The 1930 Australian XI: Winners of the Ashes

The 1930 Australian XI: Winners of the Ashes
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In this clip you hear the team’s new star, Don Bradman, begin to speak. The order of all the speakers on the record is Bill Woodfull, captain of the team, followed by senior batsman Alan Kippax, spin bowler Clarrie Grimmett, Bradman, fast bowler Tim Wall and all-rounder Stan McCabe, youngest member of the team.

Summary by Paul Byrnes

Cover image: The 21-year-old Don Bradman photographed in London in 1930. Courtesy State Library of South Australia (Mortlock Library)

It is clear from the stilted delivery of Bradman and the other players that the recording was completely scripted, and that they were unaccustomed to the new technology. Bradman sounds very stiff and formal here. He even later fluffs a line when he says ‘Fortune favoured me from the start of the tour and managed to keep it’. Few people would have been familiar with Bradman’s peculiarly high-pitched voice in 1930, so we may assume that his presence on the record was the main selling attraction. It’s curious then that he doesn’t appear until halfway through – as the first to speak on the B-side. The discs were limited to three minutes per side, which is why we hear a break in the middle of the recording.

The speaking order on the record appears to have been determined by age – or perhaps seniority. The first three speakers are in their 30s. The B-side contains the youngsters – Bradman at 21, Tim Wall at 26 and ‘Young Napper’, Stan McCabe, who turned 20 while on tour. The unidentified woman who introduces them was more correct than she could know – the recording was indeed historic.

One of the ironies of the recording is that Bill Woodfull says they are heading home with precious cargo, ‘The Ashes’. In fact, The Ashes urn remained at its home at the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lords Cricket Ground in London, as always. The urn stays in its display case at Lords no matter which team has won it.


The 1930 Australian XI: Winners of the Ashes synopsis

Six members of the victorious Australian cricket team, including Don Bradman, speak about winning the Ashes during their 1930 tour of the UK.


Curator's notes

As the mysterious young woman – never named, never identified since – says in the introduction, this is the first Australian cricket team to record their voices, so this record makes history as well as providing entertainment! The recording, on two sides of a 78 rpm shellac disc, was issued for sale by HMV, then known as His Master’s Voice, so it was thought likely the disc was recorded in their London studio, shortly before the team sailed for Australia in mid-September, 1930. It was sold to a public clamouring for mementos of a great sporting achievement, both in both England and Australia.

The 1930 Ashes win was a major sensation in Australia, largely because of one 21-year-old batsman, Donald George Bradman. This was Bradman’s first tour overseas, after a remarkable year of first class and grade cricket at home. Playing for New South Wales against Queensland at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in January 1930, Bradman had scored 452 not out, a new world record in a first class match.

The English cricket team knew he was a threat, after Bradman hit two centuries against them during their 1929 Australian tour, but few would have been expecting what turned out to be one of the greatest batting displays of all time. In the five tests against England, Bradman hit 974 runs, an average of 139.14, a record for the most runs in one series that still stands. His four centuries included two double hundreds and one triple. The Australians, captained by Bill Woodfull, took the series 2-1, with two tests drawn, even though England had been favourites to win the series.

This series sowed the seeds for what became the ‘Bodyline’ series, the spiteful and controversial tour of Australia in 1932–33. The short-pitched bowling at the body was the English response to Bradman’s perceived invincibility demonstrated on the 1930 tour..

England had been favourite to win the 1930 series. There were at least two reasons why this series created enormous excitement in Australia. One was the Depression, which had hit Australia harder than most countries. The other was the fact that radio audiences in Australia could listen to the tests ‘live’ for the first time. In fact the ‘live’ broadcast was a simulation, created by a team of announcers and sound effects people, using cabled messages from England to describe what was happening, ball by ball. This was done as a collaboration between two commercial stations, 2UW in Sydney and 3DB in Melbourne, with sponsorship worth £3,000 from six private firms. Radio broadcasting was a relatively new medium – less than seven years old – but it was becoming immensely popular.

The radio broadcasts are part of the reason that Bradman’s return to Australia was such an event. He was taken off the ship at Perth, so that he could be feted at receptions and paraded across the country. The rest of the team stayed on the ship, missing most of the adulation. This was one, but not the only, contributing factor to some of the bad blood felt within the team towards Bradman. There were tensions even on the tour, because Bradman remained aloof from his teammates throughout. He was infamous already during this tour for never buying his teammates a round of drinks, even after his greatest scores. Some of the resentments built up on this tour were never forgotten or forgiven, which makes the jocularity and friendliness of the recording more ironic.

Notes by Paul Byrnes