Coronation Cup – Part 12 – 22nd May 1953

The quality of the Coronation Cup final between Celtic and Hibs was well recognised in the sporting press. For instance, the headline in the Glasgow Herald read;-


The Glasgow Evening Times was even more complimentary; –



In the days following the victory, the Celtic players reported to Celtic Park for a photograph with the Coronation Cup.


The trophy was then placed in a special cabinet in the Boardroom, where it has been much admired through the years. It was not the first ‘one-of’ trophy on display, of course; there was the Exhibition Cup of 1902, the Victory-in- Europe Cup of 1945 and the St Mungo Cup of 1951, although probably the most prestigious was the Empire Exhibition Trophy, won by Celtic 75 years ago this year, in May/June 1938.

Over in the United States, the big sporting news of 1938 was the announcement by the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team that contracts had been signed to install lights at their home ground, Ebbets Field. However, for the fans of British football, there was a great deal of interest in this forthcoming competition in Glasgow. The winner of an all-British competition could probably claim to be the best team in the country, so both the eight clubs involved – and their supporters – were very keen to win the trophy.

Over the next three weeks, we will tell the story behind the win, so please keep a daily check on the website.

Coronation Cup – Part 12 – 21st May 1953

Celtic’s victory was obviously well-received by their fans but the quality of the play in the final and the fact that both clubs came from North of the Border gave Scottish football in general an enormous boost. Rather than rely on newspaper reports, let’s give the final words to some stars who played that night.

Firstly, Jock Stein; –


Hibs had a tremendous side at the time. When you look at the forwards they had – the Famous Five – they were well named. But we had played well in the competition and I don’t think we were too worried about them.

John McPhail was a revelation for us. He played in mid-field and had a sort of free role, like the one Jim Baxter would later play. He was the playmaker for us. Bertie Peacock worked hard for us and Charlie Tully obviously was on the wing for the early rounds. He wasn’t fit for the final and Willie Fernie came in.

It was a big job for us because Hibs were a good side and had played well throughout the competition. But on the night – lots of people said we were lucky and that John Bonnar saved us – but that’s what he was there for. Celtic played good football that night and played good open football. We scored a goal – if my memory serves me right – in the first half. I made a tackle on Lawrie Reilly on the halfway line and the ball broke to Neilly Mochan. He just dragged it in and from the inside-left position – I still say it was 40 yards but he says it wasn’t as far as that – he hit it with his right foot. Tommy Younger was in goal for Hibs that day and I’m sure the first time he saw the ball was when it came back out of the net.

One outstanding feature for us was Johnny Bonnar’s display in goal. He had some unbelievable goal-line saves. John wasn’t a good keeper off his line; I had charge of everything that came across. The whole team played well that night. I played particularly well myself against Lawrie Reilly. But Bonnar that night had some tremendous saves and in the end, we ran out worthy winners.

Let’s also hear from John ‘Hookey’ McPhail; –


They had the Famous Five forward line and loved to move about, so I said to myself, anything we do, we’ve got to do it early on. If we don’t do something early on, this team will smother us. I kept feeding Neilly Mochan with the ball and he eventually scored that glorious goal just before half-time. In the second half, they absolutely came on top of us like an avalanche. How they didn’t score, I’ll never know. With five minutes to go, Gordon Smith beat a couple of men, crossed the ball and Lawrie Reilly had a shot. It hit Johnny Bonnar on the head, then hit the crossbar before dropping down into Johnny’s hands. I just stood there with my hands on my hips, hysterical with laughter, as Reilly did his nut. I quickly took a look at that old Hampden clock, then suddenly, there was a shout from the other end and Jimmy Walsh had put us 2-0 up!

Neilly Mochan scored a memorable goal that evening.


I once asked him just how far out he had been when he hit the ball;-

“Never 40 yards…..I would say about 35 yards….yes, 35 yards”.

“With the big brown ball” I reminded him.

“Aye, Jim, the big brown ball”. He reflected for a moment then in typical, vintage Mochan mould, blew through his cheeks and waved both hands in a dismissive gesture, “some of these modern guys couldn’t have kicked that ball 35 yards!”

