The game was barely on its feet before rivalry between the clubs of the East and the West began to assert itself. The next stage in progression was naturally a test between the representative strengths of the two districts. As a minor adjunct to the International the Inter-city series, inaugurated in 1872, was an inspiration that at once made a strong appeal to the general constituency, and for many years after the installation of the fixture the districts were keen on the match and very jealous in the maintenance of their reputation. If the East or West section in the national team looked numerically out of proportion to the assumed claims of either city, the injured citizens did not hesitate to let the responsible parties know about it. As the area of selection expanded, the tension lessened, and in later days it has been easier to appreciate the influence of the game as a test or trial match than to discern particular importance attached to the actual result. In this essential the event has lost prestige, and as an indication of the relative playing strength of the two cities it has been largely displaced by the intercourse between the leading club teams of the East and West, and particularly so when the championship happens to resolve itself into a direct issue between an Edinburgh and Glasgow team.
Up to 1876 the Inter-city matches were arranged on the home and home principle. In that year the designation of the spring fixture was altered to ' East v. West,' so as to admit of a wider area in the selection of players on trial for the International match. Since then, Glasgow has been allowed to retain the autumn fixture as the recognised annual contest between the two cities, and as compensation in some degree for lack of the major representative events.
In' the 'seventies the teams were usually so closely matched that scoring was either very low or there was no scoring at all. The first match took place at Burnbank, the ground of the Glasgow Academicals, on 23rd November 1872, and was won by Edinburgh. The teams on that occasion will bear reproduction as a historic reference.
Edinburgh—A. Ross (Wanderers), J. Patullo (Craigmount), T. R. Marshall (Edinburgh Academicals), W. St. Clair Grant (Craigmount), J. Junor (Royal High School), J. A. W. Mein (Edinburgh Academicals), and E. Thew (Merchistonians), backs ; F. J. Moncreiff (captain), R. W. Irvine, E. M. Bannerman, J. Finlay (Edinburgh Academicals), A. Buchanan, A. G. Petrie, and M. Sanderson (Royal High School), C. W, Cathcart and J. H. L. M'Farlane (Edinburgh University), T. Whittington and B. Hall Blyth (Merchistonians), J. Forsyth and A. R. Stewart (Wanderers), forwards.
Glasgow — T. Chalmers and W. D. Brown (Glasgow Academicals), W. H. Kidston (West of Scotland), W. Cross and T. Drew (Glasgow Academicals), J. B. M'Clure (West of Scotland), and J. W. Arthur (Glasgow Academicals), backs ; J. K. Tod, H. W. Allan, C. C. Bryce, G. R. Fleming, J. S. Thomson, J. B. Brown (Glasgow Academicals), J. M'Clure, J. Kennedy, J. P. Tennent, R. Wilson, A. Cochrane, G. Hunter (West of Scotland), and J. W. Reid (Glasgow University), forwards.
So far as the series had extended, the fifth Intercity match, on 5th December 1874, was the most remarkable game between the rival centres. The older generation was being replaced by younger players. The occasion saw the introduction to representative football of Ninian Finlay and J. H. S. Graham, then members of the Edinburgh Academy School team, Malcolm Cross, Nat Brewis, and G. 'Quinty' Paterson, all but one of whom played a leading part in the drama of the succeeding decade, and he, the exception—Paterson—made more than a meteoric flash across the horizon.
Paterson's football embodied most of the requirements of the type of player currently believed to be best adapted for quarter-back play. Weight deficiency prevented him becoming a great player, yet, in spite of his handicap, he is entitled to be regarded as a historic figure and a prominent member of a class who played an important part in early and middle-time football. A glimpse of the progress of Loretto may be had from the presence in the Edinburgh team of three old boys of that school, A. Marshall, S. Connell, and C. Hawkins.
The pitch, already soft, was rendered treacherous by a fall of rain before the start of play. Nevertheless, the exhibition of football was declared to have been one of the finest seen in Scotland. It abounded in stirring incidents. Young Finlay was first to raise the excitement with a great run, in the course of which he broke clear of the defence, and seemed to be heading for a score when Malcolm Cross intervened just in time, and, managing to get hold of Finlay, hung on in spite of the most vigorous efforts to shake him off.
Cross's great forte lay in the tenacity of his tackling. Where a bigger man would have bowled an opponent over, Cross tightened his grip and held on.
A couple of fine runs by W. H. Kidston and J. K. Tod, neutralised by the strong open work of the Edinburgh forwards, kept the play in constant motion. Tod had another run from his own ' 25,' but the Eastern forwards, playing well, were quickly back on the Glasgow line. The Royal High School forward, A. L. Wood, got across and scored, but too far out for the success of the kick at goal. Rayner then made a slip, which, but for a safe tackle of Tod by T. L. Knott, would have been fatal.
