THIS weekend was the 100-year anniversary of Partick Thistle’s sole Scottish Cup triumph, with Ian McCall’s men marking the auspicious day with a 5-0 trouncing of Montrose the night before Friday's milestone.

George Easton and his players laboured through 11 gruelling fixtures on their way to lifting the trophy at Celtic Park – no club has played more Cup games and gone on to lift the trophy that season – eventually overcoming Bill Struth’s free-scoring Rangers side with a dogged display in the final. John Blair provided the game’s only goal 20 minutes into the contest and against the odds, the Jags held on to claim a priceless victory.

“We haven’t won the Scottish Cup since,” says long-serving club director Robert Reid, who has seen more Partick Thistle matches than anyone else living. “We won the League Cup in 1971 and took Rangers to a replay in the final of the Cup in the 1929/30 season. We’ve reached numerous semi-finals – in 1949/50 against East Fife, who were a real force then; in 1977/78 and the next season, where we were knocked out by Aberdeen and Rangers respectively; and in 2001/02, when Rangers won 3-0. That’s the closest we’ve come unfortunately.

“It was a hard road to the final – eleven matches, including replays with Motherwell, Hearts and Hibernian. Funnily enough, the game we struggled most in was the one against East Stirling.

“We were handicapped for the final because two of our outstanding players had to drop out injured at the last minute. We had to play without them but we put in a very resolute performance. We scored after about 20 minutes and defended like mad thereafter. It’s one of the outstanding results in our history, I would say.

“There were a lot of funny things about that final. It was called the ‘Boycott Final’ – it was a poor crowd, only about 28,000 [as fans decided not to attend the game in protest to ticket prices]. Some of these things were not disadvantageous to Thistle. There were thirty or forty thousand Rangers fans that didn’t turn up and that fell in Thistle’s favour. Parkhead was the venue, which would have gone down like a lead balloon with Rangers fans as well.

“I don’t think you could categorise us as favourites for the trophy but we were one of the top five or six teams in Scotland at that time. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise but they still weren’t expected to win. It’s that long ago that no one living has seen the game. I’ve seen Partick Thistle play about 3,500 times but I can assure you, I wasn’t at that one!”

There is no one alive today who witnessed that match first-hand. All we have left to go on are what the history books tell us. But as supporter and historian Graham Nisbet explains, the route to Parkhead was anything but incident-free, despite Thistle’s propensity for goalless draws.

He explained: “We got a bye in the first round so it could have been an even longer run! Then we were drawn away to Hibernian in the next round at the start of February. It was one of these games that had 0-0 written all over it, and that seemed to follow us throughout the whole tournament. The Hibs director Owen Brannigan had remarked before the game that whoever won this tie would win the Scottish Cup.

“So the first game was 0-0 and the second game was played at Firhill a few days later. Again, it was not a very pleasant night and another 0-0 draw that was nothing to write home about. There’s a Hibs history book had an excerpt about the game that read: ‘Before the end of the game, a tenement in Maryhill caught fire, blowing smoke into the faces of the Hibs team, hampering them playing. The fire had no sooner been put out when another chimney caught fire, again blowing smoke into the faces of the Hibees. Some paranoid Hibs supporters grumbled that it was a conspiracy.’

“In that 0-0 game at Firhill, it was an outstanding game for the Hibs keeper Harper. He was the star player in that game and it was him that kept it to 0-0. The third game was played at Celtic Park – Thistle won 1-0, and it was Robert MacFarlane that scored the only goal of the game.”

Conspiracy or not, Thistle’s name was in the hat for the next round after they overcame Hibs at the third attempt. East Stirling were next to be despatched in a game where three of the Jags’ opponents suffered concussions, and their fourth-round opponents Motherwell also required three attempts to separate the sides.

“Having got through the second round, Thistle then faced East Stirlingshire,” Nisbet said. “It was played at Merchiston Park in Falkirk – the old Firs Park didn’t open until August of that year. Thistle managed to scrape through 2-1 with Jimmy Kinloch scoring both goals.

“The East Stirling team actually had two players carried off with concussion. Seemingly they went down about the same time, so they were playing with nine men. Then in the second half, one of them came back on but another player was carried off. So they played with nine men. Thistle were expected to win it but they lost their captain, Willie Bulloch, just before kick-off. He missed the game because he was injured and that was the only game in the run that he didn’t play in. the crowd for that game was about 8,000 – it was classed as a record attendance for Merchiston Park.

“So they scraped through the third round and were drawn against Motherwell at Fir Park. It was expected that this would be a record attendance but it ended up a miserable day. There was torrential rain and the underfoot conditions were really poor. Thistle were going to come up against the top goal scorer in Scotland, Hughie Ferguson. He had been the top goal scorer in Scotland over two seasons and of course, he opened the scoring.

“Thistle managed to equalise through MacFarlane and while the away fans were still celebrating, Ferguson put the ball in the net again to make a 2-1. Willie Salisbury grabbed an equaliser to make it 2-2 and Thistle nearly stole the game at the last minute, but the Motherwell keeper managed to deny the Thistle forward. At least we got some goals this time! It was mentioned that the game finished with the 22 players exhausted and caked in mud.

