To whom do The Ashes belong?

The urn

I know that, for Australians, the debate over whether they should physically own and have the urn has caused much upset and confusion. So I thought this was an interesting conclusion to the matter (for those not in the know, the urn is the “trophy” awarded to the winner of The Ashes – a sporting contest with few fiercer rivalries between England and Australia. See here for more).

Despite the teams playing for the Ashes, the Ashes urn itself is never physically awarded to Australia, but is kept permanently in the MCC Cricket Museum at Lord’s Cricket Ground. It has been back to Australia only once, in 1988 for a museum tour as part of Australia’s Bicentennial celebrations. In the 1990s, given Australia’s long dominance of the series the idea was mooted of the victorious team being awarded the trophy. Instead the MCC commissioned a Waterford crystal replica, which is now awarded to the winning team.

In 2002, Bligh’s great-great-grandson (the heir-apparent Earl of Darnley) argued that the Ashes should not be returned to Australia as they were essentially the property of his family and only given to the MCC for safe-keeping.

After England had lost “The Ashes” (its very name was yet to be called as such, which I’ll come to), Ivo Bligh sought to regain them in the much publicised tour in 1883/4:

After the third game of the 1883/4 tour, when the English team were guests of Sir William Clarke over Christmas, a group of Victorian ladies headed by Lady Clarke burned what has variously been called a ball, bail or veil, and presented them to Bligh in an urn together with a velvet bag, which was made by Mrs Ann Fletcher, the daughter of Joseph Hines Clarke and Marion Wright, both of Dublin. She said, “What better way than to actually present the English captain with the very ‘object’ – albeit mythical – he had come to Australia to retrieve?”

So, the urn was actually presented to Bligh and it is the property of his family (not any more, as he bequeathed it to MCC). So that’s an interesting summary of the whole debate about the urn not being allowed to leave these shores, despite Australia’s winning The Ashes for the past [x] years

More info here – which, even if you’ve just stumbled here looking for something completely unrelated to cricket, is well worth a read. It’s one of the very oldest sporting contests, and everyone should KNOW its history!

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