Scottish Cup 1893/94 – Never Forget The First Time

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By Alistair Aird

On Saturday, Rangers will face Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final for the 16th time. Both teams have won seven of the previous finals, while the trophy was withheld in 1909 following the infamous Hampden Riot. On four occasions – 1909, 1963, 1966 and 1971 – replays were required.

The first contest between the two was 130 years ago, 20 years after the Scottish Cup had been inaugurated. This is the story of that match.

Celtic and Dumbarton were the two prominent sides in Scotland going into season 1893/94. Dumbarton shared the first league championship with Rangers in season 1890/91 – the teams finished level on points and drew 2-2 in a play-off match at Cathkin Park – then won it outright the following season. Celtic had won their first title in season 1892/93 and the Scottish Cup in 1891/92. En route to the final, they had beaten Rangers 5-3 in the semi-finals.

In the late nineteenth century, the Scottish Cup was regarded as the premier competition in the country. It was the most sought after, the trophy all clubs wanted to win. Fans now regard the league as being the most important, but league football was still in its infancy, so the Scottish Cup was very much to the fore. It would remain like that for a number of years too.

The tournament had started in season 1873/74, with the first tie contested between Renton and Kilmarnock on 18 October 1873. Renton won 2-0 and progressed to the semi-finals where they lost to eventual winners, Queen’s Park. But Rangers weren’t among the 16 teams that entered the inaugural tournament. Formed when four lads had dream in 1872, their application for the recently established Scottish Football Association (SFA) had been received too late to permit them entry to the inaugural competition.

Rangers made their Scottish Cup debut the following season. Goals from Moses McNeill and David Gibb gave them a 2-0 win over Oxford on Queen’s Park’s Recreation Ground. But they exited in the next round when Dumbarton edged a replay by a goal to nil.

Controversy reigned the following year when 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers, the predecessors for Third Lanark, lodged a protest after Rangers defeated them 1-0 in the second round. It was upheld as Rangers had kicked off at the start of each half. The replay was lost 2-1 after which Rangers put forward their own protestations. Firstly, the opposing goalkeeper had worn ‘plain clothes’ so couldn’t be distinguished from the crowd gathered behind the goal. Secondly, they felt that there had been a foul in the lead up to Third’s opening goal, and finally, play had been stopped seven minutes early as supporters had entered the field of play. Their appeals fell on deaf ears.

A year later, Rangers reached the Scottish Cup Final for the first time. They faced Vale of Leven, and two replays were required before Vale won 3-2. A 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the same side followed in semi-final in season 1877/78 before the teams faced off again in the Final in 1879.

Cue more controversy.

The first match, played at the First Hampden Park, was drawn 1-1, but Rangers refused to participate in the replay. Willie Stuthers had had a goal disallowed for offside, and Rangers lodged a protest with the SFA as they felt the goal should have stood. The appeal was dismissed and on the day of the replay, 26 April, the Rangers players had a day at the races in Ayr instead of attending Hampden to face Vale of Leven.

It would be 1894 before Rangers reached another final, and the road to Hampden started with an emphatic 8-0 win over Cowlairs at Ibrox. David Boyd scored a hat trick and there were braces for John McPherson and Hugh McCreadie. Leith Athletic succumbed 2-0 at Ibrox in round two before four goals from James Steel helped swat aside Clyde in the last eight.

Standing in the way of a place in the Final for Rangers were the Cup holders, Queen’s Park. Focus by now had clearly turned to the Scottish Cup. Rangers had failed to win their previous three league matches, losing 3-0 against Third Lanark, 2-0 away to Dumbarton, and drawing 2-2 against St Mirren, and trailed leaders Celtic by nine points.

Recent stormy weather had left the playing surface at Ibrox in poor shape for the clash with Queen’s, and after losing the toss, Rangers played against the wind in the first half. That resulted in a dominant display from the visitors, but the teams retired to the pavilion at half time with Queen’s only having a goal from Tommy Waddell to show for their endeavours. And they were made to pay for their profligacy when a second half header from David Boyd earned Rangers a replay.

That took place a week later at Hampden, but goal hero Boyd was absent from the Rangers XI. He was a ship’s carpenter by trade and had fallen 20 feet into the hold of the ship he was working on. The injuries he sustained ruled him out until 10 March which meant he not only missed the replay but the Final too.