“The replay was at Firhill in March and again, we had one of these 0-0 draws. Thistle’s international goalkeeper Kenny Campbell had failed to make the team and Rab Bernard came in to replace him. It was Bernard’s only game in the cup run and he managed to keep a clean sheet. He was classed as the penalty king – he scored one penalty for Thistle but had scored something like 49 for Bo’ness. He was a great guy for getting publicity – he always used to write about himself and send it in to the papers, believe it or not.

“The replay was played at Ibrox and Thistle won 2-1. Alex Lauder scored the first and MacFarlane got the second. Motherwell got a consolation goal through that man Ferguson again.”

That teed up a semi-final with Hearts, where a 2-0 win for the Jags – again at the third attempt following two goalless draws – sent them through to the final to face Rangers. But as Nisbet points out, Thistle’s relentless slog could have been extended further still.

“We then go into our usual 0-0 draws,” he said. “The first game was at Ibrox and there was a high wind blowing that night. It managed to blow the Rangers flag off the flagpole, so that might have been an omen for the final. Thistle were pressing Hearts but their keeper, Kane, had a really impressive game. The 0-0 draw was down to him and he kept Hearts in the semi-final.

“The replay was another 0-0 draw, again on a wet and windy night at Ibrox. Thistle were without one of their internationalists, Jimmy McMullan, who was one of the ‘Wembley Wizards’ in 1928. He was replaced by a young Mark Wilson – it was his first cup game for Thistle. He was unfortunate because he got injured and had to leave the park for 20 minutes, leaving Thistle with 10 men. But McMullan’s influence in the team at half-back was sorely missed.

“So that took us to the third game, which was at Ibrox again. This game had to be finished. It was on the fifth of April, and the SFA said there would be 30 minutes extra-time. If it still wasn’t resolved, they would play again the following day. And the following day. And the following day again. Fortunately, the game was resolved as Thistle won 2-0. It was Kinloch who scored both goals. Hearts changed their team pretty significantly and Thistle took full advantage.”

“The final was played on April 16 at Celtic Park, and we were playing against a Rangers team that had scored 98 goals by that point in the season,” added Nisbet, whose father attended the game. “They had only been beaten once during the season and that was against Celtic.

“Rangers had a formidable squad of international players up against us and at the last minute, McMullan picked up a strained ankle and wasn’t available for the final. The centre-back Bill Hamilton, who had been a rock-steady stalwart in defence, was ruled out with illness.

“Thistle brought in young Mark Wilson at centre-half and they also brought in Walter Borthwick. They didn’t have their main men in there but what they did was bring back Jimmy McMenemy, the ex-Celtic player who was 40.”

It was an inspired decision. McMenemy had only joined the club earlier that year after departing Parkhead but according to Reid “was an outstanding figure in that cup campaign”. He played a crucial role in the build-up for the game’s solitary goal, getting one over his old rivals one last time.

Naturally, McMenemy is more closely associated with his time at Celtic than his Thistle spell – he’s considered by many to be one of the most important players in the illustrious history of the Parkhead club – but as his grandson John explains, the Jags always held a special place in his heart.

“He had a great affection for Celtic obviously but I remember my mum saying that he always spoke highly of Thistle and that he enjoyed his time there,” he recalled. “He had a smashing time at Thistle – made all the better by beating Rangers in the final! That just put the tin hat on it all.

“My mother told me that in the final he had to be strapped because his legs were in a bad way. He was heavily bandaged because his legs were in such a state by that time.

“He liked to compare the football in the ‘60s to when he played. He thought it had gone a bit soft – even in the ‘60s, and I thought it was quite hard then! There was one occasion at Celtic where he played two or three games in one day. I think he thought footballers had it easier than he did, which is probably true. Goodness knows what he’d make of it today!”

When the full-time whistle eventually rang out around Celtic Park, the Thistle players’ place in history was secure. They had done what no other Jags teams could by lifting the oldest trophy in world football. But rather than basking in the glory of their unlikely success on the park, greedily hoovering up the salutations of the red-and-yellow contingent in the stadium, the celebrations were rather muted.

“After the game, the cup wasn’t presented to the team,” Nisbet explained. “The president of the SFA presented the Cup to TC Reid, president of Thistle, who accepted it on behalf of the players. It was presented inside the pavilion at Celtic Park.

“There’s a letter from George Easton to John Blair, the goal scorer, informing him that he had enclosed his wages and asking him to confirm that he received his medal in the post! That picture with the Scottish Cup – that was taken the following Saturday at Firhill before a game with Ayr United. I think it was a testimonial for one of our players.”

It was a fittingly surreal conclusion to what had been an historic run. Thistle had overcome concussions and conspiracy, misfortune and mayhem, and on that auspicious day 100 years ago could finally say what no other Jags team has been able to, before or since. They were Partick Thistle. And they were Scottish Cup champions.