Continued - The Roaring Twenties
The National League was a professional league and for a while Thistles changed its name to Hamilton Pro's. Later Hamilton City were admitted to the league along with a team know as the Corinthians.
In 1926 Hamilton received a visit from a team representing the English Football Association. A crowd of 8,999 were on hand to see the game in which the Football Association team won 3-0.. One year later the Scottish F.A. team was back for the second time and won 6-1 with 'Rocky Munro scoring Hamilton's lone goal.
That same year brought a visit from the famous Vienna Hakoah team made up entiry of Jeswish players. Champions of Austria in the 1924-1925 season, this team had caught the imagination of soccer fans in the United States the year before and set a record attendance for a soccer game south of the border when 46,000 showed up to see them play in New York. Playing in Hamilton on their second tour Hakoah were held to a 2-2 tie by a Hamilton all-star team. In that same year the famous American club Bethlehem Steel also played in Hamilton and defetated the All Stars 3-4.
There were 40 soccer teams operating in Hamilton in 1928. In addition, there was a league in the separate schools as well as in the public shools. The schoolboys also played 'internationals' against one another as the seniors had been doing for many years. In these games players on English, Scoittish and Irish ethnic background played against one another, while those who were born in Canada formed their own team. As a result of the number of teams and games the availability of suitable grounds becam a problem and to overcome this problem double-headers were staged.
During these years the standard of the game and interest in the game was at an all-time high and there is no doubt that the school systems were producing some excellent players. One in particular caught the eye and was to become one of the most famous sportsmen that this city has every produced. Robert McDonald, known to everyone as 'Whitey' because of his blond hair, had learned the game in the school system and in the junior teams of the Thisles club, before graduating to the senior ranks. In 1928 he was signed by the world famous Scottish team Glasgow Rangers. McDonald went on to make a name for himself in Scotland winning numerous Scottish F.A. Cup and League Championship medals.
Not to be outdone by the English and the Scots, the Welsh Football Association sent a team to tour Canada in 1929. As usual one game was scheduled to be played in Hamilton. This turned out to be a very close encounter with the Welchmen winning by the narrow margin of 1-0. As a result of the Welshmen agreed to play a second game in Hamilton on their return from the west coast.
The second game turned out to be just as close as the first and was decided on a penalty kick and an own goal to give Wales a 2-0 win. However, Bob Reyburn writing in the Hamilton Spectator credits the spectacular goalkeeping to Gray in the Welsh goal for keeping Hamilton of f the score sheet..
There was also one notable and unfortunate incident in this game that is recalled in history books around the world and it involved the famousl Welsh full back Moses Russell. Reports claim that near the end of the first half Russell kicked George chambers, the Hamilton centre forward, who fell as if badly hurt. Reyburn takes up the storey. "The nect instant hundreds of wild-eyed fans invaded the field. It was hard to tell what happened during the milling,. but it was apparent that someone had either kicked or struck Russell for he had to be carried off the fild, as also had Champers".
Russell did not return, Champers did and in the days when there were no substitutes Wales played with ten men througtour the second half. However, reports of the incident in Welsh pulication tell a different story. In a book titled "100 Years of Welsh Soccer" by Peter Corrigan, it is stated that. "... at one stage the crowd invaded the pitch to surround Moses Russell. It was not a situation that would have daunted the formidable Moses but even he backed away when one of the crowd drew a pistol from his belt".
Later in 1929 events that had nothing to do with soccer were to have a major impact on the game during the 1930's. The infamous Wall Street Crashs that led to the Great Depression was to have far reaching effects on soccer, no only in Hamilton, but also in the United States where it killed the flourishing professional league.
At first it had little effect in Hamilton where in 1930 two Scottish First Division teams, Glasgow Rangers and Kilmarnock both paid a visit.. Rangers, captained for the day by " Whitey" McDonald, met his old club Hamilton Thistles, captained by his brother "Red". Rangers were never extended and won 3 0 . On the other hand Kilmarnock, who followed Ranges into the city, defeated Hamilton City 6-0 and Thisles 4-1., Thistles meanwhile won the Ontario Cup defeating Toronto Scottish in the final.