That put Glasgow into position, and a vigorous assault on the Edinburgh line ensued. Ninian Finlay broke up the attack and completely changed the scene of operations with another great run and drop-kick, which put the ball in touch a dozen yards from the Glasgow line.
A few minutes later the Edinburgh forwards were struggling to get over. In the heat of the melee neither set of forwards stood on ceremony. When C Villars made to struggle across with the ball in his possession, he was set upon by the defending forwards in a mass, and ' nearly throttled.' They held the fort in those days with doggedness, not to say desperation. When the siege had been almost raised, 'Quinty' Paterson took one of his snap drops at goal, and just missed. Carrick, refusing to touch down, kicked out from behind his own line as much in defiance as defence. This act, more heroic than discreet, came near to ending fatally, as the ball was returned and the Edinburgh forwards carried it over the line, but impetuosity and off-side rendered their effort void.
Time was wearing on, but the culminating point had yet to be reached. W. Blackwood, one of the Edinburgh full-backs, lost his foothold on the slippery ground at midfield. Four of the Glasgow forwards were on him ' in a trice,' and G. Heron was off with the ball full tilt and with a clear field in front. Nothing, it appeared, could possibly prevent a score. The crowd were already cheering the success, when Ninian Finlay flashed into sight, and went in pursuit. The shouting increased in volume and the excitement in intensity as the race between the pair proceeded. Yard by yard the Academy boy gained, and almost as Heron was stepping over the line his pursuer was on him, and had him down outside.
One of the old chroniclers described the incident as ' the most thrilling bit of play ever seen on a football field,' and added that several old International players, Scottish and English, declared they had never beheld anything like it. Darkness began to fall before the match was finished, and another slip among the Edinburgh backs threatened danger, but strenuously as the Glasgow men pressed their advantage they were unable to score.
Some deduction may be drawn from the circumstance that the most exhilarating game since the introduction of the series should have synchronised with the advent of so many new and young players. The game is memorable as being the debut of the greatest half-back in old-time Rugby football, English or Scottish, Ninian Finlay. The dominating personality of a schoolboy over old and experienced players, together with the outstanding influence exerted on the play, induced the generally acceded conclusion that Scotland had discovered a prodigy.
Malcolm Cross's appearance is equally interesting from the fact that his football seemed to be the natural complement of that of Finlay, and in later years the affinity found utterance in current expression associating in the same breath Malcolm Cross and Ninian Finlay as unquestionably Scotland's half-back pair. Ten or a dozen years later people referred in similar terms to the conjunction at quarter of A. R. Don Wauchope and A. G. G. Asher.
This particular match provides one of the best examples of the early-day Inter-cities. The game of 1876 is noteworthy as the first occasion upon which a representative match was played between teams of fifteen a side. It also witnessed a feat of Ninian Finlay's which was frequently referred to for many years afterwards. Starting from the Edinburgh end of the field he beat the entire Glasgow defence, including J. S. Carrick, the International full-back, who had never previously failed to bring down his man.
At the thirteenth attempt Glasgow won her first Inter-city match in 1881. The Edinburgh team had J. P. Veitch at full-back, and the Loretto schoolboy, G. C. Lindsay, at half-back. The Institution, then coming into power, were represented by A. Philp, Sorley Brown, R. Ainslie, R. Maitland, and D. Somerville. Sorley Brown scored for Edinburgh by a good run, and Robb, a Glasgow Academical forward, before half-time, got an equalising try for Glasgow. In the second half, D. Y. Cassels, the Glasgow captain, got the winning try, from which C. W. Dunlop lacked a goal. The first victorious Glasgow fifteen were: D. W. Kidston (Academicals), A. J. W. Reid and C. W. Dunlop (West of Scotland), J. A. Neilson (West of Scotland) and C. Ker (Academicals), D. Y. Cassels (captain), D. M'Cowan, A. Walker, R. Adam (West of Scotland), R. B. Young, J. Lang (Glasgow University), J. B. Brown, R. A. Kerr, W. A. Walls, G. H. Robb (Academicals).
This success was preliminary to a lengthened period of Glasgow superiority somewhat humiliating and rather distracting to Edinburgh. One explanatory reason of Eastern failure advanced was to the effect that Glasgow's smaller number of clubs and limited resources in players enabled the Western teams to operate with a degree of combination unattainable in the more detached Edinburgh construction. It is certain that during the best days of the West of Scotland club team the Glasgow sides worked more cohesively and smoothly than those of the metropolis. All Edinburgh could claim from the opening of the 'eighties till the close of the 'nineties was four wins in a run of twenty years. Even in 1883 the abnormal individual playing strength of a side containing A. R. Don Wauchope, C. Reid, T. Ainslie, W. A. Peterkin, J. P. Veitch, John Tod, T. W. Irvine, had enough to do to beat a Glasgow team that contained five International men to Edinburgh's eleven.
