1881/82 was a good season for Saints as the development of both the playing side and club reputation continued. During the campaign the players would win two competitions, the first a 4 aside tournament, and the second and more significantly, was the success in winning the Barlow Cup after a 5-1 victory over Alexandra Athletic. This cup remains in the club trophy cabinet today.
Also on the playing side, late August marked the end of the first team career of Jim Goold after just one appearance that campaign. Goold was the scorer of Saints first ever goal and an extremely important player over the short existence of the club, appearing in every position. He dropped to second XI duty, prompting much complaint from the support in the letters section of the Paisley Daily Express.
The supporters were however playing a massive part in the growing reputation of the club. Consistently high attendances over the 3,000 mark (at least) on a weekly basis, and on two occasions over 6,000 during the season, cast envious eyes towards Paisley and it was considered something of a footballing hotbed by the media where the level of interest within the town was deemed more intense than anywhere else in Scotland at that point. In fact by 1882, the town had over 20 clubs playing on a regular basis from a population of around 55,000, with a handful of them including Saints drawing regular crowds of at least 1,000.
Saints and Abercorn however remained the main clubs in the town, a position increased by the quite remarkable 6,500 in attendance for the second derby of the season late in the campaign at Blackstoun Park next to the Gas Works in Well Street. To put this attendance into perspective, this crowd was bigger than in four of the seven Scottish Cup finals played so far in history!
The club announces on the 5th they will hold a sports event on the 23rd and 30th July with various races, sports, and a 4 aside football tournament. On the 25th June, Saints took part in the ‘Ancient Order of the Foresters’ Sports event at East Park, the home of fellow Paisley football club, Athletic, at their ground located in Cameron Street. (Now the corner of Mill Street and Gauze Street and the first home of Abercorn)
The 4 aside football competition was reserved only to clubs from the town, and Saints would win the competition in front of 2000 spectators, securing a first prize of 4 gold star medals for H Wilson, J Paterson, J Goold and A Hunter, the first ever won by St Mirren footballers.
Curiously, it was confirmed at this tournament that Saints second team (which had run in tandem with the first team since 1877) played in black and white, the first time the colours had been linked with the club. It is probably reasonable to conclude that these were always the 2nd team colours, and therefore always associated with St Mirren.
Saints Sports Event spread over two weekends, kicked off on the 23rd of the month, and despite poor weather, attracted almost 3000 spectators on day one, mainly for the football which had a very credible 30 entries including then giants of the sport, Queen’s Park, who would eventually win the tournament the following weekend, when an even larger attendance occurred despite even poorer weather! Unfortunately, both Saints sides (1st and 2nd) were knocked out in the early rounds.
Following the event, The Glasgow Evening Times was extremely complimentary that Paisley could attract such a large attendance for what was essentially a 4 a side football tournament, stating the town was attracting more for this than any of their clubs could for a big occasion!
Saints are drawn against Johnstone Rovers in the Scottish Cup first round which took place on the 23rd of the month. The following evening at Thistle Park, the club held their half year financial meeting in the clubhouse, all members were invited to attend. On the final day of the month, Saints and Paisley Athletic were paired together in the Renfrewshire Cup.
Johnstone Rovers proved no match for Saints in the Scottish Cup and were duly thrashed 5-1 in Paisley on the 3rd of the month. The club sold season tickets for the first time, with an advert in the Paisley Express on the 6th stating they are priced at 2/6, which was half a crown, worth about £10.60 in 2021, with home and away fixtures against Abercorn confirmed for the price, prompting The Athletic newspaper and Paisley Daily Express to both comment that the clubs were on “good terms” again.
On the 20th September, Saints were drawn against Paisley Athletic in the Scottish Cup, who of course they would also face in the Renfrewshire equivalent, and 4 days later Saints beat the Athletic 5-3 to progress to the next round in the county competition, it was the first ever meeting of the club.
A major setback hits the club when Saints are victims of a cup shock at East Park in the town, as recently formed Athletic knock them out the Scottish Cup after winning 3-1 on the 8th in front of around 3,500 supporters. Saints played almost all the match with 10 men after an early injury. On the 26th of the month, Saints are advised that their potential opponents in the second round of the Renfrewshire Cup will be either Johnstone Rovers or Pollok.
