Well, I was just sitting around and found this on line and thought it may be an interesting read for those who don’t know, this is where the “Ashes” began….
The story of the Ashes begins with the famous Test match between Australia and England at The Oval in London during the northern summer of 1882. After a day and a half of tense play the match reached a dramatic conclusion in the final innings. With England needing only 85 runs their win seemed assured, but the Australians were determined to pull off an unlikely victory after an unsporting incident in the previous innings. The famous English champion Dr W G Grace had controversially run out Australian batsman Sam Jones when he was clearly not trying to complete a run.
This run out infuriated the Australian players, especially their bowling spearhead, Fred ‘The Demon’ Spofforth. Before they took the field for the final innings Spofforth assured his teammates that ‘this thing can be done’. An hour into the innings England still seemed certain to win – the total was reduced to 34 with seven wickets still in hand and Grace still at the crease. However, the course of the match changed dramatically when Grace’s wicket fell, triggering one of the most famous collapses in cricketing history. Remarkably the Australian team won by seven runs, registering its first victory over England on English soil.
The defeat shocked English cricket fans. Reports of the match told of tense spectators gnawing through umbrella handles and dropping dead from heart attacks. The result also inspired the satirical side of the British sporting press – in the days after the match two mock obituaries were published lamenting the death of English cricket. The most well known of the two, printed in the London Sporting Times of 2 September 1882, read:
Mock obituary by Reginald Brooks, Sporting times, 2 September 1882
The match at The Oval had created such an interest that the English team organised to tour Australia in the summer of 1882–83 was given the responsibility of ‘regaining those ashes’. The English and Australian players, as well as the local media, continued the ‘ashes’ banter throughout the tour of the colonies. Before the return series Billy Murdoch, the Australian captain, stated, ‘Our boys fairly won the ashes and we confidently rely on them to retain possession’.
Regardless of Murdoch’s boast, the English side won the return series 2–1. It was long thought that the Ashes urn was presented to the English captain, The Hon Ivo Bligh, at the conclusion of the third and deciding Test in Sydney. However, recent research suggests the urn was given to Bligh before the series had even begun. After a social match involving some of the English team during a stay at Sir William Clarke’s Rupertswood estate in Sunbury, Victoria, Lady Clarke – no doubt aware of the banter in the press – presented Bligh with a small vase containing ashes. Despite inconsistent reports about what was burned to create the ashes – a cricket bail, a stump, the cover of a ball, or even a lady’s veil – this modest gift to Bligh has become a cricketing icon.
It is likely that for Bligh the personal significance of the urn extended beyond memories of cricket matches: he fell in love with one of the ladies involved in the presentation – Florence Morphy, the Clarke children’s music teacher. The Englishman visited Rupertswood several times during the 1882–83 tour and despite their differing social status – Bligh was the second son of the sixth Earl of Darnley and Morphy a colonial governess who had grown up in a state of ‘genteel poverty’ – romance blossomed. They married in February 1884 at St Mary’s Church in Sunbury. After the death of his brother in 1900, Bligh became the eighth Earl of Darnley and Florence, the Countess of Darnley. The Ashes urn remained with Bligh until his death in 1927 when Florence, no doubt aware of the increasing significance of the urn, gifted it to Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
Although initially a joke created by the media and indulged by opposing players, the Ashes legend endured. While the urn itself it has never officially been considered a trophy, in the eyes of cricket fans it became the physical representation of the mythical ‘ashes’. The Ashes urn is now one of sport’s most celebrated artefacts and attracts 50,000 visitors a year to the MCC museum. Despite originating in Australia it has only returned once – for the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations. Later this year the Ashes urn again visits our shores to coincide with the 2006–07 3 mobile Ashes Test Series, this time for public viewing in a touring exhibition developed by the MCC.
So the ‘real’ urn is not the one they thrash around like maniacs, but rather stands at the MCC museum for viewing, amazing what a great tradition this is from a little joke 128 years ago!!
The ‘Real’ urn at the MCC
Where it all began…
The Original Obituary…