Edinburgh did not win another match till 1887, and then by exertion of the influence which appeared to confirm the theory of club domination. The Edinburgh Academicals at the height of their power under C. Reid had five men, M. C. M'Ewan, T. W. Irvine, A. T. Clay, T. B. White, and Reid himself in the forward division. A. R. Don Wauchope and H. J. Stevenson represented high striking force behind the scrummage. R. G. MacMillan and A. N. Woodrow were on the Glasgow side from which was extracted satisfaction for previous disappointments by the accumulation of 2 goals and 3 tries, representing the highest score and the heaviest defeat of the series so far.
The ground of the West of Scotland at Partick held the dismal reputation as the burial-place of Eastern hopes and prospects for many years. There are indeed cheerier spots in Scotland than this portion of Glasgow in the descending gloom of a murky afternoon in December, and among the many excuses for Edinburgh's repeated failures none were more common than those imputed to the influence of the pitch at Partick and its environment. It may be as interesting to mention one or two of the side issues of the game of 1888 as to record the almost inevitable Glasgow victory. J. Marsh, one of the trio of Edinburgh 'half-backs,' of whom the other two were H. J. Stevenson and R. H. Johnston, was a Lancashire man attending Edinburgh University. Occasionally he played for the University, but was more closely identified with the Institution. In fact, he was a regular member of the Institution team. Marsh owns the unique distinction of having played for Scotland against Ireland and Wales, and for England against Ireland. In fifty years of football no one has been able to find an acceptable definition of national qualifications. While the Inter-city match retained its identity as purely a test between the two cities and before it assumed the character of a 'Trial' match, there was no compunction about including English, Irish, or Welsh players if it were thought advantageous to do so. A score or more of men not qualified for Scotland have played in the Inter-city game. The most anomalous case of recent time was that of J. H. D. Watson, who played for Edinburgh, and thereby one would have thought carried the seal of Scotland as a representative player, yet he took the field on the English side in 1914. The subject of qualifications is so interminably interwoven with inconsistencies that it is easier to get into it than once in to see a way out. Glasgow, in the match in question, played an old Blairlodge International half-back, W. F. Holms, who was connected with the West of Scotland, Edinburgh Wanderers, Collegiate, and Clydesdale clubs. Rugby Glasgow always included Greenock and Paisley. Holms was a Blairlodge boy of no fixed football habitat.
When Edinburgh won in 1889 Glasgow scornfully imputed the victory to an accident or to the providential intervention of a miracle. What happened was that G. R. Aitchison, the old Craigmount boy and Wanderers quarter, dropped a goal, a thing they said he had never done in his life before. Some even affected to be surprised to know that he could drop. It added to the irony of the situation to know that J. D. Boswell, who could get dropped goals where no other man could, was playing for Glasgow. Exactly ten years passed before Edinburgh won another Inter-city match.
Edinburgh received a heavy thonging in 1891. M. M. Duncan was injured and placed the side under handicap, but allowing for this, Glasgow had the more capable team. It was a first-rate Western forward division, including three of a very clever type, J. Auld, J. M. Bishop, and Hugh Ker, and also a very sound Glasgow University International man, W. A. Macdonald, with J. D. Boswell at the head of affairs. They were still playing aliens, as represented by R. D. Stokes (Ireland) in the Edinburgh pack, and F. D'Arcy Thomson (England) in the Glasgow half-back line. C. G. Newton, an Edinburgh Academical who was playing for the West of Scotland at that time, was full-back for Glasgow. In the club matches of the time between the 'West' and the Edinburgh Academicals, C. G. Newton played full-back for the 'West,' and his brother, D. G. Newton, full-back for the Academicals. A first-rate pair they were too.
By the middle of the 'nineties the representation had assumed a decided change, but not the results. J. D. Boswell, H. J. Stevenson, and the Orr brothers had gone out of the game. G. R. Turner, from Stewart's College, had come on to the Edinburgh side as full-back. Hamish Forbes and Robin Welsh of the Watsonians were in the half-back line. W. R. Gibson (Royal High School) was the forward leader, and the strength of Edinburgh University football at that time was indicated by the presence of H. Stevenson (half), Lloyd Roberts (quarter), W. J. N. Davis and Griffiths (forwards) —all 'aliens.' The Neilson brothers were playing for Glasgow, also T. L. Hendry and W. Dykes of the Clydesdale, George Muir (Kelvinside Academicals), R. C. Greig (Academicals), J. N. Millar and J. H. Couper of the 'West.' The collection may be accepted as a tolerably fair representation of the players of the time.