On the local scene ,Thistles and City dominated, the one (Thisles) essentially a Scottish club the other (City) maily English. The sometimes bitter rivalry started in the early 1920's and continued up until the outbread of war in 1939. Between 1926 and 1939 City won the Spectator Cup eight times and Thistles three times, but more ofter than not the two National League teams clashed in the finals. The only real opposition locally came from the Branford Cockshutts, who were members of the Hamilton and Distrcit Association, and from the team run by the Steel Company of Canada.
The Football Association of England sent a team to tour Canada for the second time in 1931 and by this time the effects of the economic depression were being felt as only 3,000 fans showed up to see the Englishmen demolish the local all stars by a score of 8-0.
The procession of British teams to Canada had been broken in 1927 by the visit of Vienna Hakoah. It was broken again in 1933 when the Chilean First Division club, Audax Italiano from the capital city of Santiago, paid a visit. On a long tour which had taken them up through Sourth and Central America and then into the United States, the team often played twice in one day.
Once again Bob Reybyurn takes up the story. Commenting on the visitors he writes. "In midfield play they were much superior to the local all-stars .Crisp, short and accurate ground passes - always the hallmark of excellence - featured the vistor's play, but in this regard the Hamilton boys sowed they were not so very far behind". The game ended in a 1-1 tie which is said to have flattered Hamilton.
By now thge depression was seriously affecting the lives of millions of people and in Hamilton many of the better player left the city to work in the one place there seemeed to be work, the mines around Subdury and Timmins. Amongst them was Matt Dunn, who had been the key to the Thistle club for some years. Dunn signed for Kirkland Lake.
Once again Reyburn's comments describe the situation in the Hamilton Spectator of December 15, 1934. "No sport has been harder hit by the depression that soccer. It was among the first to feel the blow that send hundreds of players and officials to join the rank of the unemployed. There was no compsarison between 1929, the peak year, and 1934. Soccer took a back seat to no summer sport five or six years ago, and long before that",
The bright spot in the summer of 1935 was the visit of another team representing the Scottish F.A. This star-studded aggregation included such legends of the game as Davie Meiklejohn and Tommy Walker and the party included "Whitey" McDonald, once again captain for the day. This team ran rings around the local boys winning 10-1 before 3,253 fans.
In 1936, Thistles won the league chanmpionship of the Western Division of the National League, thus becoming the first Hamilton team to do so,. As the wase clouds were gathering in 1939, Hamilton City won the Ontario Cup defeating Toronto Scottish in the two-game final. The championship of Ontario, dominated for the most part by Toronto teams, had been woon in 1920 by Westinghouse, in 1930 by Thistles and then in 1939 by City.
This win marked the end of an era and led into the turbulent was years which saw hundreds of allied airmen arrive at Mount Hope for training. Most of them were British and nauurally they formed soccer teams, the RAF Blues and Golds, who both competed in the local league. The Blues carried off the Spectator Cup in 1942 and 1943 and appeared in the final in 1941.
The 1940's also saw the passing of three men who had played major roles in the administration of soccer in Hamilton for many years. Billy Donaldson had been secretary-treasurer of the Hamilton and District Association for 20 yearss, the president of the Ontario Football Association in the 1918-19 season and the IOntario delegate to the Dominion of Canada Football Association in 1923, 1924 adn 1925.
Billy Dean, a former city alderman in Ward Eight , had refereed the game between the tourning Scots and a team representing Canada in Montreal in 1921. He had also been President of the Ontario Football Association in that same year and from 1923 to1925. Sam Clarke had also been a city alderman in Ward Seven and owned and operated a store on Barton Street that sold Brithsh newspapaers. At times, he also wrote a soccer column for the Spectator. Sam was Presiodent of the Ontario Football Association during 1916-17 and involved in the administratiion of soccer in Hamiloton for many years.
Foot note - The Organizing committee for the Centennial Spectator Cup '96 wishes to thank the following for their assistance in the production of this information. The Ontario Soccer Association, the Heritage Committee of the Ontario Soccer Association, Kelly Alexander Communication Inc, Les Jones (who did much of the photogtraphy work) The Hamilton Spectator, Copps Coliseum walls of fame committee and Mrs S Guyatt, Mrs J Isbister, Mr R Wands and the Ven. Johnb D Rathbone (Archivist, diocese of Niiagara Archives) who kindly loaded photographs
Created by: Dave Edgcumbe -- Last updated:Nov 24, 2003