Empire Exhibition Trophy – Part 8 – 31st May 1938

There were some interesting headlines in the sports press on this day in 1938 concerning the third tie in the Empire Exhibition Trophy, played the previous evening. There was the blunt;


There was the more reflective;



Then we had the emotional side;



And finally the national aspect;

Scotland out – England through

48,000 had been at Ibrox on the night, the vast majority of them Rangers fans, all of whom were expecting that their heroes would go through. Unfortunately, they witnessed the exact opposite of that.

Rangers were under the lash for most of the first-half against a talented Everton side which was one-up at half-time thanks to a goal by centre-forward Tommy Lawton. After only 14 minutes of the second half, Everton got another, through inside-left Cunliffe. He collided heavily with Rangers’ keeper Jerry Dawson as he shot and that necessitated the keeper leaving the field; he was replaced by centre-half Jimmy Simpson ( the father of future Lisbon Lion Ronnie) and from that point on the by-now ten-man Rangers side could not make any impression on a strong Everton rearguard.

Rangers 0 Everton 2


This was a fascinating time for Celtic manager Willie Maley. He was very interested in this tournament, having often seen Celtic in terms of British football rather than purely Scottish. That was one reason why, right from the beginning, he had been interested in his club playing matches against English and Irish sides. He personally would have loved to see a British League or British Cup, although he would have been aware that the travelling involved would have been an issue, both for club and fans. Still, this competition was the closest to a British Cup that one could imagine; and even without the top four teams in the league that season in England – Arsenal, Wolves, Preston and Charlton – those representing our neighbours would be tough opposition.


There was also the question of Maley’s age. In April 1938, he had reached his 70th birthday, well past the normal retirement time in most occupations. He and the Celtic directorate had not always had the smoothest of relationships in recent years and there was apparently a belief among the Board that Maley would announce his retirement around the time of Celtic’s Golden Jubilee in June of that year.

Maley, though, kept his feelings to himself and merely prepared his team for the next round of the Empire Exhibition Trophy.

Jim Craig

Empire Exhibition Trophy – Part 7 – 30th May 1938

The third of the first-round ties in the Empire Exhibition Trophy paired Rangers with Everton and frankly, although anyone with Celtic’s interests at heart might hate to admit it, the two sides were regarded by many so-called ‘experts’ as the favourites for the tournament.

By that period of the 1930s, Rangers had been the dominant side in Scotland for some time. Of the 16 national trophies up for competition in the first 8 years of the decade ( League; Scottish Cup), Rangers won 9 (Celtic 5; Motherwell and East Fife one each); if we also take in the 16 Charity and Glasgow Cups, the Light Blues won 10 of them!

With a record like that, Rangers’ fans were expecting their side to do well in this special competition. There was prestige at stake, after all, and when the fact that all the matches would be played on Rangers’ home ground was also taken into account, then there were certainly grounds for their optimism.

Their opponents, Everton, had won the English First Division in 1931/32 and the FA Cup in 1933. Since then, they had hovered around mid-way every season in the league table, although they had played some nice football in season 1937/38 and would go on to pick up the league title again the following season.

So, by any standard, the tie would be a clash of two powerful teams and a large crowd headed for Ibrox on the evening of this day in 1938 to witness the contest.


What was it like to be a player at Celtic Park in the 1930s? Well, one man who did provide me with some information was the talented Malcolm MacDonald, whom I interviewed in the spring of 1998;-

Q When you first arrived at Celtic Park in 1932, Willie Maley was the manager. How did you get on with him?

A I was terrified of him. Terrified. He would come in occasionally to training to keep an eye on us. Sometimes when they were dishing out the wages on a Friday, mine wouldn’t be there. I would then get a message from the manager’s secretary that he wanted to see me. I would go in and he would be sitting behind his deck with an air of surprise.

“What can I do for you?” he would say.

“I’m in for my wages”.

“Oh! Certainly” and he would make a great point of looking for my wages. Then he would say -“Oh! By the way, Malcolm” – and then he would pick you up on something. He was very shrewd. He would pick an incident I couldn’t put up any defence against and he would not let me mention any incidents which

were in my favour. He would always finish then in exactly the same way – “Malcolm, if you don’t do what I tell you, then you won’t be here long”. But he wouldn’t tell me what to do; he only said what not to do.

Q Could you have a close relationship with him?

A Oh! No, it was more of a headmaster/pupil type of thing.

Q Did Maley take the training?

A No…but he would come down to the bottom of the tunnel a lot of the time and speak to the trainer.

Q Who was the trainer?

A Jimmy McMenemy and later Alec Dowdalls.

Q What sort of training did you do? Did you train with a ball?

A No, you didn’t get a ball, just running. You got a ball if you managed to pinch one by yourself.

Q Did you use a ‘stopper’ centre-half as many teams did at that time?

A No, we didn’t use a stopper centre-half. My job when playing centre- half was to mark the centre-forward. If I moved away, I asked one of the other players to pick him up and I marked another man.

Q Did you practice free-kicks or corner-kicks?

A No, not really. If you did, you didn’t do it as a team, maybe just two or three players would work things out.

Empire Exhibition Trophy – Part 7 – 29th May 1938

Two games played, two Scots teams – Celtic and Aberdeen – through to the semi-finals. A rest day in the tournament but at Celtic Park at least, training went on as usual with two players in particular, Jimmy Delaney and Joe Carruth, receiving treatment from the trainer for injuries received in the opening match of the competition.