Boyd, who was from Troon, had joined Rangers from Abercorn in 1893. He made his league debut against Hearts on 14 October 1893 – Rangers lost 4-2 – and scored his first goal for the club two weeks before that hat trick against Cowlairs, the winner in a 2-1 win over Third Lanark.

Boyd’s goal against Queen’s Park was among five in four appearances, but he never regained that scoring touch after he came back into the team. Indeed, over the next two seasons, Boyd would only score a further three goals for Rangers. He left to join Preston North End for whom he was top goalscorer in season 1896/97 with 13 goals.

Hugh McCreadie replaced Boyd at inside-right for the semi-final replay, with John Barker, who earlier in the season had scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Celtic in the league, moving to outside left.

Nicol Smith, an outstanding full back dubbed the ‘Darvel Marvel’, put Rangers ahead, and although Queen’s Park were level at the break, second half goals from McPherson and Steel put Rangers into the Final.

Their opponents would be Celtic, the reigning league champions, on 17 February 1894. Celtic had finished a point ahead of Rangers to win the title in season 1892/93 and had also lifted the Scottish Cup in 1892. After defeating Rangers 5-3 in the semi-finals, they beat Queen’s Park 1-0 in the Final at Ibrox.

Inclement weather seemed to play a part in the Scottish Cup campaign that season, and the day of the Final would be no different. The heavens opened and the rain came down in torrents.

Rangers named the same XI that had beaten Queen’s Park in the last four:

David Haddow, Nicol Smith, Jock Drummond, Robert Marshall, Andrew McCreadie, Davy Mitchell (captain), James Steel, Hugh McCreadie, John Gray, John McPherson, John Barker

In recent Old Firm meetings, results were mixed. Rangers had won 5-0 at Ibrox in the league back in September and 1-0 at the same venue in the semi-final of the Glasgow Cup in June. But although Rangers had beaten their rivals 3-1 in the Glasgow Cup Final the previous season, they had been thumped 5-0 in the final of the Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup. Celtic had won 3-0 at Parkhead in the league that season too.

Celtic were the better side in the first half, and on two occasions, David Haddow, the Rangers goalkeeper, thwarted them, saving shots from their centre forward, Joe Cassidy, and outside-right, Joe Madden.

There was no score at the break, down in no small part to an outstanding display from the Rangers captain, Davy Mitchell. He led by example and helped his defensive colleagues repel everything that Celtic threw at them.

Rangers were better after the break, though, and as the weather took a turn for the worse, the deadlock was broken 10 minutes after the restart. Mitchell provided the assist, Hugh McCreadie the clinical finish.

McCreadie, whose brother Andrew was also in the Rangers XI, had made his first appearance for Rangers in what would be their first-ever league fixture, a 5-2 win over Hearts on 16 August 1890. And he has the distinction of being the first Rangers player to score a league goal too.

An own goal from Hearts right back Jimmy Adams opened the scoring for Rangers, but goals from Isaac Begbie, the Hearts captain, and Willie Taylor had the visitors ahead at First Ibrox at the interval. But 20 minutes into the second half, McCreadie, playing at centre forward, equalised, and another own goal, this time from the Hearts left back James Cairns, and two late strikes from Neilly Kerr secured victory for Rangers.

McCreadie’s Cup Final goal, one of 61 he would net in 194 appearances for Rangers, was supplemented 10 minutes later by a marvellous solo goal from John Barker.

Born in Govan on 28 June 1869, Barker had arrived at Rangers from Linthouse in 1892. And he made an immediate impact with his new club, scoring on his league debut against Vale of Leven on 13 February before netting a hat trick in his third league appearance, a 5-2 win over Renton.

A year later, on 18 March 1893, he won the first of two caps for Scotland. At Acton Park in Wrexham, Barker scored a hat trick as Wales were trounced 8-0. He scored against the Welsh again the following year, grabbing Scotland’s second goal in a 5-2 win at Rugby Park.

