1883-84 Goodbye Whiteinch
A return to Partick and a new ground opened
18 goals in three Scottish Cup ties
Thistle continue dominance in Partick
Season 1882-83 had been riddled with problems over the facilities at Jordanvale, and new facilities had been a priority for the club. Prior to the start of the season in August 1883 it was announced that a new ground would be in use for the forthcoming season, at Muir Park on Dumbarton Road, and the club hoped it would offer some of the best facilities in the country. In addition to the new facilities, Thistle announced an impressive fixture list. Most matches were still of the challenge variety, but match secretaries were becoming more organised, and Thistle had home and away matches arranged against most of the top Scottish clubs – including Vale of Leven, Third Lanark, Rangers, Northern, Abercorn, Kilmarnock Athletic, Clyde, Johnstone, Possilpark, Hamilton Academicals, Partick, Morton, Falkirk, Glasgow Thistle, Cartvale, Port Glasgow Athletic and South Western – as befitted one of the most ambitious clubs in the country.
Old rivals Glasgow Thistle opened the new grounds and had no answer to the early-season enthusiasm of the Partick Thistle players, losing five before the break and a further four in the second half to give Muir Park it’s first home win – 9-0.
Pilgrims were the opponents in the first round of the Scottish Cup, but were unable to raise a team and scratched from the tie. The available players turned up at the new ground in Partick and with the aid of some “trialists” played a friendly. Thistle scored their twentieth goal at Muir Park, winning 11-0 to celebrate advancement to the second round.
Teams were eager to play at the new ground, and Falkirk were the next opponents to feel the early season Thistle form – losing 8-2. Thistle played the game with just ten men, and went one goal up early in the game amidst loud cheers, and went on to score another five before half-time. The second half was more evenly contested with two goals each being scored.
Thistle’s incredible home form continued with a Scottish Cup win – 8-1 – over Orchard. The first half was fairly even, Thistle leading 3-1 at half- time, but in the second period the home side had things their own way and scored another five to emphatically continue to the third round.
Port Glasgow Athletic the following Saturday began the second month of the season, and having scored 36 goals in four home games in August, Thistle found the visitors a more difficult proposition. However, a goal from Beaton after five minutes was enough to give Thistle a 1-0 win.
Andrew Duff returned to goal for the first time of the season for the visit to Greenock to play Morton, and suffered in comparison to A. Gemmell when he lost five goals. The Thistle forwards could only manage two in reply for Thistle’s first defeat of the season.
Gemmell reverted to goal for the visit of East Stirlingshire in the Scottish Cup, and the forwards also returned to scoring form with six goals and no reply. In heavy rain Ewing gave Thistle an early lead before Patterson and Beaton made things safe before half-time.
The local derby match against Partick always took the public’s interest, but the draw for the fourth round of the Scottish Cup overshone even this contest of local pride. Thistle were drawn against Queen’s Park at Muir Park – another chance to measure the advances against Scotland’s top team.
A home match against Partick preceded the cup tie and as always created great excitement. The pitch was slippery but this did not stop Thistle from creating and taking chances – the first a Patterson header after a John Young shot hit the bar. Thistle had several chances but did not extend the lead until Beaton scored just before half-time. Thistle dominated the second half with keeper Duff handling the ball just once. Ewing, Patterson and Jerry Suter scored to end the game 5-0 for Thistle to extend the Thistle dominance in the burgh.
Whether Thistle needed a tough game immediately prior to the cup tie was doubtful, but they got one in the shape of a visit to Alexandria to play Vale of Leven. Vale again took the honours with a 5-2 win.
Although the season was only three months old Thistle were experiencing problems with the new Muir Park pitch and following a downpour on the morning of the match against Queen’s Park the pitch was a sea of mud. Special concessions had been made for the large number of spectators expected, with cinders being laid around the ropes. The visitors were unhappy with the state of the pitch and asked for the game to be postponed but the request was refused as supporters had begun to arrive for the game. The four thousand who turned up for the match witnessed a farce with good football impossible. Thistle’s best spell was in the second half but the Queen’s defence held out and the visitors left with a 4-0 win.
