“The Ashes”: Mythical cricket prize [16 Aug 1926]

[Editor: An article published in The Daily News (Perth, WA), 16 Aug 1926.]

“The Ashes”

Mythical cricket prize

The Ashes for which English and Australian cricketers contend are immaterial. The “authentic” ashes which exist are merely material representations of the mythical prize which has taken men back and forth across the seas for 44 years. It was in 1882 that the term arose. On August 28 W. L. Murdoch sent H. H. Massie and C. Bannerman to open Australia’s innings at Kennington Oval on a rain sodden wicket — and the side was out for 63. England replied with 101. Australia’s second knock brought 122, leaving England with 85 to get to win. Seventy runs were up when the sixth wicket fell, and England’s supporters were jubilant. However, the remaining four wickets added only 5, leaving Australia the winner by 7 runs!

Birth of the “Ashes.”

Public and newspaper alike took the defeat hardly but generously.

The London “Sporting Times” published the following In Memoriam notice:—

In Affectionate Remembrance
English Cricket
which died at The Oval on
29th August, 1882.
Deeply lamented, by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances.
N.B. — The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.

In the same year an English team, captained by Ivo Bligh, now the eighth Earl of Darnley, visited Australia winning two and losing two of the test matches played. Though the Ashes were not won, some Melbourne women presented the English captain with an urn for the mythical remains, and it is still in his possession.

Lord Darnley’s home was a convalescent home for Australian soldiers during the war, and it now is a familiar sight to many of them.

Lord Darnley, by the way, on his tour, met Miss Florence Rose Morphy, of Beechworth. In 1884 they were married. This Australian Countess is now a D.B.E.

Still other Ashes.

The late Frank Laver, who went home as manager of the 1909 team, had, for some years, the ashes of a stump used in one of the matches of the tour.

In 1912, after the last match at Adelaide, Smith, the English wicketkeeper, pulled up a stump at the end of the deciding test. This was burnt, and the ashes put into a model of a cricket ball.

The model was presented to Tom Pawley, the English manager, and bore the inscription: “This ball contains the ashes of Australian cricket, 1912.” It now rests in the M.C.C. pavilion in England.

But the Real Ashes — which are unreal — remain forever the intangible and invisible possession of the long line of cricketing giants who have played in the 109 games already completed, or will play in the years to come.

And who knows? The souls of cricketers dead and gone may still contend for the mythical prize, bowling a tiny star on a perfect pitch of gold, or defending wickets of jasper with bats of cedar brought from Lebanon.

The Daily News (Perth, WA), 16 Aug 1926, page 5

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