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Edinburgh’s real disgrace? Hibs have not won the cup since Buffalo Bill was in town

There is still dispute over whether Buffalo Bill was performing at the Gaiety theatre in Leith or up at the Meadows with his Wild West Rough Riders on April 26 1902, but there is no doubt at all that it was the day the "Hibernians" won the Scottish Cup.

This annus mirabilis is tattooed forever on the frontal lobe of every Hibernian supporter. It is something supped in with our mother’s milk, and it is simply so because it was the last time that Hibs won the cup.

The club’s history in the competition is Edinburgh’s Disgrace, rather than the pile on the top of Calton Hill. Your correspondent can remember writing in Scotland on Sunday five years ago that it was 94 years since Hibs had lifted the trophy, and has noted other sportswriters, each year since then, joining in the countdown to the 100th anniversary.

Meantime, smaller clubs such as St Mirren, Falkirk, Motherwell, Dunfermline, East Fife, and, hell, even Hearts have all managed to win it.

And it is a rather sad fact that the 1901-2 season and the following one were probably the two finest in the club’s history - Hibernian were founded in 1875. After winning the cup in 1902, Hibs went on to win the Scottish League for the first time in 1902-03. However, at least since then Hibs have managed to do that again on three occasions, albeit the most recent league flag flew over Easter Road in 1952.

But if you are looking for omens, or grasping at straws, Hibs did beat Clyde en route to the cup in 1902, and went on to beat Celtic in the final.

It was a thrawn, blustery day when Dan McMichael, the manager, led his team out at Celtic Park. The final was due to have been played at Ibrox, but due to the disaster shortly before at a Scotland v England game, it had been switched across town. But Hibernian were unfazed, with a newspaper reporting: "Hibernian, like good sportsmen, were quite willing to come to Parkhead, as they felt that no first-class team need fear to play on a first-class pitch, as is to be found there."

Hibs had already beaten Rangers 2-0 at Ibrox in the semi-final, and the serenity of McMichael, "a man never known to speak harshly or ungenerously to anyone", was imbued in his charges, as Alan Lugton records in his book The Making of Hibernian.

The week before the final, trainer Paddy Cannon had whipped them into shape with long walks to Portobello, dominoes at night and "a diet of thick potted-head sandwiches washed down with cups of milky cocoa".

It was not an epic, and one goal won it when Andy McGeachan backheeled into Paddy Callaghan’s corner after a deft bit of gamesmanship by Hibs’ captain Bobby Atherton. A Welshman, he somehow affected a Glasgow accent that fooled the Celtic defence, calling out: "Leave ra ba’." They complied, and the ball landed plumb for McGeachan’s cheek. "It was a lucky point," the Scottish Referee reported, "but the means of brightening up a very poor game with the Hibernians winners of a dull and spiritless game."

The celebrations, though, were something else, with the victorious Hibs players carried on shoulders through Queen Street station with the crowd singing: "Sez I tae Callaghan". The Scottish Referee reflected: "It was strange that the Hibernians’ victory was so universally popular," but "there were high jinks in Edinburgh when the Hibernian special arrived. The rejoicing after Hearts’ victory last year [1901] were not in it."

A four-in-hand was waiting at Haymarket as Newhaven Brass Band welcomed the team with See the Conquering Hero Comes. They paraded in Princes Street and down Leith Walk, the band blasting out the music-hall favourite, Dolly Grey, and the crowd singing: "Goodbye Celtic we must leave you..."

Time for an encore come Saturday.

 
 
 

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