The latter goal came just over a month after his glorious Scottish Cup Final goal which was described as follows by John Allan in his book The Story of the Rangers, a Jubilee history that was published in 1923:

With the ball at his feet, Barker went careering for [Celtic goalkeeper, Jospeh] Cullen’s bastion, skipping over all the opposing legs which aimed at dispossessing him. [Celtic right-back, Jeremiah] Reynolds was charged out of the way and a vicious shot from close range shook the back of the net.

Thus, Barker had two notable places in Rangers FC folklore. He was the first player to score a hat trick in a league match against Celtic, and also scored in the club’s first-ever Scottish Cup Final victory.

Barker grabbed another Old Firm goal the following season in a 5-3 defeat at Parkhead in the league, but as time went on, he lost his place on the left wing to Alec Smith. After making 121 appearances and scoring 50 goals, he went back to Linthouse in 1896 and then served as draughtsman in the shipyards in Govan.

Diagnosed with lymphoma, John Barker died on 29 June 1941, the day after his 72nd birthday.

Having been hit by a couple of sucker punches, Celtic were on the ropes and the knockout blow was delivered after 68 minutes by one of the stellar figures of that era, John McPherson.

Nicknamed ‘Kitey’, McPherson was born in Kilmarnock in June 1868. He would play in every position for Rangers including goalkeeper after he joined them from Kilmarnock in 1889 and also serve the club as a director between 1907 and 1926.

His league debut came in Rangers’ inaugural league match against Hearts, scoring his first goal for the club too. A week later, he scored four as Cambuslang were beaten 6-2, and in October, McPherson scored five of the eight goals as Rangers defeated St Mirren 8-2.

McPherson enjoyed a 12-year playing career at Ibrox. He made 432 appearances and scored 215 goals, and his haul of honours included five league titles, three Scottish Cups, six Glasgow Cups, and two Glasgow Merchants Charity Cups. He was also part of the team that won the Glasgow League in season 1897/98, and in the ‘invincible’ league campaign of 1898/99, McPherson played in 15 of the 18 league games and scored seven goals.

McPherson’s goal in the final against Celtic, a shot from 20 yards, meant he had scored in every Scottish Cup tie that season bar the 1-1 draw against Queen’s Park in the semi-final.

Although Celtic rallied and scored with 15 minutes remaining through Willie Maley, the Scottish Cup was in the possession of Rangers for the first time. Given that the Scottish Cup was the benchmark at that time, winning it was a statement that Rangers were looking to establish themselves as the premier team in Scotland. That win provided a strong foundation upon which to build future success.

Each player was given a bonus of three guineas – about £3.15 – and the trophy was presented to the club president, Dugald Mackenzie, at what Allan describes as ‘a jolly social function’ at the Alexandra Hotel. Celtic were represented at the event and ‘paid many warm-hearted compliments’ to the Rangers party. Should we succeed in winning on Saturday, one doesn’t think that such platitudes will be forthcoming from the opposition!

A week after the Cup Final, Rangers lost 3-2 against Celtic in the league. The four remaining league games that followed comprised emphatic wins over Dundee (7-2) and St Mirren (5-0) and defeats against Hearts and St Bernard’s. That concluded a league campaign that saw Rangers finish fourth, nine points behind champions, Celtic.

But that paled into insignificance. The Scottish Cup duck had been broken, and the blue riband trophy had the name of ‘Rangers’ inscribed on it. And to put the seal on an historic season, on 30 April, FA Cup winners Notts County were beaten 3-1 at Ibrox. The match featured a debutant by the name of Alec Smith, who filled in for the absent John Barker at outside left. This would be the first of 777 appearances Smith would make in a Rangers career that spanned 21 silver-laden years.

Rangers followed up this triumph with further Scottish Cup wins in 1897 when John McPherson was among the scorers again as Dumbarton were beaten 5-1, and 1898 when goals from Alec Smith and R. C Hamilton secured a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock.

William Wilton’s side reached a third successive final in 1899, losing 2-0 to Celtic, but picked up the trophy for the fourth time in 1903 when Hearts were defeated 2-0 in a second replay at Celtic Park.

With an invincible league season in 1898/99 being backed up by further title wins in the three seasons that followed, Rangers were establishing themselves as the team to chase. But while success in the league would be plentiful in the early part of the twentieth century, remarkably, it would be 25 years before the Scottish Cup was once again added to the club’s Roll of Honour.

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