere Celtic won 3-2 at Dundee with a Jock Weir hat trick and put to rest any thoughts of relegation. Two games remained for Hibs and in the first Motherwell suffered a 5-0 mauling at Easter Road and though they lost 3-1 at Dundee on the last day of the season they were still crowned Champions as Rangers could no longer catch them.

    It was a great day for Hibernian even though tinged with sadness following the loss of Willie McCartney who was not around to see his ‘babes’ lift the league flag. As a footnote it is worth pointing out that Hibs also won the reserve league and their newly created third team was also crowned champions of its league which all lent to a degree of bright optimism for everyone associated with the club.
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