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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Twenty Four

    Hibs have a temporary home at while Easter Road is developed to hold 50,000 spectators; Harry Ritchie becomes the darling of the Hibs support; as the Club approaches its 50th birthday one of its mainstay's sadly passes away and another does so soon after and high flying Hearts get thumped at Tynecastle

    As season 1924/25 neared, works on the improvements to Easter Road had fallen behind schedule and so Edinburgh Corporation, as owners of Tynecastle Park, instructed Hearts to allow Hibs to play their home games there until the works were finished. Needless to say this was not received well by Hearts sympathisers but it is equally true to say that Hibs fans were not particularly happy either as they had to travel into ‘industrial Gorgie’ to watch their favourites play.

    Hibs’ first league game of the new campaign brought Partick Thistle to Edinburgh and the greens won an entertaining match 3-2 at their temporary home. Picking up from where they left off the previous season both Jimmy Dunn 2 and Jimmy McColl scored the goals. A week later at Rugby Park Hibs took both points with a first half goal from John Walker and then had the bizarre situation of facing Hearts on their ‘home’ pitch in the semi final of the East of Scotland Shield. Hearts were the home team but Tynecastle was also, temporarily, the home of Hibs and so it’s not clear where the 17,000 fans settled themselves to watch a 0-0 draw taking place! In the Scotsman match report the following day it was said that ‘despite the lack of goals there were many exciting incidents with both Hearts and the Hibernians looking to win the game.’

    Just 48 hours later Hibs were back at Tynecastle to face Motherwell in a league match where a disputed goal by Harry Ritchie ensured the greens had six points out of six for their first three games.

    Moving into September Hibs first visited Perth where in front of 12,000 fans they twice came from behind against St Johnstone and then went on to win the game 3-2. Back in Edinburgh just five days later Easter Road was finally ready for use and Hibernian could return to their spiritual home. The Scotsman newspaper reported on the event as follows: - ‘The Hibernian ground was officially inspected by the City Engineer yesterday and permission has been granted to use the ground for matches. The ground has been completely transformed and has now a much more open and roomy appearance than before. Nearly half of the old pitch is now occupied by the stand which is on the other side of the pitch from the old one. With new embankments in place the ground will now comfortably hold up to 50,000 spectators.’

    The newly refurbished Easter Road hosted its first match on 13 September 1924 when Queens Park were beaten 2-0 in a match where it is said Hibs dominated throughout and should have scored more goals. Around half full the atmosphere at the ‘new’ Easter Road was excellent and many who entered the ground at the main interest were delighted to see that built into the wall over the main entrance was a harp surrounded by clusters of emerald shamrocks. The origins of the club would remain in a prominent place for all to see.

    In the following midweek, again at Easter Road, Hibs tasted their first league defeat in going down 3-2 against Celtic with the visitors getting the winner in the dying moments. Although on the losing side that day outside right Harry Ritchie was in majestic form, the kind of form that prompted Harry Swan in later years to comment that Harry was every bit as effective as Gordon Smith. Such praise gives an idea of the kind of player Harry Ritchie had been and it is sad that with the passing of time his name is rarely mentioned whereas Gordon’s lives on.

    That defeat by Celtic stung the greens and they promptly went on a four game unbeaten run with a 3-1 win away to Raith Rovers, a 2-0 home win over Morton, a 2-2 draw away to St. Mirren and a stunning 7-0 home win over Ayr United. Unfortunately the next game saw Hibs lose 2-0 at Tynecastle in a bad tempered match where Lachlan McMillan of Hearts and Harry Ritchie of Hibs were sent off. The story goes that they kicked each other and gave the referee no choice but the Hibs fans in the 32,000 crowd would tell you that as Harry Ritchie had been getting kicked throughout the match and had enjoyed no protection from the referee it was little wonder his temper had snapped. To rub salt in the wounds the first Hearts goal came off the boot of a Hibs player but at the end of the day the better team on the day won the points.

    Last time they lost, Hibs bounced back with a win and they did it again this time around as Dundee were beaten 4-2 at Easter Road and that win kept them in the hunt at the top of the table where Airdrie were proving to be the early pacesetters. Present day fans may find it odd that a club like Airdrie could rise so high but it is worth bearing in mind that seven of that Airdrie team had been capped for Scotland.

