Howard Bentham of BBC Herford & Worcester

PUBLISHED: 01:16 15 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:08 20 February 2013

Howard Bentham of BBC Herford & Worcester

Howard Bentham of BBC Herford & Worcester

This month I thought I would share with you two historical sporting tales with Herefordshire and Worcestershire connections - and in the world of sport they don't get much bigger than the Olympics and The Ashes

This month I thought I would share with you two historical sporting tales with Herefordshire and Worcestershire connections and in the world of sport they dont get much bigger than the Olympics and The Ashes.

We are just eight months away from what they call the greatest show on earth, with the Olympics finally getting under way in London next July. We will all marvel, I am sure, at the opening ceremony and watch the Olympic Torch being carried into the stadium to ignite the cauldron to herald the start of the Games.

The torch will have a 70-day journey to the capital and will be carried locally, stopping overnight in Worcester which is a real honour for the city.

However there is another Olympic Torch in Worcestershire and it belongs to Ann Robinson of Astwood Bank. Very kindly Ann allowed me to hold her piece of history and she told her story to listeners to the Breakfast Show on

In 1948, Anns father, John Williams, had the honour of carrying the Olympic Torch from Betchworth to Dorking in Surrey on its way to Wembley Stadium. Before World War Two, John was a 440 yard champion runner and had been selected by the Amateur Athletics Association to be in the relay team. John and his team-mates were favourites to be in the GB squad for the 1940 Olympics, but Hitler and the war intervened. John became a captain in the army and during a posting to Italy was shot in the thigh by a sniper. John was never able to compete on the same level again and after the war the Dunkirk veteran became an athletics coach.

One thousand six hundred Olympic Torches were carried in relay from Olympia to London in 1948, the last leg completed by an athlete carrying a golden torch. John was part of this incredible journey and his daughter Ann, who was nearly six at the time, recalls the moment:

I vaguely remember standing by the side of the road with my baby sister in the pram and my brother was sitting on it. My father was a very private man and a very humble man but was insistent that the torch should remains as it is. Many people turned theirs into lamps and ornaments but he was adamant it should stay exactly as it was when it finished burning.

Make sure you keep an eye on the TV in the spring as Anns torch will make an appearance on The Antiques Roadshow and even though the torch has a monetary value it certainly will not be going on the open market. Her sons are sworn to keep it in the family and with it the proud memories of John Williams, Olympic Torch Bearer, London 1948.

The other sporting story centres on the family of Herefordshire peer Lord Darnley who earlier this year was at the service for the restoration and
re-dedication of the grave of his grandfather, the former England Cricket captain, Ivo Bligh.

In 1882, the England side were defeated by the Australians at the Oval and the mock obituary in The Sporting Times said that English cricket had died and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. The next English tour to Australia became known as the quest to regain The Ashes.

But what, actually, are they the
ashes of?

Lord Darnley suspects they were more likely to be the ashes of a veil rather than a bail, which is the most commonly held theory.

The MCC side representing England in 1882 were captained by Ivo Bligh. The team were invited to the Australian home of Sir William Clarke and it was his music teacher Florence Morphy, later to become Blighs wife, who along with Lady Clarke burnt something and then put the ashes into a small urn. In jest the women presented it to the
MCC captain.

The actual urn itself was probably a scent bottle or something similar and my grandmother and Lady Clarke clipped a bit of Punch on the outside and gave it to him (Ivo Bligh), Lord Darnley told the Breakfast Show on BBC H&W.

Blighs team won the series Down Under regaining The Ashes and he went on to marry Florence. The couple returned to this country with the urn and kept it until Blighs death in 1927 when Florence presented it to the MCC where it still resides at Lords.

It wont be until the English summer of 2013 that the next Ashes battle will commence but when it does spare a thought for the local connections to one of the worlds greatest sporting traditions.

Keep an ear and an eye out this month for a strange gathering of gnomes... its Gnome Time in November on BBC H&W. Listen to Howard and Toni at Breakfast to find out how you can be part of it and a world record breaker in
the process!

Howard Bentham presents the Breakfast Show on BBC Hereford & Worcester 104 FM and 94.7FM. Join his Facebook group at howardbentham@breakfast

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