Well done, Cornstalks, whipt us
Fair and square.
Was it luck that tripped us?
Was it scare?
Kangaroo land's `Demon', or our own
Want of devil, coolness, nerve, backbone?
(Times do not appear to change as even with
contemporary "failings" of Gower's and Gooch's
England XIs receive similar consideration!) On the following
Saturday, September 2nd, the Sporting Times carried the famous
mock obituary for English cricket - an epitaph that lingers to
this day and ensures posterity for the author.
E N G L I S H C R I C K E T,
which died at the Oval
29th A U G U S T, 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and
N.B. - The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to
Reginald Shirley Watkinshaw Brooks was the
individual responsible for this "obituary". He was
the eldest son of Shirley Brooks, a former Editor of Punch.
Reginald's mother was one Emily Watkinshaw. She was in turn
the daughter of one Dr William Bannatyre Watkinshaw of
Naparima in Trinidad. Although a Creole Emily was - and proud
of it - Irish. The tale goes that Emily was a brunette and her
sister was blonde and in fashionable circles they were
affectionately known as "Night and Morning".
It was left to the Honourable Ivo Bligh to
retrieve honour the following Australian Summer. The first
Test at Melbourne and the fourth at Sydney were lost but the
Second and Third at Melbourne and Sydney respectively were won
by Bligh's men and so honour was restored! The fourth Test at
Sydney incidentally was not originally in the fixture list so
the rubber went to Bligh's team. This match has subsequently
been accorded Test status. With Murdoch's Australians still
playing cricket in England, Ivo Bligh's twelve strong party
departed England for the southern hemisphere in mid September
- a mere two weeks after the Oval defeat. The first game in
Australia was against XV of South Australia in Adelaide in
November. The two day game ended in a draw and in the South
Australia capital Bligh made a speech in which he referred to
the "Ashes". This mystified the locals somewhat as
it meant little, if anything, to the local cricket fraternity
- but the seed of the idea of the "Ashes" was
Victoria were the next opposition and at
Melbourne Bligh's party stayed at Rupertwood - the country
home in Sunbury of William Clarke. It was here that the Ashes
itself became reality in the physical sense. According to one
Pat Lyons who worked on the Clarke estate the Ashes came into
factual presence during the Christmas sojourn of Bligh's party
at Rupertswood. A game was played between the tourists and a
number of others on the Clarke paddock. Unfortunately there
remains some doubt as to whether the actual "Ashes"
were the remains of the ball used in that game or the bails.
Whichever, these ashes were presented to Bligh by the Ladies
of the Household which included one Florence Morphy. The lives
of Bligh and Florence Morphy would soon become further
entwined through marriage.
Florence was the music teacher to the Clarke
family and a companion to Sir William Clarke's wife, Lady
Janet. Florence was the youngest daughter, born in August
1860, of Stephen Morphy. Stephen was the mining warden,
district gold commissioner and police magistrate based at
Beechworth, Victoria. He was Irish through and through, having
come as an emigrant to Australia from Killarney. As to the
Ashes urn itself there remains the two labels with
inscription, the upper label simply bearing the legend The
Ashes, the lower reads
When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn;
Studds, Steel, Read and Tylecote return, return;
The welkin will ring loud,
The great crowd will feel proud,
Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn;
And the rest coming home with the urn.
It is quite likely that these words were penned by Florence
herself, although of course, this is in many ways a matter of
In addition to the "Ashes" there
is also the velvet bag which of course accompanies the
"Ashes" urn in the Memorial Gallery at Lord's. This
delightful item was the handiwork of one Mrs Ann Fletcher, nee
Clarke. She was known as Annie and was the daughter of Joseph
Hines Clarke and Marion Wright, both of Dublin. Joseph was
with the Royal Irish Regiment and saw service in the Maori
Wars. Ann married one John Fletcher and their eldest son, John
William, played for Paddington, a team that also included
among others the legendary Victor Trumper and Montagu Noble.
John subsequently played for Queensland in 1909-1910.
The final game of the 1882-83
tour was against Victoria at Melbourne in March and in the
post match banquet there was much talk of the
"Ashes" by both Bligh and the Chairman of the
Melbourne Cricket Club, F G Smith. The Ashes had arrived and
were now a part of cricketing parlance. Shortly after this
game Bligh sailed for England. Before he left Australia the
Clarke's music teacher, Florence Morphy, had agreed to marry
him. On February 7th, 1883, the Melbourne Punch bore the
ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA - ANOTHER "MATCH". The English
Cricketers Over There and the Victorian Maiden Over Here. Air:
Nelly Bligh (sic!)
Heaved a sigh,
When across the Main,
Said - "Unto Victoria's shores
I'll go back again".
Hi Ivo! Ho Ivo!
Cupid Take a Turn,
Puts to Ivo's heart his torch,
And "Ivo's ashes" burn.
Ivo Bligh's Roguish eyes
Make a sudden "catch",
Sees a Southern Beauty here,
And seeks to play a "match".
Hi Ivo! Ho Ivo!
The Phoenix is the same,
From his "ashes" he will rise
To play the same old game.
Ivo Bligh Means to try
A life of married bliss,
Let's hope that it will be a "hit",
Although he seeks to make a "miss",
Hi Ivo! Ho Ivo!
Happy may you be!
May bad luck never "run you out"
From your felicity.
Ivo Bligh Need not cry
For cricket's ashes nore,
Since he takes his flame away
To burn on England's shore.
Hi Ivo! Ho Ivo!
This truth never doubt
A married man is best "at home",
And should be seldom "out".
Bligh returned to Australia later in 1883 to
marry Florence and on February 11th, 1884, the Argus reported
the marriage of the "Honorable Ivo Francis Walter Bligh,
second son of the Earl of Darnley ..." and "Miss
Florence Rose Morphy, youngest daughter of the late John
Stephen Morphy". In 1888 the married couple returned to
England. Bligh's father, the 6th Earl Darnley, died in 1896
and the eldest son, Edward Bligh succeeded him as Earl. But
Ivo became the eighth Earl Darnley in 1900 on the death of his
brother, and settled in the family home of Cobham Hall which
has long associations with the game of cricket. The Countess
quickly settled to her new role at Cobham Hall and promoted
anything associated with arts and crafts.
From October 1914 Cobham Hall was used as a
military hospital, and this was to continue for five years.
Over Christmas 1917 W M Hughes, the Australian Premier, was a
guest and Florence spoke to the PM on behalf of a number of
Australian airmen who sought to become the first to fly from
England to Australia - Hughes gave his blessing. Two years
later the flight was made with Captain Ross Smith and
Lieutenant Keith Smith being accompanied in the Vickers Vimy
Bomber by mechanics Sergeant J M Bennett and Sergeant W H
Sheers. The Earl died in 1927 and two years later Dame
Florence gave the Ashes to the MCC.
As a final word the term "Ashes"
of course precedes these encounters between Australia and
England and needless to say it is Ireland that bears the
distinction in having the term coined. The Commissioners of
the Lord Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell banned the
playing of "Krickett" in Ireland by an order of
1656. All "sticks and balls" were henceforth to be
burnt (and thereby reduced to ashes!) by the common hangman.
So much for the l9th century Ashes - events in Ireland
preceded these by over two hundred years.