    When Falkirk came to Easter Road at the start of November we are told that they and their hosts served up a game which ‘palpitated with excitement from start to finish’ so it sounds like the 15,000 fans were well entertained. It’s likely though that the majority would leave disappointed as the Bairns won 2-1. A week later Hibs were in Lanarkshire beating Hamilton 2-0 but a further seven days on and further west they went down 3-0 at Ibrox with the home side scoring all three goals in the first half.

    Thankfully Hibs won next time out as Aberdeen were trounced 4-1 at Easter Road with wee Jimmy Dunn getting a hat trick as he jinked his way through a Dons defence that consisted of several strapping six footers!

    Injuries and illness involving Ritchie, Dunn, Dornan and Harper severely hampered Hibs over the next few games and a 1-1 draw against Cowdenbeath at Central Park disappointed the Hibs fans in the 12,000 crowd but in truth it was a decent result against a mid table side. High flying Airdrie were next and another 1-1 draw was the result, keeping both sides very much in contention at the top of the league.

    With Christmas fast approaching, Hibs put together a couple of good performances and were rewarded with full points in beating Third Lanark 2-1 in Glasgow and St Johnstone 5-0 at Easter Road with Jimmy McColl bagging a hat trick. On Christmas Day Rangers brought a team to Easter Road in providing the opposition for a benefit match for Hibs’ full back Willie Dornan. Around 6,000 attended and although the greens rested a number of their first team players it was a decent game and Rangers won 4-2.

    Two days later Hibs lost rather tamely at Hampden as Queens Park upset the form book and took both points with a 1-0 win. It was a poor performance by the greens and such results did little to fuel the title aspirations of the club. Two days on from that there would be devastating news for the club when Philip Farmer passed away at his home when aged just 59. It had been Philip that had effectively steered the rescue of the club in 1893 when Hibernian had almost gone out of business and like his brother John and indeed his great grand nephew Sir Tom Farmer, a huge debt of gratitude was owed.

    Had Philip Farmer not sadly passed away he would undoubtedly have been at Tynecastle on 1 January 1925 to watch third placed Hibernian defeat twelfth placed Hearts 2-1 despite being a goal behind at the interval. John Walker and Jimmy Dunn got the second half goals that strengthened Hibs’ attempts at winning the league and they did so in the most appalling weather conditions. A gale force wind was blowing down the park and Hearts had it behind them in the first half but could only score one goal through John Murphy whereas in the second period Hibs used the wind to better effect and took both points as a result.

    Only around 15,000 had braved the elements for that Derby and it is highly likely that none of them realised they had just watched Hibs win the first in an unbeaten run of eleven league matches. First to fall were Kilmarnock, beaten 2-0 at Easter Road and then Aberdeen lost 1-0 at Pittodrie where the points were won after John Walker scored direct from a corner kick. In their third game in five days Hibs had to be content with a point after drawing 0-0 on a very muddy pitch at Brockville against Falkirk.

    A well deserved week of rest followed and the reward came in the shape of a 2-1 home win over Hamilton but a week later in front of around 20,000 expectant fans at Easter Road, Aberdeen knocked Hibs out of the Scottish Cup at the first time of asking. Any thoughts of ‘third time lucky’ were soon dispersed as the visitors controlled the game from start to finish and deserved to progress into the second round although the outcome of the game did raise the odd eyebrow or two as Hibs had been in such fantastic form in the league and were expected to carry that form into the cup.

    January 1925 ended for Hibs with a visit to Parkhead where they deserved the point earned in a 1-1 draw whilst February was a very rewarding month as the greens took eight points out of a possible ten and ensured that their attempt at the league championship stayed very much alive.

    One team that had caused Hibs problems was Falkirk with the Brockville club winning three of the four points available from the league clashes and it was the Bairns that continued that run in early March when they beat Hibs 1-0 at Easter Road in the semi final of the Dunedin Cup – played that day as both clubs were out of the Scottish Cup and the Saturday was free as a result.

    On Wednesday 11 March 1925 League leaders Rangers came to Easter Road confident of seeing off the Hibernian challenge. Their star forward Henderson was injured and so Rangers being Rangers they simply went out and bought another with McInally of Third Lanark joining in time to lead the line at Easter Road. Alex Maley had prepared his men for a tough challenge and the 20,000 fans in the ground expected it to be a close affair but nothing could be further from the truth as the greens were all over their opponents from the off and led 3-0 at half time through goals from Walker, McColl and Halligan. A second by McCall after the interval ended any hopes of a fightback and although Rangers did eventually manage a goal the 4-1 defeat somewhat flattered them. In winning this match Hibs had done themselves and Airdrie a massive favour with both sides gaining two points to close the gap at the top.