For the final words on the whole competition, though, let’s hear again from Jock Stein;-

‘The victory was a crucial one for Celtic. The important thing for the club and the supporters was that we had been in the competition. There had been a Victory Cup, there was the Exhibition Cup in 1938 and then this Coronation Cup. Each time a cup had been put up for competition, Celtic had won it and this time round, we had won it well’.

Coronation Cup – Part 11 – 20th May 1953

On this day in 1953, just before 7pm, the players of Celtic and Hibs came out on to Hampden Park to contest the Coronation Cup Final.


The heavy rain the previous day had been quickly absorbed by the dry pitch, making the underfoot conditions well-nigh perfect. Hibs were at full strength and probably favourites, their forward line – known as the Famous Five – more than compensating for an uncertain defence. Celtic had been forced to make a late change, Charlie Tully having failed his late fitness test, so Willie Fernie was drafted in as replacement.


117,060 fans were reputed to be in the stadium for the contest. However, due to the entrance gates being closed at the Celtic end – due to over-crowding in the terracing – around 6,000 more were milling round outside, unable to get in. With the bulk of the crowd supporting the Glasgow side, it came as no surprise that Celtic pressed from the kick-off, with Willie Fernie in cavalier mood on the wing, repeatedly racing past Govan and other defenders in thrilling runs. Twice in the first ten minutes Hibs keeper Tommy Younger had to dive at his feet to save certain goals.

The pressure eventually told in the 28th minute. A clearance by Jock Stein was flicked on by Fernie into the path of Neilly Mochan. He pulled it on to his right foot and, from about 30 yards – although the distance seems to increase as the years roll on – he sent a ferocious shot past Younger into the net. The Celtic fans celebrated long and loud but were nearly silenced just a minute from half-time when centre-forward Lawrie Reilly latched on to a pass from Gordon Smith to hit a fierce drive, which was well held by John Bonnar.

Like the end of the first half, the second was a series of almost continuous attacks by HIbs, whose players were right on form. The wing-halves, Buchanan and Combe, skilfully moved forward to augment the forward line, the Famous five of Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond, which seemed to chose that particular night to demonstrate just how talented they were.

But Celtic survived, as their players met the challenge. Jock Stein was immense against Lawrie Reilly; Bobby Evans grafted tirelessly in both attack and defence; John McPhail’s splendid distribution led to some dangerous Celtic attacks. And at the back, John Bonnar, often criticised for being too ‘wee’ to be a dominating keeper, chose that evening to give what many Celtic historians might describe as the finest performance ever given by a Hoops keeper.

His bravery and anticipation saved certain goals on several occasions when the Hibs attackers broke through. On the one occasion he was beaten, McPhail had stationed himself on the line to head the ball clear.

Three minutes from time, as Hibs still pressed furiously for the equaliser, Bobby Evans intercepted one of their efforts, moved it on to Willie Fernie, who provided Jimmy Walsh with the chance to get a second…………


…….and the inside left made no mistake, to the delight of his team-mates and the relief of the support. Only seconds later, the referee blew the whistle for full-time and the Celtic supporters celebrated, delighted that their side had won an all-British trophy for the second time in 15 years.

Coronation Cup – Part 10 – 19th May 1953

For the fans of Celtic and Hibs, the excitement was growing on this day in 1953, just 24 hours before the Coronation Cup Final at Hampden. The press corps was also looking forward to the occasion and there was little doubt as to the main talking point;-
The heavy rain which fell in Glasgow all day yesterday should make for a better game in the Coronation Cup Final tomorrow between Hibs and Celtic. Both sides prefer a holding ground.
The Easter Road players all report fit after their game with Newcastle and the same side will be on duty.
Celtic have not made a selection. They are still hoping that Tully will be fit. If he does not pass a fitness test today, Fernie will come in at inside-left, with Peacock on the wing. Extra time will be played if necessary.
Each player taking part in the game tomorrow will receive a replica of the Coronation Trophy, valued at £17 10s.
Tomorrow’s teams;
Hibs; Younger, Govan, Paterson, Buchanan, Howie, Combe, Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull, Ormond
Celtic; Bonnar, Haughney, Rollo, Evans, Stein, McPhail; forwards from Collins, Walsh, Mochan, Fernie, Peacock, Tully
(Dundee Courier and Advertiser)

