The story of how the magnificent Glasgow Exhibition Cup comes to be part of the collection of permanent trophies housed at Celtic Park is a classic example of grabbing a second chance with both hands.
Ironically … amusingly, even … as its inscription tells, Rangers originally won it, beating Celtic in the bruising final of a competition amongst eight of the leading Scottish clubs of the time, staged to mark the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901. In the wake of that controversial match came the familiar outburst of allegation and counter allegation that still typifies the aftermath of an explosive Celtic / Rangers clash.
The following year brought the first Ibrox Disaster, when dozens were killed and hundreds injured in a terracing collapse during the Scotland / England international of April 1902.
To help raise funds for the victims and their families, another tournament was promptly arranged between the respective reigning champions and runners-up of Scotland and England. Just as happens in the modern era, when Scottish and English clubs clash in European competition and it is labeled a “Battle of Britain”, press hype blew the event up into an unofficial British Championship; and Rangers, either foolishly or over-confidently, chose to raise the stakes by putting up their shiny new Exhibition Cup as a permanent prize for the winners.
Predictably, fate dictated that Celtic and Rangers saw off Sunderland and Everton, to find themselves facing off again over the exquisite piece of silverware.
According to the legendary Willie Maley (who should know, being in his prime as Celtic manager at the time), it took a replay to separate the great rivals. In his book, “The Story of the Celtic”, he described the final as an epic double-header. Following a 1-1 draw on 17th June 1902, Celtic won 3-2 in the replay two days later. The winner was scored in the dying minutes of extra time, an early example of another endearing and prevailing Celtic habit.
Despite various alleged Rangers attempts at recovery over the years … presumably they were only kidding about it being a permanent prize … the elaborate cup has become an integral part of Celtic folklore and is going nowhere.
The tale of the Glasgow Exhibition Cup provides a classic Pub Quiz question: “Which ‘one-off ‘ trophy was won by both Celtic AND Rangers?”