Cricket’s historic Ashes urn* will come to Australia this year for only the third time in 137 years.
Australia and England play a series of five cricket Test matches every two years, with the winner of this series, which is called the Ashes, “winning” the urn.
Australia has won the series 33 times, compared to England’s 32. Yet each time it wins, Australia only receives a replica*.
The original, 11cm-high terracotta* urn stays at the Marylebone Cricket Club in a glass case at Lord’s cricket ground in London, UK.
Later this year, Victoria’s State Library will borrow the real urn for a special exhibition called Velvet, Iron, Ashes, which reveals the urn’s surprising connection to bushranger Ned Kelly and other parts of Australia’s history.
The urn last left Lord’s for a tour of seven Australian museums, seen by more than 105,000 people, in 2006 and 2007.
Victorian Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley said the exhibition would be the library’s “largest and most ambitious”.
“Cricket lovers and history buffs* will be bowled over by this rare opportunity to get up close to the iconic Ashes urn,” he said.
The Ashes urn will be on display in the library’s new Victoria Gallery from December this year until February 2020.
Library chief executive Kate Torney said the urn was woven into Victoria’s history.
“We are thrilled to have the chance to bring to life the wonderful stories surrounding the Ashes tradition, which began here in Melbourne,” she said.
Marylebone Cricket Club chief executive Guy Lavender said the urn captivated* people worldwide.
“The State Library’s exhibition is a very fitting place for its story to be told,” he said.
WHAT IS IN THE URN?
No one knows for sure what is in the urn.
The term Ashes was first used in an 1882 English newspaper article after Australia beat England for the first time in a Test, in England. The article was a joke obituary*, stating that English cricket had died and “the body will be cremated* and the ashes taken to Australia”.
The English team travelled to play Australia again in 1882-83. England cricket captain Ivo Bligh vowed to “regain those ashes” and lots of people talked about the tour as the quest* to regain the Ashes.
England won two of the three Tests on that tour. There were also lots of social matches. After one social match, held at Rupertswood at Sunbury, Victoria, a group of women from Melbourne presented Mr Bligh with a small urn. It is said that the ashes of a cricket bail* were inside.
The urn has never been an official trophy, but a new replica is presented to Australia or England teams when they win or retain the Ashes cricket series every two years.
An official, urn-shaped crystal trophy has been presented to the winning captain since the 1998-99 Test series, which Australia won, captained by Mark Taylor.
- urn: vase with a lid
- replica: copy
- terracotta: baked earthenware
- buffs: experts or enthusiasts
- captivated: captured the attention of
- obituary: story to tell the life of someone who has died
- cremated: burn something or someone to ashes after death
- quest: journey to find an answer
- bail: small wooden rod that sits at the top of cricket wickets
- How big is the urn? What is it made of?
- Has the real urn ever been to Australia?
- What is probably in the urn? Do we know for sure?
- Where was the social match at which the Ashes urn was first presented to England?
- Who was Australian captain for the Ashes in 1998-99?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Plan a trip
The Ashes are coming to Australia!
Plan a trip to see this exhibit and find out more about the Ashes urn. Your plan should include:
When/where you plan to go. What you hope to see and a list of (at least 5) questions that you hope to find out more about?
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, HASS — History
The urn that reportedly contains ashes was first presented as a lighthearted joke. Use details from the article to help you write a narrative story or poem about how the urn came to have such significance to Australian and English cricketers and their fans. Your story or poem could begin at the presentation in Melbourne or in England after the English cricket team lost to Australia the first time. It could be written from the point of view of a cricketer or a fan. It should detail the thoughts and feelings of the people involved. You can use humour in your writing.
Time: allow 45-60 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, HASS — History
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?
HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think is in the Ashes urn? Does it matter if we never know?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. Comments will not show until approved by editors.