A. B. Timms, then playing for the Wanderers, obtained his first representative honour in the Edinburgh Inter-city team of 1895. Similarly, Mark Morrison made his debut in the higher grade of football. H. O. Smith, A. Balfour, and J. Muir maintained the Watsonian forward connection, and G. O. Turnbull had added one more to the heavy Merchistonian contribution to Western football. The game is only worthy of record as the first draw that had taken place in fifteen years. The players were wading and plunging through snow and slush in one of the most dismal of many dismal days at Partick.
Two of the most noted 'quarters' of their day, J. I. Gillespie (Edinburgh Academicals) and L. M. Magee, Irish International, played together for Edinburgh in 1897. W. P. Donaldson, Lorettonian-Oxonian and 'West' man, was to have occupied one of the corresponding positions in the Glasgow team, but was unable to play. The Edinburgh Academicals, very strong at that time, supplied the full-back, J. M. Reid, two of the three halves, A. W. Robertson and A. M. Bucher. The Edinburgh forwards had the worst of the grabbing for the ball in the scrummages. There was no rule at that time against ' feet up,' and often a quarter had to make three or four attempts before he was able to get the ball into the scrummage. The Glasgow team played the smarter game, and their quarters, J. Cameron (Clydesdale) and J. Wingate (Kelvinside Academicals), to general surprise, outshone Gillespie and Magee, very largely, however, due to the circumstance that the one pair was continually in possession of the ball and the other pair had to get along as best they could without it.
The turn of the tide came in 1898, and synchronised with the period of Edinburgh Academical-Edinburgh University football which produced the remarkable International team of 1901. From 1898 up to the war year, Glasgow had only one win—-that of 1905—and afterwards had to wait sixteen years for another. At the beginning of the century, the Western players were competing with very strong back play against which they could not successfully contend. The same conditions repeated themselves in the years immediately preceding the war, when the Edinburgh game behind the scrummage benefited by a strong infusion of the Myreside influence. When Edinburgh beat Glasgow heavily in 1909 the work of the Watsonian centre, A. W. Angus, and the Edinburgh Academical, J. H. D. Watson, produced the finest football in the match and appeared to point to an International wing of great potency. It was not, however, persevered with, and later Watson was allowed to pass over to England. Mainly in an endeavour to induce combination behind the scrummage, Glasgow in 1913 selected the entire Glasgow Academical back division with the exception of the full-back and the Glasgow High School International wing player, J. B. Sweet. The experiment was quite a success, and the work of the Western three-quarters, T. Stout, J. R. Warren, A. D. Laird, and J. B. Sweet, was rather better than that of the Edinburgh line. Glasgow would have drawn the game but for a freakish bit of football that left J. C. M'Callum, from near midfield, to score from a ball rolling detached and far astray inside the Glasgow '25.'
The 1920 match produced one of the best games that has been played between the two cities in postwar times. The teams contained quite an exceptional number of clever players in the back divisions. R. S. Simpson, E. B. Mackay, W. C. Johnstone, Arthur Browning, and R. H. L. Donald represent as high a standard as Glasgow has attained at almost any stage in the series, while on the Edinburgh side conspicuous ability will be recognised in A. T. Sloan, J. Hume, and E. Maclaren, all of whom distinguished themselves in International football. For that matter so likewise did J. W. S. M'Crow, who, however, suffered a rapid decline in form accelerated by war service. Edinburgh's only superior point in the game was derived from the work of the half-backs, A. T. Sloan and J. Hume.
After nearly fifty years' association with the ground of the West of Scotland club at Partick, the site of the Inter-city fixture was transferred in 1922 to the Glasgow Academical field at Anniesland. A reversal of fortune followed the change, and after a long interval of years Glasgow succeeded in winning. It was a very good game, in which the Glasgow Academical back division, strengthened by the High School wing player A. Browning, displayed the better football. Edinburgh lost ground in the half-back play of J. A. R. Selby and Gow Brown, compared with that of J. C. Dykes and J. B. Nelson, whose success was contributed to by the 'hooking' of R. A. Gallie. Edinburgh had two good wing three-quarters, E. H. Liddell and J. H. Carmichael, but they were not well supplied with the ball. Two well-matched teams of normal Inter-city grade played an even draw in 1928, but in 1924 an Edinburgh side, ill-balanced and conspicuously weak in parts both in the scrummage and out of it, was well beaten forward and over-run behind by a carefully adjusted combination of Glasgow Academical and High School players. Two of the Edinburgh backs, D. Drysdale at full-back and R. M. Kinnear, centre three-quarter, alone offered real resistance and stood comparison with the best of the Glasgow backs.
The game appeared to demonstrate the law of results applicable to the series that the balance inclines to the city possessing a successful and dominating club team.