THE Glasgow Subway is in the final stages of construction, the first ever Ford vehicle is being developed and Queen Victoria will soon become the longest reigning monarch in British history. The world was a very different place the last time the Scottish Cup final was contested by Hearts and Hibs.
The match itself has gone down in Scottish football folklore, as it remains one of the few times the fixture has been staged away from Hampden.
After both Edinburgh sides won their semi-finals at the weekend there have been calls for this season’s final to be played at Murrayfield. Yet, ironically, in 1896 supporters of both clubs had expressed misgivings over the choice of Logie Green, then home to St Bernard’s, a major third force in Edinburgh football who had won the Scottish Cup the previous year.
Judging the capacities of football grounds was far from an exact science in the Victorian era and many press correspondents warned of serious problems if the attendance reached a certain level.
As William Reid later recalled in his 1925 book The Story of The Hearts “it was accepted that the 22,001st man who entered the ground would stand an even-money chance of being crushed to death. The man in the street was in no hurry to die at one shilling admission.”
There were calls from many supporters for the match to be switched to either Ibrox or Hampden but the SFA would not be budged. In the event, a crowd of just 16,034 turned up at Logie Green and were accommodated comfortably.
Those Hibs supporters who did turn up were simply relieved their team had been allowed to take their place in the final. They did so on the word of Lord Low in the Edinburgh Court of Session who turned down a request from Renton, beaten 2-1 by Hibs in the semi-finals, for an interim interdict against the Leith club. Renton claimed that Hibs full-back Alex Robertson was ineligible. Their protest was dismissed by the SFA whose judgment was subsequently backed by the law lord.
Hibs centre-forward ‘Darlin’ Willie Groves was viewed as a talisman by the fans but on a dull but dry afternoon at Logie Green, he was forced to concede second best to a Hearts forward line who dominated the final from the start.
The Gorgie men opened the scoring after just three minutes and never looked back. The goal came from the penalty spot, after the controversial figure of Robertson had handled, with Davie Baird finding the net.
Despite the best efforts of Groves, Hibs were unable to break down a Hearts defence in which, according to The Scotsman’s correspondent, full-back Bob McCartney was “in great form” while goalkeeper Jock Fairbairn defied the Easter Road forwards “in his usual masterly fashion”.
The game was effectively put beyond Hibs midway through the second half when Alex King made it 2-0 from a tight angle. When Willie Michael headed home Hearts’ third, the trophy was heading for Tynecastle and a late goal from James O’Neill was mere consolation for a well beaten and dispirited Hibs.
As for Logie Green, the street names remain but the football ground’s place in Scottish football history remains a one-off curiosity. It continued as a football ground, for St Bernard’s and Leith Athletic, until being paved over to create a car park for the Powderhall athletics and greyhound stadium that has now also disappeared from the Edinburgh map, consumed by the insatiable appetite of property developers.
How the teams lined up...
Hearts: Fairbairn, McCartney, Mirk, Begbie, Russell, Hogg, McLaren, Baird, Michael, King, Walker
Hibs: McColl, Robertson, Macfarlane, Breslin, Neill, Murphy, Murray, Kennedy, Groves, Smith, O’Neill
• For more information on Scottish football history, visit the Scottish Football Museum