Not everyone was pleased that two Scottish teams would be meeting in the final. In a separate section of the same newspaper, another journalist gave his views;
Many people would have liked a Scotland- England Coronation Cup Final on Wednesday at Hampden. But it is a great thing for Scottish football that Hibs and Celtic are there.
Hibs’ display at Ibrox in putting Newcastle out of the cup was immaculate. All four goals were right out of the copy-book. At Hampden, the great cup-tie tradition of Celtic came to their aid and they were magnificent in their victory against the powerful Manchester United.
Unfortunately, in the main section of the paper, the headline which caught the eye brought dreadful news for anyone with Celtic’s interests at heart;-

Tommy Gallacher, Dundee F.C. right-half, is expected to arrive in Scotland from South Africa today.
Mrs Gallagher, his wife, said last night that Tommy had been sent for yesterday by his brother Willie as his father, Patsy Gallacher, is ill.
Tommy’s father has been ill for some time and took a turn for the worse at the week-end. Since Willie sent the cable, though, Patsy has rallied slightly.
Mrs Gallacher had had no word from Tommy up to last night but believed he was leaving South Africa by Comet. It is unlikely that Tommy will rejoin the Dundee team in South Africa. H played in the second half of the opening game at Johannesburg on Saturday as a substitute for Ronnie Turnbull.

Coronation Cup – Part 9 – 18th May 1953

Celtic’s performance in the semi-final had been a very fine one and the fans were delighted that their heroes had made the final. The players were equally pleased, well aware that they had risen to the occasion and overcome their talented opponents. Jock Stein, for instance, smiled broadly when I asked him if he had played well that evening;

“Aye, I had quite a good game that night. Maybe there were so few I remember that one. Jack Rowley was playing at centre-forward and he was a prolific goal scorer. Manchester United had already beaten Rangers in the competition and everyone felt that they were favourites for the trophy. Johnny Carey was a big name in their side at the time, they had players like Dennis Violett and others who would be involved in the Munich Air Disaster as well. But it’s true to say that I had a good game that night!”

Perhaps a comment in the Scottish Daily Mail might throw some light on Jock Stein’s performance, or more precisely, his attitude that afternoon at Hampden: Stein ‘was a bit hard at the outset on Saturday on Rowley, who never quite recovered from a leg injury and latterly went to outside-left’. That’s what called ‘imposing yourself on your opponent?’

It had been a fine performance by Celtic and their play was highly praised in the Scottish sporting press. One man who chose the competition to show just what could do was John McPhail, who in 1999, told me about the players in the side at that time;



‘Well, Charlie Tully was really good. I was responsible for getting him to Parkhead in the first place. My throat had been giving me bother and they sent me over to Coleraine in Northern Ireland, where I had some friends. Every Saturday, I used to go into Coleraine or up to Belfast to see Belfast Celtic and Tully impressed me immensely.

When I came back, I mentioned him to Chic Geatons – who was coaching for Celtic – and Jimmy McGrory and said “there’s a man over there who is worth having a look at’ and next thing they have got him over and signed him. By the time I got back, he had played against Rangers – which obviously I missed – and I could not believe all the jubilation. I knew he was good but I didn’t think he was that good. I joined the team again and then realised he was something else. What we needed was a lift and Charlie gave us that.

Bobby Collins was a great wee player. Industrious, hard. Not the same ability as Jimmy Johnstone, for instance, but he had pace and he crossed some great balls to me at centre, crosses driven hard,; you just had to touch it and it was in the back of the net. Bertie Peacock was the engine room for Charlie and also played some good stuff. Bobby Evans, of course, was another engine room at the back. And, of course, there was Jock Stein, the old steadying head, and the fullbacks like Sean Fallon. We had a great keeper for a while in George Hunter, who later took ill. Johnny Bonnar came in for the Coronation Cup and he certainly did his bit.

Frankly, Celtic’s legions of fans could not believe what was happening. After the disappointments of the season just finished, the best they must have been hoping for was that their side would not disgrace itself in this Coronation Cup. Instead of that, they had seen their heroes beat two of the biggest names in English football! Now, only Hibs stood between their team and the trophy. The fans must have thought it was like being in a dream world! Could Celtic actually win the competition?