    On the Saturday following, goalkeeper Willie Harper was in Liverpool playing for the Scottish League against their English counterparts and one has to wonder whether Hibs had any say in that matter because it meant they were forced to play a reserve keeper against Partick Thistle at Firhill and they lost the match 3-1 in front of 25,000 fans.

    Only wins in their remaining games would give Hibs a continuing chance of winning the title and in the first of those games full points were gained in a 2-0 home win over St. Mirren. A week later at Cappielow Morton were two up inside the first ten minutes and although the greens fought back to win a point it was questionable whether that would be enough to keep their hopes alive. Whether it did or not was academic as in their next outing with Harper again away playing for his country Hibs lost a man to injury in the first few minutes and as a result they went down 3-0 to Dundee at Dens Park. It had been a gallant effort but in the end Hibs would finish third behind Rangers and Airdrie.

    The Wilson Cup was won after a 1-0 home win over Hearts in the final and then the East of Scotland Shield was won after Hearts were defeated 1-0 in the semi final and Leith Athletic 3-0 in the final which left only the Rosebery Cup to be played for and that was duly won also after Leith Athletic were beaten 4-0 in the semi and Hearts 1-0 at Tynecastle in the final. In amongst that flurry of local competition games Hibs entertained Newcastle United in a friendly and defeated them 3-1.

    At the end of a good and entertaining if not successful season Hibs were able to re-sign all of their players with the exception of Willie Harper and they added West Lothian man Alex Love to the squad. Amidst rumours of a move down south Willie Harper had taken his time in considering his future but everyone at Hibernian was delighted when he decided to remain with the club. And so Hibs marched on towards a new season and it was milestone season into the bargain.

    Having been founded in 1875, Hibernian Football Club prepared for season 1925/26 by celebrating its fiftieth birthday. It is fair to say that there had been many highs and lows over the years as initial difficulties in being accepted into the Scottish League were finally overcome and then a Scottish Cup win was followed up by the disgraceful behaviour of Celtic Football Club in almost putting Hibernian out of business. A rejuvenated Hibernian rose again and another Scottish Cup and a League Title were won before the club, like every other one in Scotland had to scratch out an existence during the Great War. In the run up to its birthday Hibernian had twice reached the Scottish Cup Final and had pushed hard in the most recent league campaign, eventually finishing a very creditable third. With luck the fiftieth birthday would be a celebratory year for more than just that reason.

    The actual celebration of the club’s golden jubilee was held in early August and it was around that time that Hibs announced they would play benefit matches for four of their players in order to recognise the service given by them to Hibernian.

    Season 1925/26 didn’t get off to the best of starts as Hibs opened their league campaign with a crushing 5-0 defeat at Parkhead. Contemporary reports surrounding that match suggest that Celtic adjusted well to the new offside rule whereas Hibs struggled to come to terms with the fact that only two rather than three defenders had to be between an attacking forward and the defenders goal line. As Hibs dallied awaiting whistles that never sounded the home side scored their goals with Jimmy McGrory getting a hat trick to the delight of the majority of the 18,000 fans present.

    Two days later Partick Thistle came to Easter Road to face Hibs in a benefit match for Willie McGinnigle who had been playing exceptionally well at right back for Hibs for some years. Rather worryingly the visitors with only four recognised regular starters in their eleven won 6-4 against what was effectively a full strength Hibs side. Remarkably Hibs had led 4-0 before caving in and conceding six at the other end, leaving the 3,000 fans in the ground somewhat perplexed. The talk amongst those fans was the baffling new offside rule and many put the Hibs collapse down to the fact that the players were equally baffled but how difficult could it be to accept that where three defenders were once needed only two were now required!

    The stated reason for altering the offside rule was to speed up the game and hopefully produce more goals and given that in Hibs’ first two starts of the season no fewer than fifteen had been scored it is perhaps no surprise to learn that in their second league game of the season, against Kilmarnock at Easter Road the greens won 8-0 with John ‘Darkie’ Walker getting a hat trick. It would seem that Alex Maley had concentrated a deal of time in the previous week into instructing his players regarding the new rules as Hibs looked far more organised defensively whilst the visitors still looked as though they had not yet adjusted.

