Photo Credit: David Potter
It was 40 years ago this year when a young Billy McPate starred for his Club, Drumpellier, in the Scottish Cup Final against Perthshire at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow.
As his captain for the day, Tom Porteous, recalls:
“Perthshire batted first and we restricted them to 145 for 6 wickets on a wicket difficult to bat on. Billy took 3 for 44 in his 9 overs. We were, without question, the best fielding side in Scotland at the time largely due to Bhudi (Kunderan’s) excellent and very thorough fielding practices and we fielded really well in that final which helped restrict a Perth side which included Ralph Laing, Chris Galloway and Chic McPherson to this relatively modest score.
“We started well with Bhudi and Sandy Brown opening the batting and myself coming in at 3 but the middle order collapsed and when I was caught on the square leg boundary, we had 7 wickets down and I felt that was the cup gone as we had little left in the batting and the wicket was still not easy.
“We also required around the low 20’s to win. As I trudged off, I was passed by Billy going out to bat. It was a second or two before I realised that it should have been young Neil Grant going in but it was too late to recall Billy who was almost at the wicket.
“When I asked Neil what had happened, he told me that Billy had pushed him aside and told him he was going in.
“‘I wasn’t even due to go in, recalled McPate, but when Tom Porteous holed out in the deep I immediately picked up my bat and marched out the dressing room and down the steps, leaving a poor bewildered young Neil Grant, next man on the card, wondering what was going on.”
Porteous continues; “He then proceeded to bat like I had never seen him bat before as The Scotsman wrote years later.
“Enter McPate, the sturdy pike-man, Lazarus of Coatbridge, with his bucolic brand of batting belligerence and he hit two sixes and a couple of fours, as I recall, to see us over the line. It was surreal with Billy finishing on 25 not out. It was happy days indeed and there is little doubt that Billy’s batting won us the cup in 1979 plus his excellent bowling figures as well of course. I also recall a large crowd was there.
“We, at that time, took a great support where ever we went and that night back at the club was a superb celebration as you can imagine. I wish him well at this year’s final.“
Today McPate plies his officiating trade in the East of Scotland with ESCOA (the East of Scotland Officials Association) and will officiate the Scottish Cup Final for a second time (he umpired the 2010 Final between Uddingston and Stirling County) with his colleagues for the day this year, Andy Baird on field and Steve Scott as 3rd.
As he noted, poignantly, way back in 1979 before going out to bat, “I had felt that somehow this was my day.”
Let’s hope he has another day like that day, this time as the man in the middle.