As far as we are concerned, there are few things better than winning the Ashes and almost nothing that tops doing it Down Under.
Our record against the Aussies on their home turf hasn’t exactly been flawless in recent years but even a losing tour can be an unbelievable experience when you’re part of the Barmy Army.
We’re now half-way through 2020 and though the fantastic summer of cricket has finally begun (Thank God!), it’s nearly time to start thinking about the holiest of grails – the 2021/22 Ashes in Australia.
When it comes to following England Down Under, our co-founder Paul Burnham really is a man that really has seen it all.
The Barmy Army were founded there in 1994/95 and Paul has been back for every tour since, including the triumph 2010/11, and that’s why you’re in such safe hands with Barmy Travel or travelling independently as a member of the Barmy Army.
We’re already looking ahead to what Paul defines as “the main event” of world cricket, so register your interest now to ensure first to hear about dates and itineraries.
“It’s the Ashes,” says Paul when pressed on what makes trips to Australia so special. “The Ashes and the rivalry between the two countries is the key. It’s the most interesting series in world cricket.
“The team’s relationship with the fans is unbelievable. The opportunity to travel around Australia with everybody being interested in what’s going on in the Ashes and a real friendship between Australia and the Barmy Army, it just gives you a buzz from the moment you arrive there until the moment you leave.
“It’s the dream trip. Even if you don’t win it’s still an amazing trip because you’re with the Barmy Army and you’ll have an amazing time – winning the song contest even if the Aussies win the cricket.
“The difference with this tour is that Joe Root is going back as captain. I think the exciting thing is that Joe’s got the opportunity to become the first England captain to lead two Ashes tours Down Under since Johnny Douglas in the 1920s.
“He was there on the 2017/18 tour and I think as a captain to go back and have the opportunity to learn from the previous tour and make decisions with a lot more background to them because he’s been there, seen it, done it.”
The Aussies pride themselves on their sledging and in many ways that’s why we make sure to give them a taste of their own medicine – all done tastefully and in good spirit, of course.
With seven Ashes tours to Australia under his belt, Paul has got some pretty special Barmy Army memories from Down Under and with anticipation already building for the next trip, he’s outlined his favourites from each ground.
In part one, Paul talks us through Brisbane and the Gabbatoire…
The Queen’s Land
The venue of the first Test of an Ashes series Down Under has been far from a happy hunting ground for England in recent years – hence the name the Gabbatoire.
Our last win there came in 1986 thanks to Sir Ian Botham and co, while anything but an Aussie victory has become a real rarity since.
“Australia tend to get the England team to run around the country and then they bring them back to Brisbane and off they go,” explains Paul. “They normally go one up.”
With the Barmy Army, you’re usually there a few days before the Ashes starts and you’ll notice what Paul calls the “pre-Ashes media madness”.
Honestly, the media circus there is hard to miss. Glenn McGrath is likely to be predicting a 5-0 Aussie victory, while you can bet Shane Warne will be trying to push someone from the England squad into the team that we all know shouldn’t be in there.
As you’d expect, it’s very predictable, very pro-Australian, and very anti-English.
“I remember a few years ago it was the whole anti-Broad thing,” says Paul. “People need to realise how much it means and you’re left with no doubt when you arrive in Queensland.”
He adds: “A great question to ask as many Aussies as you can when you arrive is ‘Which state are we in?’
“They say ‘Queensland’ and then you say ‘It’s all the Queen’s land though isn’t it?’
“It usually goes down well but you’re playing a dangerous game if you try it with the immigration people.”
While you’re there, the South Bank, the Great Barrier Reef the Gold Coast are, of course, not to be missed but the jewel in the crown is the Pig and Whistle pub – which is the home of the Barmy Army in Brisbane.
The Bashes – our series against the Aussies equivalent of the Barmy Army (either the Fanatics or the Richies) – gets underway the day before the Brisbane Test and always draws a fair amount of local and national media coverage.
“We do alright in Brisbane,” says Paul. “We’ve been doing the Bashes now for the last six tours and we have won a few games there, so we’ve got a better record than England.
“Hopefully we’ll do the double next year!”
Favourite memory: England draw the first Test in the 2010/11 series
“We got a genuine draw there. We were batting on the last day and the Australian fielders were out there for long periods and they were very tired by the time they got to the second Test in Adelaide, which we won.
“The crowd were just unbelievable that day. That’s when Sir Ian Botham gave the famous line ‘the Australian fans have come dressed as empty seats’. It really was just the Barmy Army in the ground and a few thousand of us on that day five.
“A boring draw of a Test match but no it’s an Ashes Test so it could never be boring. We were able to really get into the Australians’ heads with song after song and chant after chant. Obviously, six hours is a long time to be out on the field while watching the England bat very comfortably.
“It was just amazing to be there for six hours and be able to sing the songs. It all echoed around the grounds brilliantly and we really think that teed us up for Adelaide where we won the next Test because we think the Australian bowlers were really affected by the opportunity the Barmy Army had to sing song after song and get into their subconscious.
“It was amazing being there. To be part of the Barmy Army for that Test match in Brisbane was just an amazing experience and something that certainly hasn’t happened in a long time. In previous Test matches in Brisbane, it’s over very quickly in the Australian’s favour.
“A draw there is like a win because Australia start you at the Gabba and they start you there for a reason. The Gabba is a fortress and they normally win, so that was an amazing time when they didn’t win and being part of the Barmy Army was amazing.”
‘Take The Urn Home’
“The song that is really synonymous with that win is ‘Take The Urn Home’ which was written by Giles Wellington.
“It’s a lot of people’s favourite Ashes song. Giles stands up and sings it and everyone joins in more or less for the chorus.”
As with many songs, it’s had to change with the captains over the years but the lyrics from the most recent tour – 2017/18 – are below…
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