Problems continued with the pitch at Muir Park and the Thistle players were becoming annoyed that they were unable to play on a better surface. Against Northern they were disappointing, their early season from missing as they lost 3-1. Andrew Duff played well and continued his good form.
Two away games saw the dip in form continue – a 1-1 draw against Clyde at Barrowfield and a 2-4 defeat to Johnstone at Carthbank Park.
The new Glasgow Football Association, formed earlier in 1883, had arranged their first match – against London on the 15th December. A trial was arranged at Muir Park between the north and the south of the city. Andrew Duff, John Young and Thomas Paterson were selected from the club, while Hendry and John Beattie were reserves for the trial which the north won 6-1. Duff and Paterson impressed the selectors and were picked as reserves for the London game, but neither played.
As Christmas approached Thistle finally returned to form and started with a 6-3 home win over Hamilton, before a return match at Muir Park against Clyde. John Burleigh returned to the team for the first time in two years and headed the first goal from a Ewing cross before Robertson scored twice. Andrew Duff’s goalkeeping was perfect and he kept Clyde at bay until Robertson scored a third for himself to make the score 4-0 to Thistle.
The New Year holiday saw a Thistle team play at Moffat in Dumfries and lose 1-2. It seems likely that this was a reserve team, and the following day Thistle appeared on the east coast, and played two matches in consecutive days. The second day of January saw an emphatic win over Brechin (variously reported as being either 9-0 (by the Glasgow papers) or 10-1 (more likely as this was reported by the local press) on a pitch in the grounds of Brechin Castle, and on the 3rd a victory in Kirriemuir by 15-1. There is confusion over this game too, as the local papers report the opponents as either Kirriemuir or Lindertis (it seems likely it was Lindertis of Kirriemuir).
I have previously reported that on Ne’erday 1884 Thistle visited Forfar and won 1-0. However, subsequent research in Dundee newspapers has revealed that this game was played by Glasgow Thistle rather than Partick Thistle.
The first game of the year at Muir Park was an eventful one, Cartvale being the visitors. Cartvale took an early lead before Thistle came back into the game. A contemporary report gives a flavour of the game: “Beaton, getting well into the corner, screwed it in beautifully, Robertson giving it the final, Patterson [sic] looking after the goalkeeper.” Paterson and Robertson both scored again in the second half before Robertson scored his second. The visitors claimed offside vehemently and their umpire threatened to leave the field if Thistle wouldn’t give in. Before the end Thistle extended the lead without argument with Paterson and Robertson again scoring. Final score 6-2 to Thistle.
The Cartvale game was Thomas Paterson’s return match for Thistle, having spent a short spell in England with Burnley. English clubs were actively looking to sign players from Scotland around this time, the bastions of amateurism were crumbling in England, and it seems likely that he was on trial with the English club.
Earlier in the season Partick Thistle had beaten their Glasgow namesakes 9-0 at Muir Park, and it seemed that the southside club were looking for revenge in the return at Dalmarnock Park. Missing four regulars, Partick Thistle still had all the pressure at the start, but it was the home side who scored first. Partick Thistle equalised immediately but the goal was disallowed, before McKinlay, playing his second game for the club, put the visitors 2-1 ahead at half time. In the second half Robertson scored a third, and a scrimmaged effort made the score 4-1 before Glasgow Thistle scored, and a fifth Partick Thistle goal was disallowed. This decision caused a ten minute stoppage before Glasgow Thistle restarted and scored a third, and then a fourth. Partick Thistle players appealed for offside but the referee, reported as “having run back down the pitch, clapping his hands and shouting Come On Thistle”, allowed the goal. The game ended unfinished, both teams leaving the park with six minutes remaining. The final score was unresolved: Partick Thistle said the score was 4 goals (2 disputed) to 3 goals (1 disputed) in favour of Partick Thistle, while Glasgow Thistle say the result was a 4-4 draw.
