A First for St. Mirren in the Scottish Cup (1923)
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v ???, 21st January 2023)
On 13th January 1923, St. Mirren took their most northerly journey thus far in their 46-year history to face Elgin City in the First Round of the Scottish Cup. In doing so, they became the first professional side to visit Borough Briggs, the home ground of their hosts. The sides had actually met once before at the same stage of the 1909/10 tournament, when St. Mirren eased through by a score of 8-0 at Love Street.
Elgin City v St. Mirren 1923
However, the most notable landmark of the tie was only realised in 2023, as the programme for the match, believed to be the oldest known domestic programme involving St. Mirren, attained “antique” status by reaching its Centenary.
The programme was quite a simple one, being a four-page issue measuring 11 inches by 8.75 inches and printed black on off-white paper. There was no price marked anywhere on the issue. The front page carried the match details, whilst page two was headed “Who’s Who” and featured short paragraphs about each and every one of the twenty-two players expected to participate.
Page three accurately listed the teams in the traditional 2-3-5 formation. Both sides were used to sporting the same colours and, while St. Mirren were stated as playing in their traditional black and white, it was unclear how Elgin would avoid the clash and so no colours were attributed to the hosts. The referee, Mr. J. Bell hailed from Dundee, whilst the linesmen, Messrs Fotheringham and Fraser, were from Inverness.
The back page showed both sides’ current League positions. St. Mirren were sitting comfortably mid table in the Scottish First Division, while their hosts were second top of the Highland League two points adrift of leaders Clachnacuddin, albeit having played three games more.
The content of all four pages was bordered by adverts from local traders and these gave an interesting view of the products and services of the day. The City Hotel was prominent on the front page alongside a catering company and the Anglo-American Co. Limited, featuring Pratt’s Motor Spirit. Advertisements for a number of tea rooms and bars surrounded the centre pages. A bicycle supplier and a florist were featured on the back page alongside one advert merely stating “Stag Bar – Next door to Post Office” (which would be all right if you knew where the Post Office was!).
A record crowd of 4,700 saw a fairly even opening period and Elgin stubbornly held their own against their Paisley opponents. However, after twenty-five minutes, the home side found themselves on the wrong end of what was described as a “trifling infringement”. A rising shot from William McIntosh accidentally brushed the hand of full back Asher on its way through to goalkeeper Allan and the referee awarded a penalty. Billy Clunas struck the post with his spot kick but, for some reason, Referee Bell ordered a retake. Allan reached Clunas’ second attempt but failed to hold it and Saints were 1-0 up.
The Buddies doubled their lead five minutes later when a cross from McIntosh caused a scrimmage in the Elgin goalmouth and Jamie Thomson netted.
The home side put up a fine defence in the second half, but often resorted to offside tactics to thwart their opponents. The tie was settled with fifteen minutes remaining when a poor back pass by Elgin centre-half Rae was intercepted by McIntosh and he centred for Dunky Walker to drive the ball into the net for a 3-0 victory.
St. Mirren were so delighted by their reception in the North-East that they invited Elgin City to play a match at Paisley before the end of that season. Although the invitation was accepted, there is no record of such a match taking place.