    In the following midweek Hibs were once again at home and facing St Bernards in the semi final of the East of Scotland Shield. Whilst 17,000 had watched them put eight past Killie, just 7,000 were on hand to see Hibs go one better in winning 9-0 with Walker getting another hat trick. Having got Hibs up and running for the new season and having managed to instruct his players on the new offside rule, Alex Maley resigned his post as manager and moved into the Boardroom to become a Director of the club and despite rumours that a new boss would be arriving from elsewhere it was long serving player Bobby Templeton that was appointed into the post on 25 August 1925 although he remained registered as a player too.

    With their new manager at the helm Hibs next visited Perth and drew 0-0 with St. Johnstone before the greens faced Hearts at Easter Road in a benefit match for Hugh Shaw. Around 7,000 fans watched on as the Hearts scored three goals in the first fifteen minutes and although Harry Ritchie scored two there was to be no comeback for Hibernian. In their next two league games Hibs beat Dundee 2-1 and lost to Motherwell by the same score before they visited Tynecastle to contest the final of the East of Scotland Shield and lifted that trophy thanks to a 2-1 win. Hibs fans in the 11,000 crowd that night enjoyed the victory but were blissfully unaware it would be the last time they would witness a win for some weeks as the greens went on a seven game run without a win in the league, the only respite coming in a 0-0 draw in mid October against Hearts at Easter Road.

    After the impressive league campaign of the previous season this was pretty dire stuff from Hibernian but if it accepted that they had more than their share of bad luck with injuries and occasionally had to play either Peter Kerr or Bobby Templeton, both of whom were outfield players, in goal then that run is perhaps more understandable. Crowds were dwindling and Hibs were well down the league when the run was halted thanks to a 3-1 home win over Falkirk on the last day of October.

    The first match in November was to have significance in the history of Hibernian although not for the result, a 3-1 defeat by Cowdenbeath at Central Park. Instead it would mark the last appearance in a Hibs jersey of goalkeeper Willie Harper who was transferred to Arsenal as the Gunners pursued the league title in their own First Division Championship. Harper’s replacement James Sharp, signed in the weeks before the transfer was immediately on a losing Hibs side as the greens went down 1-0 at Douglas Park against Hamilton and as a result slumped to the bottom of the league. Whatever fee the club had received in selling Harper badly needed to be spent to strengthen the team but there was little sign of that happening.

    Given the circumstances it was a surprise to all that Hibs won two and drew one of their next three league games, scoring five against Clydebank and eight against Hamilton in the process. That mini run ended at Ibrox on 12 December when Rangers won 3-1 but on Boxing Day with a severely weakened side and on a pitch covered with snow Hibs ran out surprising 4-1 winners with that reliable trio of Ritchie 2, McColl and Dunn doing the damage. If that win surprised everyone then the next Hibs victory stunned all of Scottish football.

    On 1st January 1926 an injury riddled Hibernian side travelled across Edinburgh to face high flying Heart of Midlothian in front of 31,000 supporters. The Gorgie club was second in the league, just two points behind leaders Celtic whilst Hibs were 16th but only four points off the bottom. Much to the surprise of all present Hibs had the better of the first half and led at the interval thanks to a Peter Kerr free kick from just outside the box. Just two minutes into the second half of what was becoming a bad tempered affair Hibs were awarded a penalty which Harry Ritchie converted. Hearts centre Jock White was spoken to by the referee for disputing the award and when Hibs scored again through Ritchie just 60 seconds later the Gorgie man was sent off for continuing his verbal assault on the referee. John Slaven then scored for Hearts but Johnny Halligan dashed any hopes of a comeback by getting a fourth for Hibernian. In a season where wins were rare the Hibs fans certainly enjoyed this one and made that known by heading out of Gorgie singing the praises of the greens.

    Only 24 hours had elapsed before Hibs were in action again, drawing 0-0 with Aberdeen at Easter Road and feeling somewhat aggrieved as they had scored from a penalty only to have the referee order it to be taken again and the Dons keeper saved the second attempt but at least making the new year celebrations for their fans a little more pleasant by climbing away from the bottom of the league. Unfortunately the next outing brought a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of St. Johnstone and that was swiftly followed by a 2-1 reversal away to Partick Thistle, plunging Hibs back into trouble.
    A 4-1 home win over Morton looks comfortable enough but it took a double from Jimmy McColl in the last five minutes to ensure that victory. In mid January and in Hibs’ fifth game already that month, league leaders Celtic came to Easter Road drawing a crowd of 25,000 to witness a superb game with eight goals shared. From the off Celtic attacked and scored in the first minute but Hibs levelled three minutes later through Johnny Halligan with the same player then giving Hibs the lead but Celtic equalised before half time. Early in the second period Halligan was badly fouled and though Hibs got a free kick Halligan struggled throughout the rest of the match as he limped around the park. Both sides scored twice in the second half making the final score 4-4 and Hibs fans present were left wondering why their heroes could not show such form more often.