It is difficult to find out what exactly the injuries of the two players were but in any case, the treatment they would have received would have been fairly primitive by modern standards. Most aches, strains and pulls were treated with a combination of hot and cold water, plus the application of some heat to the area via some form of lamp. Cuts could be pulled together and covered with some form of bandage or the deeper ones could be sutured. If an infection resulted, then that created a serious problem. The antibiotic penicillin had been discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 but it was only in the early 1940s that it was put on the market in extensive numbers. Until then, deep cuts would have been cleaned with some form of powerful antiseptic…….and of course, there was always the power of prayer?


Those treatment plans might sound a little primitive but they were symptomatic of the age and this was reflected in various ways. Take a look at the photograph above, for instance. It was taken in the early to mid-1930s and shows Jimmy McGrory – with the hunched shoulders – doing some track-work at Celtic Park with some of his colleagues. There are several points to note.

Firstly, just look at the size and weight of that jersey, which would have been made of wool. If a player did not have a shirt underneath, it would make the skin itch like mad; and if he did wear a shirt underneath, the sweat would be dripping off him in no time! Then we come to the shorts, long and baggy, very warm in the winter months, absolutely roasting in warm weather. You will also notice that no two players are wearing the same socks; that some are in spikes and some in sandshoes, or ‘gutties’; and it would appear impossible to get up any head of steam on that cinder track, which looks as though it needs a good rake!

Anyway, while the Celts got ready for the semi-finals, the four teams involved in the other two first-round ties were getting ready for their big day and we will deal with the first of these tomorrow.

Jim Craig

Empire Exhibition Trophy – Part 6 – 28th May 1938

On this day in 1938, the back pages of the papers were dominated by reports of the second tie in the Empire Exhibition trophy, when Aberdeen had met Chelsea;-




Chelsea Unimpressive in Empire

Exhibition Tie


Aberdeen 4 Chelsea 0

‘Aberdeen easily defeated Chelsea in the second tie of the Empire Exhibition football tournament at Ibrox Stadium last night before a crowd of 20,000.

The game in many respects was disappointing and lacked the excitement associated with the Celtic-Sunderland encounters.

The customary contrast in style between English and Scottish footballers for once in a while was reversed. Aberdeen were the fast-moving team and Chelsea the side with deliberation.

The Chelsea method was over-done, however, and in penetrative power, they were much inferior to Aberdeen’.


As those words of the report in the Glasgow Herald state, the English team were very disappointing and the crowd were not slow in letting their disapproval show, especially in the first half when Aberdeen went 3-0 up. With the wind now behind them, Chelsea did improve a little in the second period but the Dons were always in control and eventually won 4-0. Aberdeen will now meet the winner of the Rangers/Everton tie in the semi-final.


The crowd of 20,000 might have seemed disappointing but for the ordinary Glaswegian, even if he was a football fan, one team was from up north and the other from London, so he was going to keep his money for matches involving one of Glasgow’s big two. In any case, the match had

taken place on a Friday night and as everyone knew, that night was reserved for either the cinema – or pictures as it was called in Glasgow – or ‘ra dancing’ at one of the city’s many dance halls.

The two top films of that week were;-

Bringing Up Baby, starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant; and The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.

Empire Exhibition Trophy – Part 5 – 27th May 1938

The replay of the first round tie between Celtic and Sutherland in the Empire Exhibition Trophy turned out to be quite a disappointing game at Ibrox Stadium and the headlines in the sports pages of the Glasgow Herald on this day in 1938 gave a slight clue as to one of the reasons for Celtic’s success;-




Celtic Conquer Sunderland and Qualify

 For Tourney Semi-Final


 Celtic  3  Sunderland  1

A showery night had made the pitch rather spongy but it did not appear to hinder Celtic, who rose to the occasion and dominated the match, although they had to thank goalkeeper Joe Kennaway for wonderful work on several occasions. Celtic had been forced to make changes from the first game, Matt Lynch and Malcolm MacDonald replacing the right-wing combination of Jimmy Delaney and Joe Carruth.  In the midst of the wind and the rain, Sunderland made the first chance when Raich Carter blasted in an 18-yarder which Kennaway did well to knuckle over the bar. From that point on, though, Celtic took control, with inside-left John Divers showing his class on the wet surface.


Yet Sunderland opened the scoring, inside-left Saunders taking the ball along the bye-line in a wonderful run, beating three Celtic defenders and then tricking Kennaway before knocking the ball into the net. This was much against the run of play. Celtic equalised just before the interval, Johnny Crum sending in a looping shot which Mapson, in goal for Sunderland, got his hands to but could not prevent the ball from going over the line.

Celtic must have been disappointed to be level at the interval as they had had most of the play. Within 13 minutes of the second half, though, the match was over as a contest. In 48 minutes, there was a combined move between Crum and Divers and the latter scored from six yards; then in 58 minutes a pass from left-winger Frank Murphy let in Divers again, who pulled the ball on to his left before sending a fine shot into the net off the bottom of a post.

It was a comfortable win for Celtic in front of a disappointing crowd of around 20,000, the heavy rain no doubt affecting the attendance. John Divers caught the attention with his two goals and overall play but the occasional fine work by Joe Kennaway could not be overlooked, nor could the subtle skills of Malcolm MacDonald.


An indication of just how importantly the tournament was being treated was shown in these few words taken from the Glasgow Herald on this day in 1938;- ‘The British Broadcasting Corporation announced last night that the Scottish Football Association has granted permission for the broadcast of a running commentary of part of the final match of the Empire Exhibition Tournament. The second half of the game, which is to be played at Ibrox Stadium, will be fully described’.

Jim Craig