Rupertswood was my secondary college in Australia
CRICKET / THE ASHES Rupertswood holds a place in the great sporting rivalry between Australia and England. It is accredited as being the "Birthplace of the Ashes". To make sense of how the whole Ashes story came about, we need to go back to "The Oval"; August 29th 1882. An Australian cricket team had been sent to England to play an English team. It was the first time an Australian eleven had played an English eleven.
Previous Australian sides to England had always outnumbered the English side by several players and it had always resulted in losses anyway. Very unexpectedly, the Australians won. The incredulity was such, that a sporting journalist, Reginald Brooks, published a tongue in check obituary lamenting the death of English cricket. It read; "In Affectionate remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET, which died at the Oval on 29th August, 1882.Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances. R.I.P. N.B. The body will cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".
This was the first time that the term "ashes" was used. The notice appeared in an obscure part of the paper, but it was noticed and taken very seriously by the powers that be at "Lords". Ivo Bligh, amateur cricketer and heir to his brother`s Earldom, was immediately approached to captain a team to Australia to re-instate English pride. In late 1882, William Clarke was in England with his family and attendants. They were enjoying their second grand tour of Europe.
Overall, he made a favourable impression and as a result gained some very influential friends. He was recommended to Queen Victoria as a candidate for a baronetcy. This was approved by the Queen on October 29th. Sailing home on the "Penshawur", Sir William`s fellow passengers included the English cricket team. As Sir William was the president of the Melbourne Cricket Club, an invitation was extended to the English cricketers to spend the Christmas and New Year holiday at Rupertswood.
On Christmas Eve 1882, after a congenial lunch, Sir William, suggested a social game between the English cricketers and a local side, made up largely of Rupertswood staff. By all accounts it was an enjoyable game with no-one really keeping score, however, it was generally agreed that the English won.
The servants were run off their feet retrieving the many fours and sixes. Pat Lyons, a worker at Rupertswood, clearly remembered the afternoon many years later. It was his understanding, that Lady Clarke, at dinner that evening had presented Ivo Bligh with a pottery urn. It was purported to contain the ashes of a burnt bail. Lady Clarke announced to the company assembled that Australia and England now had a real trophy for which to play. England did go on to win two of the three official matches played in Melbourne and Sydney.
The term "Ashes" stuck and the urn became a prized personal memento of Bligh. Interestingly enough, no-one really knew that the urn existed until Bligh's death in 1927. It was handed over to Lords in the early 1930's, where it still lives today. An interesting aside to the "Ashes" story is the romance that developed between Florence Rose Morphy (companion to Lady Clarke and music teacher to the Clarke children ) and Ivo Bligh. Their romance blossomed during the English cricket team`s sojourn at Rupertswood. Florence was very much loved by the Clarke family. It was largely due to their sponsorship that Bligh`s aristocratic family back in England eventually approved the marriage. They were married on February 1884, with a lavish wedding reception held at Rupertswood. In 1900, Bligh inherited the Earldom and became the eighth Lord Darnley and Florence became his Countess. They returned to England to reside at Cobham Hall --- Kent; his family seat.