    On the back of that win it should have been a good time to be a Hibs fan but the whole club and its support was plunged into mourning when co founder and Hibernian man through and through, Michael Whelahan died in hospital on 20 January 1926. It cannot be stressed enough that were it not for Michael Whelahan, his vision and determination, his strong will and his total commitment to the cause there would not be a Hibernian Football Club today. Of course it might also be argued that were it not for Michael Whelahan then there would not be a whole host of clubs that survive to this day, most at junior level but two at the highest level in Scotland in Celtic and Dundee United.

    Remember too that Michael Whelahan was the man that gave the club its name and who watched over the club for the first fifty years of its life. He would be sorely missed by everyone that knew him but he would also be remembered as the man who co founded the Hibernian Football Club we all love and support today.

    In his time Michael had watched Hibernian lift the Scottish Cup twice and he would dearly have loved to see that happen more often but it was not to be. It was the Scottish Cup in which Hibs next played, drawing 1-1 with Broxburn United and scraping through 1-0 in the replay with both matches being played at Easter Road. It would be Airdrie at home in round two but the Diamonds would first arrive in Leith to play a league match and brush the greens aside 4-1 and thereby strengthening their challenge for the title as they were neck and neck with Celtic. A week later they returned to Easter Road and defeated Hibs 3-2, ending the Scottish Cup hopes for yet another year.

    A week later and in a snow storm Hibs defeated Morton 5-2 at Cappielow, displaying the sort of form that had gained them a draw against Celtic and they carried that into the following midweek in beating Motherwell 3-1 at Easter Road but the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome struck again on the Saturday when they meekly went down 2-1 at home to Queens Park. February ended with another 2-1 reversal, this time at Love Street against St. Mirren although reports from the match suggest that Hibs were desperately unlucky not to at least get a point in a match that they dominated for large periods and in which the home keeper was in excellent form.

    On 6 March 1926 much of the Hibernian season seemed to be summarised in the ninety minutes played against Cowdenbeath at home. Even then football had its fair share of clichés and on this occasion it was the ‘did everything but score’ one although that’s not strictly accurate as they did score one. Cowdenbeath got two and won the match but a huge ‘assist’ from Messrs Ritchie and Dunn who between them missed three penalties. It is interesting to read in the match report that all three penalties were awarded for hand ball offences by Cowdenbeath defender Hopewell with the second being a ‘blatant punch off the line to stop a certain goal.’ Some rule changes have benefited the game as Mr. Hopewell would have been enjoying an early bath had he committed those offences today.

    The defeats of recent weeks had plunged Hibs back into the thick of the relegation battle and one of the other clubs fighting for First Division survival was Clydebank so the encounter at Clydeholm Park between the two was a ‘must win’ for both sides. Only 3,000 fans watched a tense match that was decided by a disputed goal after Shaw’s free kick was adjudged to have been carried into his own net by Bankies keeper Gallagher. The home players protested long and loud but both referee and linesman assured them that they had enjoyed a good view of the incident and it was indeed a goal.

    Another fellow struggler, Raith Rovers lost 2-0 at Easter Road as the greens eased fears of relegation but 5-1 and 5-3 defeats at the hands of Airdrie and Dundee United caused some concern before results elsewhere and a 1-1 draw for Hibs at Brockville ensured that the greens would stay in the top flight. In the end Hibs finished sixth from bottom of a table topped by Celtic with Airdrie a close second and Hearts in third.

    For 16 years Peter Kerr had served Hibernian well and had played in a variety of positions in the team including goalkeeper on a number of occasions and so it was fitting that league champions Celtic provided the opposition for his benefit match. Sadly only 3,000 fans attended as the visitors won 2-0 but Kerr was reportedly delighted with the gesture by the club.

    Only the East of Scotland Shield was won out of the various local competitions but one of the last games Hibs played that season was at Highbury against Arsenal as part of the deal that took Willie Harper to the London club. On the day the English giants were just too good for Hibs and ran out 5-0 winners.
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