Dumbarton were another of the top clubs in the country at the time, and Thistle were excited to be hosting a match against them. The press, too, were building the game up describing Thistle as “a club rapidly approaching the top round of the ladder.” However, the game was not played, and it sparked off a round of correspondence in the newspapers which can be read in full. However, summarised, Alex Rose of Thistle complained that Dumbarton did not appear for the game, to which Alex Kennedy of Dumbarton replied that a message had been sent to Thistle explaining the situation. Joseph (Josh) Halley, President of Partick Thistle, responded that no communication was received by Thistle. The problem was eventually blamed on the Post Office.
Ironically, Thistle’s next match a game against Rangers at Kinning Park was also postponed, due to the weather. No doubt conscious of the circumstances surrounding the Dumbarton farrago, Thistle turned up at Kinning Park just in case. However, the press coverage again showed that Thistle were getting close to acceptance at the top: “Partick Thistle are a team coming to the front, its supporters believe it capable of successfully tackling the powerful Rangers. Partick Thistle are anxious to demonstrate that they are entitled to receive more at the hands of the powers that be.”
Thistle were still in the news despite no game being played for two weeks, when the Partick and Whiteinch Junior Football Association announced that the Partick Junior Cup would be contested between eight local clubs. An indication of the Thistle’s progress was that the cup would be presented by Partick Thistle rather than the club trying to win it.
Back on the field Thistle travelled to Port Glasgow to play a 1-1 draw, before the following week losing an away game to Kilmarnock Athletic. The game at Holm Quarry ended 4-3 to Kilmarnock before another away match was played, against Hearts. Andrew Duff had a superb game in the 1-1 draw which had Thistle without Patterson, playing with the Glasgow Association team in Sheffield.
Thistle again came into dispute with one of the top clubs – Vale of Leven – in the aftermath of their expulsion from the Scottish Cup Final. Vale had asked for postponement of their final tie against Queen’s Park because of injury and family bereavement. The SFA refused their request and when they did not turn up for the final, the trophy was awarded to Queen’s Park. Joseph Halley, president of Partick Thistle was a member of the SFA Business Committee, representing not Thistle but the Glasgow FA, voted with his committee to deny Vale their postponement.
It appears that Vale took exception to Halley’s involvement and pulled out of the scheduled game against Thistle the following week. This was a pity because the game against the potential Cup winners was attracting great interest, Thistle hoping that this would be the occasion when they would get the better of Vale for the first time in six games. Indeed the Scottish Athletic Journal confirmed “Partick Thistle have made great strides of late at the dribbling game and should be able to give Vale of Leven a stiff test. (Admission 6d, ladies free)”.
Alex Rose, secretary of Partick Thistle gave the club’s side of the story in a letter.
“Early last week I reminded the Vale secretary of their engagement, and on Thursday mid-day received a note from him saying their first team would be at Partick to kick off at 3.30. Of course I immediately had bills printed and posted. About 7pm I received a telegram putting off the match (of course, too late to stop bills etc. that night) and on Friday a letter saying that “our representative having voted against the final tie being played they declined to play us”. Now our Mr Halley, who represents the Glasgow Association – not Partick Thistle – on the SFA committee – being also a member of the Business Committee, could not have voted in any other manner. Of course, had he not had the courage of his opinions, he could have absented himself, and had he taken this course the Vale secretary says the tie would have been played. The above needs no comment.”
John Young, a stalwart of the club for a number of years, having played in fifteen Scottish Cup ties, left Glasgow for the United States. A social event was held for him in Paterson’s Hall where he was presented with a watch by club members as a token of appreciation.