Glasgow jeweler, T C Barlow, announces the winner of the St Mirren v Alexandra Athletic on the 5th November 1881 will be presented with a trophy, known as the Barlow Cup. In front of a 3,000 crowd, Saints hammered the Glasgow side 5-1 to secure the clubs first ever silverware.
Four St Mirren players were called up to the Renfrewshire County select for their match against Lanarkshire in Hamilton on the 19th; full back Wilson, half back and captain John Paterson as well as forwards Wallace and Imrie. The latter of these players would return to Saints as the match was played as a 10-aside after a Lanarkshire player called off late. The other three Saints men played the match, which ended in a 7-2 defeat for Renfrewshire.
In front of a record crowd for Paisley and Renfrewshire of 6,000, Abercorn visited Thistle Park on the 26th for the highly anticipated derby between the two top clubs in the area, with a tea organised for all the players afterwards in the Globe Hotel. The Abbies were in no mood for hospitality however and raced into a 6-0 lead at half time. Saints scored twice in the second half, but the 6-2 defeat gave Abercorn all bragging rights.
The fall out from the game lasted all week, as claim and counter claim via newspaper letter sections hinted at a strong rivalry between the fans of the clubs, as well as a real element of pettiness as fake correspondents would criticise players pretending to be members of that specific club, but the following day the truth would be revealed by another reader! One letter even suggested that the only way Abercorn could have won by such a margin would be if it was a fix for betting purposes. Even in 1881, paranoia, deflection and conspiracy were all part of the game!
Following that numbing defeat to Abercorn, Saints changed formation from 2-2-6 to 2-3-5, with Hunter dropping from attack to half back, and it seemed to have the desired effect as the team won three matches on the spin, scoring 12 times, including a 5-1 Renfrewshire Cup win over Pollok.
Saints are drawn away to Johnstone in the Quarter Final of the Renfrewshire Cup, but in front of the “largest crowd ever gathered” in the smaller county town, the Paisley side are well beaten 3-0 by the hosts on the 21st of the month, which appeared to end the quest for official silverware for another season. However, Saints appealed the outcome, stating R Whyte (a regular ringer it appears before joining Saints was playing for the home team when registered with Johnstone Athletic, and as this was an official match this could not be done. The hearing was set for the 2nd of February at Fleming’s Hotel in Bridge St, Paisley.
Good news for the club as they win the appeal against the Johnstone cup result, with the Renfrewshire FA determining the match be replayed on the 11th February in Johnstone. Cartvale awaited the winners in the semi-final. In what was clearly now a grudge match due to the perceived injustice of Saints winning their appeal, and once more played out in the local press between supporters, a large Paisley contingent travelled the short distance to Johnstone swelling the crowd to 3,500, however the home side prevailed once more, this time by a score of 4-2.
The annual club soiree took place on the 10th in the Abercorn Rooms within the town, with another sell out witnessing the events in celebration of the achievements of the season. The committee agrees to play a new club from the town, called Stanley Castle in order to help the junior clubs development. A young patchwork Saints side beat the Stanley Park club 6-4 on the 11th of the month.
On the 25th, the Paisley Derby takes place at Blackstoun Park at the bottom of Well Street next to the Gas Works, home of Abercorn. An astonishing crowd of 6,500 turns up to watch Saints gain revenge for their earlier derby defeat and win 4-3.
The club announces on the 6th of the month that the annual sports event will take place on the 29th July.
Saints appear in the Abercorn 4 aside football tournament with 25 other teams on the 6th May. In front of 3000 spectators, Saints lost to the hosts in the final 1-0.
On the 10th, Rangers visited Thistle Park in a quickly arranged challenge match and win 2-0, the same score recorded on the final day of the month when a Glasgow XI comprising of 9 Queen’s Park players and 2 Rangers men, including the world-famous Dr Andrew Watson of Queens and Scotland, the first ever black international footballer. However even in defeat this was quite an honour to host this match, and further proof of the growing reputation St Mirren was enjoying.