Having again come into conflict with one of Dumbartonshire’s top clubs, Thistle patched up their differences with another, when the disputed match against Dumbarton was rearranged in mid-March at Muir Park. The game was a splendid example of passing “such as is rarely seen”. The visitors took the lead but Thistle came back into the game with a Patterson shot. The Dumbarton forwards were pressing but Andrew Duff’s goalkeeping was described as “simply perfect”, and he kept them at bay until Robertson scored to the excitement of the spectators, cheer after cheer being raised”. Score 2-1 to Thistle, to the surprise of many.
Andrew Duff was receiving the recognition many in Partick thought he deserved and the Scottish Athletic Journal agreed: “Duff’s goalkeeping showed him to a be a first rate man, and I, would say, should be picked to keep goal for the Welsh international”. However, things had not been easy for the goalkeeper. He had been unable to find work on the Clyde, and was forced to move to Leith to find work in a shipyard there. Although things were changing, clubs were often extensions of social clubs, and with no registrations, players were free to join clubs. Duff joined Heart of Midlothian, the Edinburgh champions, although he assured Partick Thistle that he would play for Thistle when wanted.
The sixth Annual Partick Thistle Festival was held at the end of March where several claims were made. The Scottish Athletic Journal reported “Partick Thistle supporters maintain Partick Thistle are second only to Queen’s Park in Scotland”, and statistics of 28 games played, with 18 wins, 4 draws and 6 losses went some way to endorsing this, and had Thistle not been matched with Queen’s Park at such an early stage of the Scottish Cup they might have progressed further than last season’s quarter finals.
Also at the Festival “the Chairman impressed the need for sobriety, courtesy and forbearance, and expressed strong disapprobation of the looseness exhibited in the vicinity of the football clubs”. The following day Thistle were three men short following the dance for a home match against Kilmarnock Athletic. Three of the second team were used and a 2-1 victory was recorded.
Andrew Duff was missing for a home match against Morton the following week, which kicked off late owing to the Annual Sports at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground nearby. Thistle were soon 2-0 up through Suter and Beaton and after the break Ewing and Beaton again scored to win 4-1.
Eadie deputised well against Morton for the absent Duff, and Duff was again missing the following week, playing for Hearts in a game against Queen’s Park. Thistle won 3-0 over Johnstone at Muir Park.
Ironically, Thistle’s next arranged match was against Hearts at Muir Park, and there was some debate over who Andrew Duff would turn out for. It was Thistle that he played for and had a splendid game. Jerry Suter, Beaton and Robertson scored in a 3-2 victory.
The end of a season had become unthinkable without a match to decide the local champions, and Thistle visited Inchview to play Partick. Strong wind made things difficult for both teams in the first half, and Beaton gave Thistle the lead after half an hour. In the second period Suter, Patterson and Robertson twice scored after good passing moves to give Thistle their sixth successive victory over Partick, by 5-0.
It appears that Rangers were reluctant to fulfil a fixture in May as the season came to an end:
“Partick Thistle can no longer be ignored. Their form has been consistent. As it is the Rangers are afraid to play them, and would not fulfil their fixture the other day, nor would they assign any reason for not playing. Partick Thistle can only assume the Rangers have taken the funk”.
The Partick game was the last proper fixture of the season, although a bounce game was played against Northern at Hyde Park. Both teams were under strength, and Northern won 3-2.
Even in the close season Thistle were a draw to spectators. Rangers and Glasgow Thistle arranged a match, and extensive advertising was done for the match in Partick, trying to attract a crowd for a match between “The Rangers v The Thistle” – surely an indication of just how far Partick Thistle had progressed during that one season.
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Football history links
- Ayr United archive
- Bill Shankly
- Falkirk Historian
- Gallant Pioneers – Early history of Rangers
- Glasgow Herald archive at Google
- Hibernian Historical Trust
- London Hearts
- Partick Thistle history archive by StuTheJag
- Rangers History
- Scottish Football Historical Archive
- Scottish Football Museum
- Scottish Sports History
- ScottishLeague.net and forum